Hugh Laurie Interview

Hugh Laurie on Playing Doctor Again in Chance, Envying George Clooney's ER Recall and Returning to Veep

This week, Hugh Laurie returns to television in an hour-long drama series that centers on a tormented doctor whose one-syllable last name also happens to be the title of the show.

And that’s pretty much where the House parallels begin and end.

In the noir-ish thriller Chance, which debuts Wednesday on Hulu, the actor best known as Dr. Gregory House plays Dr. Eldon Chance, a mild-mannered(!) and compassionate(!!) neuropsychiatrist who gets sucked into a violent and dangerous world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness while grappling with his own existential crisis.

In the following Q&A, Laurie praisaes Chance‘s quiet, cerebral charms, explains why he believes Dr. House was more hero than heel, marvels at George Clooney’s total ER recall, and goes full-on fanboy over Veep co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

TVLINE | Dr. Chance is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Dr. House. Was that diversion a conscious decision on your part?
No. It wasn’t. I wish I had the ability to plan as intelligently. I’m a goldfish, honestly. I stumble from one thing to another. I read [Kem Nunn’s book on which the series is based] and I thought, “I’m really intrigued by this. There’s something so mournful and melancholy about it. I find it sort of oddly moving.” I didn’t really have any clear idea about how, you know, it would fit into my career. I don’t really know what a career is. It’s just a bunch of [roles] strung together. There are, I’m sure, clever actors or agents or managers who think, “What we need to do is two months on Broadway, then we need to do something Scandinavian, and then we need to do a big action blockbuster.” I just don’t have that skill.

House-Ep822-EverybodyDies_Sc6a_0285TVLINE | Let’s say Chance was about a doctor who was a dick. Would you have rejected it outright?
You see, I don’t think of House as a dick. I have to disagree with you there. I found him rather heroic. That may say something about my own dick-ishness. I realize that he appeared to have behaved in a dick-ish way, but he did so in the service of a noble [cause]. He may not have been an angel, but he was on the side of the angels.

TVLINE | Did the medical jargon take you back to your House days?
It was a bit of a struggle getting my tongue around that kind of stuff again. I’m reasonably quick at picking that stuff up, but I’m also very quick to forget it. I did [Tomorrowland] with George Clooney, and the ER experience meant a great deal to him; it stayed with him. He talked about it a lot. And he was also able to remember great reams of dialogue that he’d done, including incredibly technical medical terms.

TVLINE| He remembered actual dialogue from ER?
Yeah. This is how many years later?

TVLINE | Twenty?
I don’t know how he does it. I can’t remember a single word. The word aspirin is about as far as I can go.

TVLINE | Medical jargon aside, Chance and House — the shows — could not be more different.
I agree. House was almost like chamber music. It was very heightened and very beautifully constructed. Chance is much more intimate, more vulnerable. The characters are actually revealing parts of themselves in a much less self-conscious way. I think House was aware of itself as a show — deliberately so. [Series creator] David Shore, who’s a genius, deliberately constructed it that way.

TVLINE | As I was watching the first few episodes, I found myself waiting for some kind of twist…
I know exactly what you mean. It’s all the things that it doesn’t have that makes me love it. It doesn’t have people quipping at each other. It doesn’t have banter. It doesn’t have big dramatic action. There’s no ticking bomb. There’s not a virus that threatens to consume Manhattan. There are no super powers. There’s no, “Oh my god, it turns out they’re actually brother and sister!” I found that so wonderful. I don’t know how you feel about all of these other shows, with the time travel and all that stuff. I just think [it’s interesting for characters to] just be. To just be a person boiling an egg or taking your kid to school. It doesn’t have to be like, “Oh my God, they’re after us!” or “We’ve got company!” or “Call in a drone strike!” We can all just calm down a little bit, you know? Of course, it’s a very competitive world and [TV shows] are trying to draw attention. Maybe we’ll pay a price. Maybe the audience will go, “I couldn’t get into it. I wanted a ticking bomb!”

