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David Strathairn Guest Stars on House, M.D. in “Lockdown”

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What could be better? It’s spring, the weather is warming up. Oh, and did I mention? House, M.D. returns with its final run of six episodes Monday night. After fits and starts, and interrupted narrative flow, the show back and airing new episodes without a break until the end of the season mid-May.

The show comes back with a real bang as Hugh Laurie directs his first House episode, “Lockdown.”episode is a break-the-formula entry surrounding the disappearance of an infant from its crib. When the child is discovered missing, the hospital goes on “lockdown” status and everyone is frozen in place where they are. Until the issue is resolved and the find the baby, everyone is stuck in place: Forman and Taub are stuck together in a file room; Wilson and 13 are trapped in the cafeteria; (and if you didn’t already know) Chase and Cameron finally are able to (hopefully) gain some closure after their abrupt end in last fall’s “Teamwork.”

House is stuck with a dying patient, played by Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck). The patient is someone whose case House declined, so he’s not very happy with his involuntary companion.

Strathairn is an acclaimed film and stage actor, whose work spans from playing Eddie Cicotte, the star pitcher of the infamous Chicago “Black” Sox team in 1919 in Jon Sayles’ Eight Men Out to Edward R. Murrow (for which Strathairn received an Oscar nomination) in Good Night, and Good Luck.

I first saw Strathairn in the short lived, quirky and superb “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.” He played Moss Goodman, a socially (but appealingly) awkward, introverted bookseller who had a thing for Molly.

He’s the kind of actor you might expect to be at home playing that sort of role—professors, booksellers, writers: cerebral, reserved, slightly awkward. His role in Sneakers as Irwin 'Whistler' Emery: a blind, idealistic genius of a computer hacker is classic Strathairn.

But then catch him in Matewan (another Sayles movie—he’s known the director since their college days), playing the reluctant hero police chief in a mining town, or in LA Confidential as Kim Basingers’ smarmy (but politically connected) pimp, Pierce Patchett. And you realize Strathairn is a real chameleon—a real character actor.

And then there’s Good Night, and Good Luck in which Strathairn transforms himself into Edward R. Murrow, the courageous, pioneering broadcast journalist during the infamous and scary days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the blacklist. He is mesmerizing in the role.

So what’s he doing dropping in on a network television show? Well, House has been known to attract some very high-powered actors: from Tony winners Cynthia Nixon (“Deception” in season two) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Broken,” season six) to Oscar-honored actors Mira Sorvino (“Frozen,” season four), Jeremy Renner (“Games,” season four)—and now Strathairn. OK, so Renner guested before his big Hurt Locker break.

They’re attracted to the exceptional writing, directing and the opportunity to work with the best actor in television (lack of Emmy Award notwithstanding). But this time, it’s Laurie behind the camera directing himself. No newcomer to directing, this is Laurie’s first time wearing the director’s cap for House.

 “I was a little trepidatious about [directing Strathairn] because he's a sort of towering figure, someone, an actor I've admired for so many years,” Laurie commented in an interview provided to TV writers by Fox. 

Although he may have been a bit daunted, Laurie found Strathairn great to work with. “He's so, so good, and the performance he gives in this show is absolutely stunning.  Very, very bright; very, very thoughtful.  I mean, he could not have been more generous and more gentle.”

"Lockdown"'s premise is promising: Strathairn and Laurie forced into a room with only each other as company: an angry and dying patient and House, who might have altered this patient’s fate if he’d deigned to take the case. The scenario is delicious and has the potential for compelling television. Add the directorial touch of the man who knows the characters better than anyone (perhaps including creator David Shore), and gently stir. I can’t wait.

“Lockdown” airs Monday night, April 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Meantime, check out some of David Strathairn’s work.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Delia_Beatrice

    True, true, true, Barbara. Six uninterrupted episodes that begin with what is a fascinating occasion to see the world of “House” through Mr. Laurie’s eyes – this feels like a beautifully wrapped present!

    Also, just a little something i feel the need to say: nobody can ever say enough good things about Hugh Laurie. How much of House’s magic is, in fact, Hugh’s magic is difficult to say, and probably a futile task by now, when involuntarily, many of us think of them as inseparable. I just have to say that my admiration for this artist is imense. Hugh Laurie (whom, by the way, really should be Sir Hugh, he deserves it in more ways than i can count, Your Majesty) is a fascinating public person, because of his multiple and complex talents, which are even more delightful because of his surprising grace, his gentleman-ish, gentle and modest attitude that only enhances his charm. His education and his culture make his humor irresistible, his way with words is so witty and skillful (i cannot think of a better actor to play the lead on the best written show in the universe, whose each line is a literay masterpiece), his intellectual intensity and his very sharp intelligence are so housian. And on top of all that, the delicacy with which he deals with his artistic torment and his personal tendancy towards depression, introspect, doubt and modesty are ever so compelling – making him so human, or helping him pretend he is human, while i am pretty firmly convinced that he is actually a god.

