Hugh Laurie happily sings the blues, USA Today
Let’s face it: Hugh Laurie is probably not the first person who comes to mind when you think of New Orleans.
Yet there the House star is, on PBS, starring in the SeptemberGreat Performances special Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk – a Celebration of New Orleans Blues. And he won’t just be hosting — he’s singing and playing the piano with Irma Thomas, Tom Jones and Allen Toussaint, among other New Orleans stars. It was, he says, a dream come true.
“This whole experience has been really closer to who I am than many things I have done, I suppose because the subject was so dear to my heart … It was very unplanned. It was a genuine journey of discovery.”
Laurie’s view of New Orleans, the city and its sound, is clear: “I love and respect that music as much as I love and respect anything” – a love that extends to a city that he thinks “will rise again and again and again no matter what people throw at it, because it is indomitable.”
And what did the city think of him? “Jury’s still out. I have no idea how the (companion) record will be received, and I have no idea how this film will be received. But one never does.”
When he was making the record, Laurie says, he sometimes had that “what am I doing here” feeling — “I’m not worthy, etc. etc. etc.” But he never saw that feeling reflected in his fellow performers.
“They were, to a man and a woman, incredibly generous. I was not made to feel … for one second unqualified or unwelcome. I’m sure there were moments when they were rolling their eyes…but if they did, they never showed it to me.”
If Let Them Talk opens new doors for Laurie, it won’t be the first time he’s reinvented himself as a performer. Certainly the PBS viewers who knew him as the goofy, gangly star of shows like Black Adder and Jeeves & Wooster never would have guessed he would transform himself into the nasty, sexy Gregory House.
“I’ve been blessed,” Laurie says. “It’s an amazing thing that I got the chance to come here at a particular point in my life and really start again … that I was able to forge a new identity and find a new audience … I arrived with as blank a canvas as canvasses get, and that doesn’t often happen to actors.”
And now he can say he’s a New Orleans blues recording artist as well — a chance he never thought would come his way and he’s very happy he grabbed. “This is a diem I had to carpe.”