TVLINE | Hulu already ordered a second season, so…
I think we still have to earn it. I’m pretty sure that on page 784 of the contract there’s a small [cancellation provision].

TVLINE | Is it anxiety-provoking committing to a show where the source material runs out after Season 1?
I’m in a similar position with The Night Manager. In both cases, [Season 1 follows a novel] and then people go, “All right, now what do we do [in Season 2]?” I don’t know what the hell [a second season of Chance looks like]. And I can pretty confidently say [the producers] don’t either. Maybe they have a plan, and it’s all on a hugh-laurie-veepbig board somewhere. We’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe we’ll have to put some time travel in it.

TVLINE | Will you be returning to Veep in Season 6?
If they’ll have me.

TVLINE | Is working on the show as much fun as it seems?
Completely. The only mistake I made is that I’m very bad at watching myself. And now that I’m in it, it makes it harder to watch. But in exchange for that, I get to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus [up close]. She is the best I’ve ever seen. Ever.

TVLINE| What is it like working with her?
It’s awe inspiring. She [plays Selina] with such brilliance, energy and invention. And she never settles. As soon as a take is done she’s going, “Let’s try this.” She’s always pushing, until people almost have to pull her away and go, “Julia, it’s all right. It’s all right. We’ve got it.” And [she doesn’t work] in an obsessive way; she does it with such good grace. She’s unbelievable.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. dman6015 says:

    Chance is in the House! I went with Netflix over Hulu, so maybe when the DVDs come out?

    • johnhelvete says:

      Or you can wait until all of the Chance episodes are released (Hulu is weekly), cancel Netflix for a month and subscribe to Hulu for one month. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, are all month to month services and can be cancelled at anytime unlike a cable contract.

      • Steven says:

        Plus Hulu offers 1 week for free, so wait till it’s all released and binge it all.

        • johnhelvete says:

          This is true. Hulu does have other shows that are worth watching (Hulu originals, shows they have exclusive rights to), there is plenty to watch for one month to get good value for a monthly subscription. My point is there is no need to pick one streaming service over another one, there is the freedom to cancel whenever a customer wants. If a viewer wants to watch a certain show on Hulu or Amazon, there is no reason they cant cancel Netflix for a month, and than pick it up a month later, the Netflix shows are still going to be on Netflix a month later.

    • Tony says:

      Why not do both? If its a matter of affordability, I can certainly understand. I personally feel like both off enough different content and serve different enough purposes that it makes sense to subscribe to both (if you can afford it)

  2. Steven says:

    Hugh Laurie has to remember lupus! ‘It’s not lupus – it’s never lupus’

  3. Shaun says:

    Sounds boring,twists make things interesting.

  4. Maria says:

    I adore Hugh Laurie. And we recently cancelled cable in favor of both Netflix and Hulu, so lucky us…we get to see Chance. Looking forward to it.
    PS: he was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for The Night Manager.

  5. HAP says:

    I don’t Hulu, but I look forward to his returning on Veep.

  6. Eurydice says:

    I had to laugh at Laurie’s comment about the ticking time bomb because that’s how I’ve been feeling this season – like, “sigh, not another shocking death.” The other night I was watching some generic action something procedural something when one of the characters hollered, “If we don’t find the something dingus something in 27 minutes, the world will explode!!!” Or something. I just turned off the TV

  7. jj says:

    It was good but not as good as I had hope. This is due to the fact that the character Jaclyn is so unlikable.

  8. Gee Hugh Laurie as yet another American doctor with issues. Wow, no one has ever don this sort of scripting before! Come on Hugh, do something with your comic abilities, okay?

  9. As a huge Hugh Laurie fan, this show drew my immediate attention and I’m not disappointed so far. I love the slower pace. Though a second season is planned, it seems unlikely that they will follow through – just like The Nightmanager – the show will be done when the book is finished.