House Preview: Jeffrey Wright Talks 'Challenging' Role and Going Toe-to-Toe with Hugh Laurie

Jeffrey Wright doesn’t frequent the small screen often — his Emmy-winning work in HBO’s Angels in American was a rare exception — so his casting in tonight’s House (Fox, 8/7c) made the episode, in an instant, very special.

And the hour was already generating buzz, given its storyline (House’s controversial diagnostic process gets put under the microscope like never before) and its pedigree (it marks longtime House exec producer Greg Yaitanes’ final directorial effort on the show).

Bottom line: It’s a big episode, and in the following Q&A, Wright — who plays Dr. Cofield (a.k.a. the arbitrator of House’s fate) — explains what convinced him to check in to Princeton-Plainsboro, what he really thinks of Dr. House and why there’s a decent chance his neurosurgeon’s services will be needed again before the series ends.

TVLINE | What was it about this character, this role, that hooked you?
My friend, Mos Def, did an episode of House not very long ago, and he was really excited about it. He described the show as the best acting on television — the best acting happening anywhere — and that really kind of pulled my attention to the show. I was drawn to the writing; it’s fairly dense and complex stuff… challenging stuff for an actor. That combined with them [being] really enthusiastic about me coming on board was enough to draw me in. I [also] have a great deal of respect for Hugh [Laurie]; I’ve admired his work for some time. My wife is from London, so I understood a little bit about his career through her eyes.

TVLINE | What opinion did you walk away with of House the character?
[Laughs] There is an interesting contrast between his character and [mine] in that they are similarly talented doctors but from very different backgrounds, and [they] have had to follow different pathways and take on similar behaviors as practitioners. I think that House has far more freedom than a character like Cofield.

TVLINE | Would you let a doctor like House treat you?
I think there are probably certain patients that might have a non-productive reaction to certain parts of House’s… charm. I think [all] great doctors have a very healthy sense of their own importance and I’m not sure if…well, I don’t always get along so well with doctors, honestly. [Laughs]

TVLINE | What was it like working with Hugh?
It was pretty challenging stuff in that the workload is pretty impressive, and Hugh, in many ways, is at the helm of [many of] the scenes. He handles the mission and the responsibility that comes with it in a really impressive way. I’m used to making movies; it’s a very different pace. [With House], you are essentially shooting half-movies in nine or 10 days. And at times, you’re shooting two episodes at once. To do that over the course of eight years is no small task and he handles it with aplomb.

TVLINE | This was a fairly pivotal episode of House that you walked into. Did you feel the weight of that while you were shooting?
They described it to me in that way and, obviously, that was part of the reason that I was compelled to come on board. They had expectations for the episode in terms of the narrative and the style and the impact of the episode, so that was attractive to me.

TVLINE | Without giving too much away, did you agree with Cofield’s final ruling?
I should ask you that. What did you think?

TVLINE | I was not surprised by the ruling; I was, however, surprised but what House did after the ruling.
Yeah. I think that Cofield’s presence and the disciplinary procedure that is overtaken is impactful on the [hospital] and particularly on House. Without giving too much away, I think [the ruling] made good sense and was very satisfying from my perspective.

TVLINE | Is this role the beginning of a trend for you? Might we see more of you on the small screen?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know… It’s a pretty grueling pace. [Laughs]. I’m not sure if I’ve been conditioned over my career for that type of pace, but I certainly enjoyed the time spent working on it.

TVLINE | Might we see Cofield again?
There is certainly that possibly. I guess it’s certainly true that from this point on he’s out there lurking in the shadows, waiting to be revealed once more. [Laughs] So we’ll see how everyone behaves!

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37 Comments
  1. Grace says:

    Can’t wait!!

  2. Pia says:

    Oh great & interesting interview,thank you. I´m so excited to watch this episode. :)

  3. Yeah, right says:

    MOS DEF said that the best acting ANYWHERE is on “House.” Wow. High praise from such an acknowledged thespian.
    Next week, Odette Annable goes hip-hop, daaawwwg.

    • curious says:

      Actually, no, he didn’t. Read his answer again. Mr. Wright tactfully avoided praising Hugh’s acting abilities and essentially talked about his work ethics instead.

      • Erin says:

        Yeah Right’s response was to Mos Def saying House had the best acting on television, not Jeffrey Wright’s answer to working with Hugh Laurie. Also the question was, “What was it like working with Hugh?”, not what do you think of him as an actor. It seems to me he answered the question with high praise even if it wasn’t directly about acting ability. I would also imagine Jeffrey Wright saying he has a great deal of respect for Hugh Laurie goes beyond just his work ethic.

    • D says:

      Mos Def is actually a really good actor, and many considered his stint on the last season of Dexter the best part of it. His House episode in Season 5 was very good too, I might add.
      Can’t we all be honest and just say you hate the show?

      • curious says:

        I was talking about Jeffrey Wright and his answer to the question about Hugh. Please read his response again. And no, I don’t “hate” the show, as I don’t “hate” works of fictions or people I’ve never met. The mere stating of the fact that aroused my curiosity shouldn’t invite prejudice.

  4. thewomanwoman says:

    Yeah. It’s this great show for great actors whose two-dimensional characters don’t get to do or say anything meaningful for 10 episodes. Awesome stuff!

  5. Stop Complaining says:

    If you dont like the show @thewomanwoman then why are you on here commenting about it. There are those of us who still watch it and think this season has gotten back to where is was a few seasons ago. Why are you wasting your time? to everyone else who is excited about this episode like me I hope you enjoy it tonight :-)

  6. PPP says:

    This season has been so bad that i can´t wait to watch tonight´s episode. It looks awesome and i´m a huge JW fan. I know he will still the show.

