I tried to post this as a link but for some reason it said the url was inaccessible, so here is an interview with HL, nothing really spoilery.
For five years, Hugh Laurie has had to defend the character he plays on television. As the star of Fox's House, Laurie still finds viewers, be they fans or critics, asking him questions about Dr. Gregory House's often unpleasant demeanor. Why does he have to be so mean? Are you saying it's okay to be rude if you save lives? But despite his questionable bedside manner, House continues to be a ratings winner -- one of the reasons perhaps being that his obnoxiousness is administered with an equal dose of humor.
This is no surprise for those who know where Laurie comes from. An education in comedy at Cambridge University's Footlights lead to a hugely popular BBC sketch show, A Bit of Fry and Laurie. The show co-starred Laurie's longtime comedy partner Stephen Fry, and ran for four seasons in the U.K., though, unlike Monty Python, which was also spawned by the Footlights, it never made the leap over the pond. Still mining the comedic vein, Laurie played an archetypal upper-class twit called George opposite Rowan Atkinson's exceedingly evil Edmund Blackadder in Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth. Laurie's breakthrough role as Mr. Fredrick Little in Columbia Pictures' family-friendly film Stewart Little gave Laurie his first mainstream hit in the U.S. as a leading man, and also proved that he could pull off the American accent he would later call on with House.
This year, Fox is rearranging the furniture, moving House, which is now half-way through its fifth season, to Monday nights. 2008's final episode had House make the uncharacteristically thoughtful gesture of buying the object of his "affection" -- Dr. Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein) -- her old medical school desk for her new office. Expect that to pay off with more romantic tension in the upcoming weeks.
With the show midway through production, Laurie is still dressed like House for our interview in jeans and a sport coat, with stubble perfectly maintained by Hollywood stylists. Off duty, however, Laurie's real voice and posture make him a distinctly different person; The abrasive voice is replaced by a calming lull, and those listening to it find themselves looking up constantly during conversation, since there's no camera bringing the viewer up to Laurie's rather elevated eye level.
Question: Why do people care if House is nice? If he can save their life, can't he be as mean as he wants?
Hugh Laurie: I don't know the answer to that. I suppose because doctors, holding as they do the power of life and death, patients are already sufficiently unnerved...To then be in that relationship with a human being who doesn't appear to treat his responsibilities with any great sense of delicacy is I suppose unsettling. It frightens people. Here is a guy with this power to save lives and he is not subject to the normal social niceties. Maybe that's rather threatening.
Q:Does it surprise you that five years in, we're still discussing this?
HL:It's surprised me every step of the way: five shows in, five days in. I'm constantly surprised.
Q:Forget about all the medicine. House is the funniest show on television. How do you approach the comedy?
HL:I shouldn't be saying this. I'm going to let you say this, but I agree with you. I love it. Every script I find hilariously funny. Some of the wittiest things I've ever read. I just relish it. It's part of what makes House to some degree forgivable. I think his wit and his playfulness go some way towards mitigating his frankly clumsy social skills.
Q:It shows respect that he thinks you're smart enough to understand what he's insinuating.
HL:Right, that's true. That's true. You can never accuse him of patronizing anyone. He's gloves off right from the start. He's not going to go gently on anybody. That's true.
Q:Do you get more positive fanfare for Dr. House or negative?
HL:Well, because Dr. House's moral failings, or his social failings anyway, are all mitigated by his skills as a doctor. If he was even one percent less skillful, he would be simply intolerable. So really I think a lot of people are saying, "I wish there were someone there who I could count on to get to the answer, no matter what that person is like. They could be nice or not nice, but if they get to the answer, the answer's everything." When you're staring death in the face obviously, you want the best, irrespective of his nature.
Q:In the entertainment industry, have you seen brilliance as an excuse for bad behavior?
HL:Boy, that's a good question. Yes. I have. Not that often. I have more commonly seen bad behavior and thought, "Oh, you're not good enough to get away with that." But yes, I have. It's actually pretty rare. Oddly enough, my general experience is that most people on both sides of the camera are a pretty congenial and collaborative bunch. Prima donnas, I know there's this sort of popular picture of prima donnas stamping in and out of their trailers and refusing to do this, that and the other. I've actually not seen a lot of that. A couple of times but they're rare. I will of course give you their names directly after this.