  • barbara barnett

    Delia_Beatrice–couldn’t have said it better myself. So much of the character of House has been molded and shaped by Hugh. I remember interviewing Katie Jacobs last year and asked her about Hugh’s being named an EP. She said he really has been an exec. prod since the beginning since the character and direction of the character are so much a collaboration. But also the feel of the show–even its music. I am so excited about Monday night.

  • Flo

    David Strathairn is great. Liked him on “LA Confidential” and he was magnificent on “Good Night ad Good Luck” (very good film). He also played in “The Sopranos”.

    Hugh is great too so seeing them together is sure gonna be interesting and memorable.

    Just an aside: As much as I love this show and Hugh Laurie and his co-stars, I wouldn’t say it is THE best show ever with THE best actor on TV right now.
    It’s seems really cliché because every fan of of any particular show thinks that his show is the best and the actors in it are the best.

    The thing is, there are a lot of interesting pieces of art on tv right now. “House” is not the only one even if it sure is one of the best.

    Narratively, shows like “In Treatment” and “True Blood” are very interesting because they are original and inventive. They break some basic rules of tv narration.

    I must admit, I’m really impressed by the high quality of writing of “The Good Wife”. It’s very precise and subtle. It’s more of an ensemble show with a lot of very different and interesting characters played by amazing actors. I think they are the best ensemble right now.

    Even years ago there was some really great stuff, it’s not new. “The West Wing” was beautifully written and also “The X-Files” in which Duchovny and Anderson were magnificent. Visually, this show is still the best.

    So out of respect for all the different shows and people who work hard on them all, I just gonna say that “House” is ONE of the top shows on production right now with an amazing Hugh Laurie who has the chance to have a great talented supporting actors around him.

    Anyway, can’t wait for the episode.

  • barbara barnett

    Flo–you’re correct. Which is why I didn’t call out House as THE best show on TV. Has excellent writing still, even six years on. Laurie is the best actor on TV these days. His acting is invisible, and given all he has to do, it’s a master class in acting.

    Loved the X-Files. I still do (especially seasons 1-5). I was disappointed in the last few years. Not Chris Carter’s fault. The move to LA harmed the vibe and Duchovny began to phone in his performances in his last year (IMHO).

    XF still stands as one of my favorite shows ever (and the only other show for which I’ve written fanfiction!)

  • Delia_Beatrice

    What is “In Treatment” about, Flo? I am currently in desperate search for something to watch. I have watched all episodes of “Mad Men”, “Dexter”, “Good Wife” (and all episodes of “House”, about ten times each, at least:))))), and i don’t know what to choose next. I have watched a few eps of “True Blood”, not my thing (just like i did not like “X-Files” – not that i do not acknowledge the quality, i just did not enjoy it personally).

    I don’t know – did i call “House” the best TV show ever, was that what you were talking about, Flo?
    I did call it the best written TV show ever – which i still think is – in regard to the actual lines – the wit and the original construction of phrases and of meaning and the subtlety and the humor and the cultural references are sublime and i have not seen anything that bares the comparison.

    But the best on TV ever – i never attempted to make such hierarchies. I am not interested in them, it’s none of my business. I think you are more entitled to make them, since you have a more objective and more professional view on things. I, for one, watch them for my personal pleasure, and i take pleasure in my personal pleasures (!), like language and literary-like quality, construction of characters, complexity of philosophical approach and the psychological structure and subtleties. So “House” is IT for me – i don’t even try to compare it to anything else, it’s no use – nothing has ever given me more delight and nothing has ever got me so passionate (except for literature, and if i attempt an unusual mix, on the top shelf of my heart are “House”, Jose Saramago and Bulgakov). And nothing else has matched them, so far, even if shelves two and three are very, very crowded. But again, it’s strictly personal.

    Oh yes – the fact that The Monday is no further than tomorrow is something that fills me with a surprised joy – it’s been so long, i can hardly believe the excitement.

  • Flo

    No neither of you called it The best show ever it is just that your praise makes me think of all the people who thinks like that. Nevermind.