  7. Tess says:

    Robert Carlyle is a better than Hugh Laurie

  8. Tess says:

    Edit: Robert Carlyle is a better actor than Hugh Laurie

    • curious says:

      Well, Robert Carlyle is a professionally trained actor who knows how to work with any partner. Hugh Laurie is brilliant and unsurpassed when he is alone in the scene or works with people to whom he responds naturally (not too many). That’s probably why he was never fully accepted by the “professional community”.

      • Callie says:

        Thank you for putting into the words the way I always felt. I would rather watch Hugh alone (a girl can dream, right?) or with RSL, LE and Jesse. The rest of the cast doesn’t add anything but annoyance.

      • Tess says:

        @ curious A great actor is capable of playing well in every circumstance, and Robert is more talent, intense, versatile and charismatic than Hugh Laurie, no matter what.

        • Tess says:

          Just for the record, ”Robert” is Robert Carlyle obviously.

        • curious says:

          To each its own. Sex appeal plays a huge role too, whether we like it or not.

        • @tess says:

          It is okay that you are fan of Robert carlyle (i like him too) but to comment on an article about House and Hugh Laurie to bash them is probably not the best idea and you don´t do your idol any justice. They are both talented,versatile, intense and charismatic actors whith great critical responses with the difference that Hugh made the jump in the big lead af TV actors. You can´t deny it. He didn`t get all the awards/nominations for nothing or lack of talent. You can hope that Robert will reach that point too. He is on a good way but please don`t ever come back on a House/Hugh article to support Robert. I doubt he will like it and i`m sure there are other articles about Once upon a time to spread the Love for him, i´m sure i´d join you but not here. I think Hugh Laurie is a brilliant actor and the only reason i watch House.
          Thanks Mike for the interview, call me excited for this episode. :)

        • Ellen says:

          Well, Tess, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but that is ALL it is – YOUR opinion. You declare it as if it is a fact, simply because YOU prefer one over the other.

      • maggie says:

        Hugh Laurie and Robert Carlyle are both brilliant actors. They aren’t in a competition, so why do have to create one?
        BTW, Hugh Laurie has won a SAG award. The SAG Award is given by members of the Screen Actors Guild, which is the union that professional film & TV actors belong to. Which means that the “professional community” has indeed fully accepted Hugh Laurie.

        • curious says:

          SAG Awards and Golden Globes are jokes, Emmys is the real deal. Not that I think Hugh Laurie didn’t deserve an Emmy, quite the opposite. It is what it is.

        • Tess says:

          ”It is okay that you are fan of Robert carlyle (i like him too) but to comment on an article about House and Hugh Laurie to bash them is probably not the best idea and you don´t do your idol any justice.”
          My comment is pertinent because Mos Def said ”the show (House) as the best acting on television.” He wrong. A great actor is capable of playing in all circumstances. Taste is subjective, but no artistic value so Robert Carlyle is the best actor on TV right now, no doubt. Robert Carlyle have more talent, versatility, intensity, charisma, precision etc than Hugh Laurie, no matter what.
          And awards are irrilevant because it follow a ”market” and ‘political” logical, for example Stanley Kubrick has never won any awards in the U.S. and is the greatest director of all time.

      • Erin says:

        Well I would imagine Hugh Laurie has been accepted by the “professional community” otherwise he wouldn’t have been nominated numerous times both the SAG’s and the Emmys. The SAG’s are the Screen Actors Guild, which means actors nominate and vote for other actors and I believe unless it has changed, film and tv actors can vote for each other . He also must respond pretty naturally to a lot of actors because so many who have worked with him have talked how generous he is as an actor, among other praises.

  9. Camila says:

    As much as season eight sucks (i’m a huddy,problem?) this is the episode.I have high expectatives to it,and i think that it’ll be great.Don’t disapoint me again House!

  10. Camila says:

    I’m a huddy and i’m excite with this episode,thought season eight DO sucks.There are two kinds of huddies,the lisabians and the Hugh Laurie ones.I’m on the second team.It’s my favorite Tv show for seven years,i just wish it ended well.

  11. tet says:

    will see a special chapter of what happened to cuddy

  12. ck says:

    God, this episode is going to be FANTASTIC! I really can’t wait!

  13. hernandez says:

    that will, happen to Cuddy

  14. HouseObsessedAgain says:

    The BEST PART of the episode is JEFFREY WRIGHT. That tiny little scene between him and HL packed such a powerful punch. I have watched it many times because I just love the way JW and HL deliver their lines. Just awesome. I am so excited about this episode.

  15. maggie says:

    Can’t wait to watch!

  16. The Arbitrator says:

    I was just perusing the net for some info on tonight’s House and I come across this page. Pathetic people bickering about who is the best actor like they are kids in the playground. Is this what your life consists of? As much as I love the internet, at the end of the day, its just a massive chalkboard that enables all the weird people on earth to openly write on and spill out trinkets of their disfunctionality for all the world to see. And sometimes comments and opinions, no matter how trivial, boring and useless they may be.
    P.S Spot the metaphorical associations…..

    • Arbitrator, my ass says:

      The ridiculous absolutism of your comment is laughable on its face. Throwing conniption fit over opinions you find “pathetic” – is that what your life consists of?
      P.S. You are not House. Not even close.

  17. The Arbitrator says:

    Hey My Ass. Does the phrase ‘tongue in cheek’ mean anything to you? And whats all this ‘You are not House’ business? I don’t know if you have realised yet but House is a fictional character.
    Also, I am a bit green at this House fandom obsession message board type thing. Do we all need to get in character or something? Oooh this is fun!

  18. The Arbitrator says:

    Actually My Ass, reading your comment, which you have probably painstakingly constructed to make yourself sound smarter than you probably are, is the one who fancies himself as that doctor off the telly…

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