The biggest audience reaction, understandably, seems to have been to Sunil's storyline. Did you feel reluctant about bringing in such an extreme twist into a show like ‘In Treatment’?
We were aware that it was something of a departure. When we first came up with the story we talked about that with the people at HBO. It was important to me and Anya, as well as writer Adam Rapp, that it not just be about a character who plays Paul to get what he wants, but also someone who made genuine progress in his therapy. Paul did help him get out of the rut he was in, just not in the way Paul expected to.
How much of Sunil's treatment was "real," so to speak? Was this always his plan?
Sunil says to Paul in the final episode, "There was a moment when you told me what it would take for you to report a patient." It might be interesting for people to go back from that point and see if they can identify when Sunil begins hatching something up. In our minds, the moment for us occurred in that episode, around week four, and he went home that day and formed his plan.
That moment occurred after the first threatening comments he made about Julia, so there was some truth even to how he was using him.
No doubt. He had very complicated feelings towards Julia. He was very angry with her for many reasons. The disrespectful and belittling way she treated him. The way she Americanized his son. The way she was raising his grandchildren. Also the way she may or may not have flirted with him, making him both uncomfortable and titillated.
At the end of Frances’ epsiodes, we see her decide to use Paul as a way of maintaining a relationship to her sister. Is this closure? A healthy basis for therapy?
To my mind, if you're someone who needs it, the important thing is to be in therapy, and to be in the room with someone who is competent. Whatever your feelings are about Paul, he is a generally good therapist. Even if she's not there for the right reasons, she's there for reasons that are good enough, with a good enough therapist. I actually think he's been pretty effective with her through all the narcissistic meshugas. She gained a degree of clarity with regards to her sister's death and dying wishes.
Is there a character on the show whose therapy was actually detrimental to his or her development?
Well, obviously Alex's treatment didn't end well in the first season; though whether that's Paul's fault or not is open to interpretation. One of the reasons we made a change by going with Adele instead of Gina, is because we didn't think she was a particularly effective therapist for him. We wanted Adele to be tougher, more objective and to force him to look at himself in ways that Gina was never really able to do. Much in the same way Paul is wrapped up with other patients, Gina was emotionally wrapped up with him.
Early in the season, Gina's book was a point of interest, but wasn't really picked up on towards the end. Was the character indeed based on Paul?
That's a question we never had to answer in the show. There was a thought at one point that Paul would confront Gina about this, but we were never able to arrange to have an episode or two where Paul tracked her down. Had we done that, we probably would've answered the question, but not having done so, we thought it was better left open. Paul probably thinks it's more him than it is, but I don't think he's crazy for being suspicious.