    I wouldn’t call it the best written show ever since there are other shows which are equally brilliantly written in their own way. “The Good Wife” is very impressive in that regards.
    So was “The X-Files”. Especially for the characters. The building relationship and interaction between Mulder and Scully is still the best thing ever IMO. The way that they slowly come to trust no other and build this great friendship and relationship is pure writing genius, especially on the spiritual and intellectual level. I remember that Gillian Anderson said once that their interactions were so deep that just the simple gesture of Scully taking his hands, for example, was more powerful than two people kissing in an other tv show and I agree. I also like how it managed to be a metaphor of the Cold War paranoia, how it talked about the complicated connection between religion and science, it was also about perpetual failure. All things that interest me.
    That said, I’m a HUGE fan since it first aired back in the 90’s, this is the show I grew up with so I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
    The writing of “The West Wing” was top notch. A lot of informations, a lot of references (even to pop culture that should interest you Delia), lot of wit. One of the smartest show I ever saw.

    Hugh Laurie is great so is Josh Charles, Micheal C. Hall and Gabriel Byrne. The roles are different and the actors too but in their part they are all magnificent and I’m reluctant to put Laurie’s performance above the other. It’s too difficult.

    “In Treatment” is about a psychotherapist (Gabriel Byrne) and his sessions with his patients. He also question himself and his ability so he gets help from his old therapist he didn’t see for years. Basically there is an episode per day (43 episodes per season). The same day of every week is the session with the same patient so you can see the slow evolution of their therapy.
    It is just that. One unique place and just half hour of discussion between a therapist and his patients. What is gripping is that there is no other show like this. Narratively it is different, it is just one big discussion and the filming is quite simple too. It’s a show that is not afraid of the silence, it really give the looks and the body and facial languages a huge part. I’m just fascinated. Unfortunately I was able to watch very few episodes.

    I like all the show that challenge me intellectually. I also like when it is aesthetically great. (TXF still remains the best in that regard IMO).

    Anyway back on topic, I will be able to watch this new House episode only Tuesday or even maybe Wednesday and I really can’t wait. I usually like when they break the formula.

  • Delia_Beatrice

    Thank you for your description of “In Treatment”. I’ll look it up:)

    I understand and i agree – different things we like about different artistic products (or works of art – some of them are worthy of the term).
    There are various aspects of various productions that i like – intellectually and aesthetically, as you put it, and also emotionally – there are movies, shows, books and music that have a powerful emotional effect on me, even if on the other two levels they are not as impressive.

    But i cannot be as impartial as you are – for me, all aspects of a show combine into something that gives me both intellectual chalanges, aesthetical delight AND that gets me very emotionally involved. I come to love my favorite characters and my favorite stories with a passion that is almost real, and they provoke emotional response in me that is almost real as well.

    So you see, i cannot and i will not be impartial. It’s OK to like something more than the other, and it’s OK to become passionate about it. And not only is it OK, it’s actually great. So… I can make fair comparisons between various qualities of shows and movies, but my emotional response is always different. I have watched “Dexter”, “Mad Men” and “The Good Wife” with great interest and admiration, i became hooked on the stories and fascinated with the quality of the writing and the acting etc etc etc, but they all felt different amongst themselves and, of course, different from “House”. And even if they say one can’t make a hierachy of love, i can actually say that i love “House” most of all.

    I can give you an example that is on my “territory”: i don’t have a professional eye for movies, but i do have a professional eye for literature. It’s been my passion for my entire life and i have extensive studies on it. As a professional reader, i can make the most accurate reviews on the books i read. I have a great number of authors that i appreciate greatly, i have a huge number of individual traits that i love about each of them. But there are very few authors whose books make me feel like they were written especially for me, very few books that give me the feeling of perfect, sublimely perfect connection between book/author and reader. Perhaps Umberto Eco could describe it in the terms of a perfect equation between Intentio Auctoris, Intentio Lectoris and Intentio Operis. It is a perfect match between what i believe in and what i am interested in and what i feel about things and what i like etc etc etc and what the author puts in that book/what the book speaks to me about.

    It’s the same with “House” – perfect match. Completely personal, i realize that. I don’t know why i’d go and say things like “the best show” bla bla bla – i didn’t and i won’t. But it is my personal choice for bestest show in the universe and the most impressive actor on TV (see, i said “impressive” – a subjective term, instead of best:), no doubt about that – in my own mind.

  • 60 plus

    Over my many decades of TV-watching, there has never been a show or an actor as compelling for me as House and Hugh Laurie. Nothing I can say will add to what has already been said so eloquently about both. And, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that House is the best show on TV, for some time it has been the only show that is must-see-TV for me–with one exception, In Treatment.

    I am surprised that more House-lovers have not been attracted to “In Treatment.” While it does not surpass House in my affections–I don’t anticipate any show doing that :)–the two share many attributes: a unique perspective, a troubled lead character, excellent writing, inspired casting. In spite of almost no advance PR and very low viewership, it has been highly acclaimed critically and widely recognized by the awards groups. Byrne won a GG as lead actor and Dianne Wiest a supporting Emmy. A third season has been announced, but, as far as I know, no date is set.