Q:Is it excusable when they have the goods?
HL:It would not be excusable if you were, let's say, married to them or if you were trying to do business with them in some way. But as an audience member, yes, I have seen performances and thought to myself, "I don't really care what it cost that person or the people around that person to achieve that performance. That's a wonderful thing. That's a wonderful piece of music, or acting, or whatever it is." I have thought that was worth it. But of course I'm not the one who's had to pay the price for it.
Q:What is your level of interest between the case of the week and the overall story arcs?
HL:That's the awful challenge for these guys, the writers, to have those things in perfect balance, because the case every week must be a sufficiently intriguing and satisfying mystery, a structure on which they can hang everything else. And yet it can't be everything because that's not what the show is. The show is about much more than that, but that sort of central spine has to be there. It's very, very difficult, I imagine, to get the balance. It's incredible how frequently they manage to pull it off.
Q:You know, it's never the first thing they think it's going to be. Why don't they just rule out the first thing and save 10 minutes?
HL:Because we've got to fill 43 minutes. We could I suppose get it right the first time and then play cards for the rest of the show. Maybe we'll do that one day.
Q:What is going to happen with House and Cuddy?HL:I honestly can't tell you very much because they don't tell me. I look about 10 minutes ahead in my life. That's usually the way I operate. It's partly a function of having so many problems to solve right that second that I actually have very little energy to project into the future and very little memory of what happened. Honestly, someone asked me just what happened in the last show and I honestly can't remember. I think I may be permanently brain damaged.
Q:How would you like it to go?
HL:Well, of course as fictional characters, as a viewer, I would want those characters to find some sort of peace. They're two lonely characters I would want to find some sort of peace. But as an actor, in some ways, I'm sort of less interested in what happens than in how it happens, because that seems to be David Shore's genius -- in the way of executing something. Someone once said, "Ideas are 10 a penny. It's all in the execution." It's all how it's done. For example, that kiss [earlier in the season] was just a beautifully written scene. It was an unconventional, unanticipated and rather beautiful moment. That's his skill so that's what I look for. I look for the how, not the what.
Q:Talking about House's voice, it's more than just an accent right? He doesn't just sound like you speaking American.
HL:I am only partially conscious. I had no plan. It wasn't a calculated plan. When I started doing the pilot and the first few shows I was sort of experimenting. The voice that I settled on, I just thought it was right. I can't really say why. It just came out that way. To begin with you are experimenting with fast, or slow, or high, or low. What sort of pitch? What sort of rhythm and volume? Is he a shouter or is he a whisperer? This is where I wound up, I can't really explain it.
Q:Is that a lot to think about because you also have the limp to focus on?
HL:There are days when it does slightly get on top of me, I must admit it. The peculiar thing about it is that it doesn't get any easier. This is what astonishes me because everything else you do in life, everything from making omelets or playing violin, get easier the more you do it. Not putting on an accent and I don't know why that is. There is something in ones brain that must resist it.
Q:Have you ever read anything in one of the scripts that is so outrageous even you have a hard time, like "How am I going to get away with this?"
HL:No. I think I never have read anything that was un-actable. I've read things that I thought, "Wow, this is going to be tough. We are going to have to get this right because if we don't this whole thing isn't going to work at all." But no, David Shore is just simply too smart a writer, as are his co-writers. They are just too smart to really hang anybody out to dry, as it were.
Q:Has anything ever made you hate him as a person?
HL:No, no. I completely agree that House is not an easy proposition. He may not even be morally a good man. But then, the truth is we don't only like the people who are morally good. Of all the friends we have, are they the 10 morally best people we ever met? No, of course they are not. That is not how we choose our friends. Thank God, because it would be a weird universe if we did.
Clearly this is a troubled character. There was an episode, one of my favorite moments in Star Trek, when Captain Kirk looks over the cosmos and says, "Somewhere out there someone is saying the three most beautiful words in any language." Of course you heart sinks and you think it's going to be, "I love you" or whatever. He says, "Please help me." What a philosophically fantastic idea, that vulnerability and need is a beautiful thing. Actually, House is a character in need of human contact and some kind of redemption. That "Please help me" aspect I think is an important element in the show.