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Laurie revels in success of House building (david boreanaz mention)

Bill Brioux

Monday 19 December 2005, by Webmaster

Laurie plays a doctor who is great at his job and bad at all else.

It was at the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles last July. Stars such as Pamela Anderson (Stacked), David Boreanaz (Bones), the entire casts of Arrested Development, Prison Break and Malcolm in the Middlewere mingling with the media at a press tour party for the Fox network.

But for a group of English fans outside the fenced-in area, there was only one Fox star who mattered: Hugh Laurie, better known on this side of the pond as House (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Global and Fox).

Laurie, 46, was born in Oxford, England, and is well known for his comic turns in both Blackadder and Jeeves & Wooster. In America, he was mostly that dad guy from those mouse movies (Stuart Little 3 is the latest).

Now, of course, he is firmly established as Dr. Gregory House, the cranky, aloof, dismissive MD who hates patients almost as much as he hates himself. But he’s also a diagnostic genius.

It’s been a wild year for Laurie, a witty, self-effacing actor who stayed late at the Fox bash. House was a slow build for Fox last season, earning renewals in increments.

Laurie, the cautious and seasoned veteran, left his family in England until he was sure the series would catch on. Now there’s no doubt: House is one of Fox’s top-rated dramas.

There was never any doubt for the English fans. "He’s something, a big name back in the UK," said one woman. "Did you know he was a rower as well?" added her husband. "He’s a serious rower. He used to represent Cambridge."

Laurie, who went over and spoke to his fans, sheepishly admitted later he was a bit of a sculler. The son of an Olympic gold medalist in the sport, he was a national junior champion as a teenager.

These days he gets more recognition as an actor. Even the Yanks noticed, awarding him an Emmy nomination for his first year on House. The TV critics went even farther, voting him last season’s best actor in a series.

"I can’t deny it’s a big personal thrill to get noticed," he says. "I’ve been toiling in this particular vineyard for many years now and to finally get the chance to do something of this density and this complexity and to get noticed for it is even better."

Not everyone, of course, loves House. He has no time for most people and has the world’s worst bedside manner. Talking to patients is a waste of time, he tells his hand-picked posse of young, smart associates (played by Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer). He fights constantly with co-workers, especially his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein).

This, of course, is what Laurie loves about the character. "House is a character who pursued and celebrates reason above all else," says Laurie. "He’s after the truth."

Even if it costs him personally. House values truth and facts above, as Laurie says, "life, love, professional advancement, comfort and friendship. It costs him. There are many times in his life he could take an easy turn."

Real doctors get it, he says. "If I was a doctor I would find that — what’s the word — affirming," says Laurie. "Doctors appreciate the fact that fundamentally, despite his poor social skills, this is a pro medical, pro rational show. It’s an empirical show."

The people who do take issue, he says, are lab technicians. "They become infuriated by it," he says. "They become very upset that they’re kind of left out of the picture. I try to explain to them that you can’t have a cast of 80."

Just don’t say House isn’t funny, says Laurie. "I actually think he is a barrel of laughs," he says. "In this touchy-feely emotional age, we’re kind of suspicious of science. People want emotion and good heartedness. This is a guy who just says to hell with all that; a fact is a fact."

I tell him of one objection I’ve heard from a female viewer: House is too smart. It is implausible that he alone would have all the answers.

"On that basis she’s not going to watch a lot of television, is she?" Laurie says.


What: House

When: Tomorrow, 9 p.m.

Where: Global and Fox