    Back on track…fewer than 30 hours to Lockdown!

  • Flo

    I completely understand and I think everybody is kind of like that.
    There is a huge diffrence between saying the best written, actor, show etc. and saying this the one I prefer.

    What I’m saying is, there are a lot of different really great, beautiful things on tv right now and I personally feel like it’s better to say “I prefer this actor or this writing” than “this is the best actor or writing right now”.
    The second proposition is much peremptory or much unanswerable.

    It’s just a question of how you say thing. I agree that it really depends on how you view things.

    ps: I never watched “Mad Men”. I saw the Pilot and it got me thinking: “okay, so what?” Maybe I should give it a shot.
    I also want to watch “Breaking Bad”. Heard it’s great and it was created by Vince Gilligan who was a great writer in “The X-Files” (you we’re talking about being impartial???? loool)
    You should watch “The West Wing” (1999-2006). Aaron Sorkin is a great Tv writer.

  • barbara barnett

    Flo–I caught Breaking Bad for the first time last week and I enjoyed it. Vince Gilligan was my favorite XF writer (he penned my very, very favorite episodes, among them Paper Hearts in Season Four. The power of dreams and the subconscious mind.

  • Zay

    I’m freaking out now. All this background on an actor I’m not too familiar with is making me so giddy for this episode that I can’t even say. Each of the four character lines in this episode seem like they’re going to be amazing.

    There’s a lot riding on this epi, being the first back after a long break and an uneven half of the season, but with Hugh directing, Cameron coming back, and the cute bits with Wilson/13 and Taub/Foreman in the promos, I’m not worried. It should be fabulous.

    Just another 25ish hours now! :D

  • Delia_Beatrice

    Flo & Barbara: i got “Breaking bad” on my list – i have heard a lot of good things about it.

    “West Wing” – i saw a few eps on TV, it didn’t catch me. I don’t know which season that was, but the very few eps i caught seemed to twist and turn until they showed President Bartlett as the great, moral and just hero etc etc – and that is something i’m not into (my idea of “political “movies = parodies of politics – like “Wag The Dog”). Yeap, i’m that cynical, sorry. However, the structure, the writing and the dynamic seemed very well done.

    60Plus – fully agree, that’s how i feel too. Also, so few hours till “Lockdown”, i need to pinch myself to believe it…

  • DebbieJ

    Just finished watching Lockdown and while I won’t post anything about the episode to spoil it, I just had to mention that Hugh certainly outdid himself. The episode was everything and more I had hoped for it to be. I even liked 13 this episode, she didn’t make me cringe! And who’s idea was it to cast David Strathairn? Excellent, excellent choice. And if it was Hugh Laurie’s idea, then even more kudos to him.

    Can you tell I loved this episode? ;) I can’t wait to watch it again and drink it all in.

  • Delia_Beatrice

    Fully agree, Debbie:)
    I think he did a splendid job. Everything, from what he got out of the actors (i even agree on Thirteen:)))), to the beautiful images, to the pace and the dynamic etc etc.

    One more word about his number one merit, in my opinion: it is so obvious that he knows the cast better than perhaps anyone else and their respect and affection for him are very strong. Every close up was a declaration of love, that went both ways: from behind the camera to the actor, and viceversa. He got the best out of each and every one of them, and that says a lot about who he is, his intelligence and his generosity and his beautiful artistic personality.

  • John Wilson

    I’ve watched and enjoyed “House” from the beginning, although sometimes it gets a little too grooved. I really enjoyed Ambers fadeout and the recent sessions in the nuthouse.

    “Breaking Bad” is a BIG favorite with me. I even re-watch episodes with enjoyment. I think it portrays family tensions and the consequences of lies and deceits agonizingly well. I identify with poor Walts failures and good intentions and the disasters arising from his conflict of ego and shame. It’s the isolation of so many men, husbands and fathers in society.

    “Mad Men” is excellent as a portrayal of those people in that era (which I survived), but it is hampered by the unlike-ability of the lead character, Don Draper. Peggy may be the best thing, but she needs more meat in the program.

    I tried “Damages” but found it wanting in subtlety. Too slick.

  • Michele1L

    Not to make this a great debate about who is the best actor on television … but I agree with you, Barbara. While there are a handful of exceptionally written dramas on television right now, like “The Good Wife” and “Dexter”, Hugh Laurie, for me, is the best actor in a lead role on television. I specify “lead” role because Andre Braugher stars in “Men of A Certain Age” (on hiatus) with Ray Romano, and Andre Braugher is fabulous on anything and in any role. Loved him as Dr. Nolan.