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Lisa Cuddy’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: An Interview with Lisa Edelstein

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Not to spoil next week’s House, M.D. episode “5 to 9” too much, it might be more appropriately titled “Lisa Cuddy’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” after a children’s classic book about a boy named Alexander. (But if you want to be spoiled, be sure to watch the three and a half minute teaser segment from this Monday’s episode I’ve posted at the end of this article.)

The episode “5 to 9” opens at the beginning of a normal workday for the dean of medicine. It’s 5 a.m. and she up, doing yoga, and trying to get ready for a “typical” day managing her hospital and its biggest asset, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie). But when her baby Rachel wakes up inconsolably screaming, Cuddy has her first inkling of the day to come.

Lisa Edelstein, who plays the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital dean of medicine Lisa Cuddy, met with TV reporters earlier this week to talk about the Cuddy-fest to be aired Monday at 8 p.m. on FOX. Unlike the more “controlled, serious wonder woman” she plays on House, Edelstein is playful and exuberant when speaking about her role and her co-stars.

Edelstein says she is more of free spirit than her alter ego. “I don’t think she has time to be the free spirit that she might be. I think her days are completely filled,” she remarked, explaining the differences between Cuddy and herself. Running a hospital “fills up every inch of your world.”

Just as last fall’s “Wilson” removed us from House’s point of view, “5 to 9” also allows us to observe the “House-verse” through a different prism—this time, Cuddy’s. Since she’s the dean and the hospital’s chief administrator, we get a “real glimpse into what it means to run a hospital,” Edelstein explained. She noted that “sometimes you see complaints [among the fans] that people don’t think that Cuddy’s very good at her job. I don’t really think they know what her job is. Now you get a really clearer view of that.”

Edelstein once joked that all of her scenes happen off-screen, where she is always very busy. This episode lets us see what she’s up to. “She’s trying to do everything. I’m just glad there is an episode that shows how much it is she actually has to do, how much is on her plate.”

She found the experience “really exciting. It was exciting because I’ve been working with these people for a very long time and to be given that kind of opportunity was really special.” Getting the script weeks earlier, Edelstein was able to "make suggestions," and have “a lot more power in terms of interacting with the writer and director.” Of course the downside of such a front and center role is the number of hours on set. But she “really loved it” despite the 16 hour a day schedule (she’s in virtually every scene). “It’s really fun to set the pace and the tone of the stage, to be given that opportunity, especially with people that I’ve known for quite some time,” she noted. Edelstein was delighted to have had some input into the tone of script, particularly some of the “relationship stuff on both sides” concerning both Lucas—and House.

Commenting on Cuddy’s current relationship with private investigator Lucas Douglas (Michael Weston), Edelstein remarked that she likes “the difference between her relationship with Lucas and her relationship with House.” Cuddy’s relationship with Lucas is much less complicated—with far less history. According to Edelstein, Cuddy sees Lucas as “this kind of uncomplicated ease with this guy who’s just showing up.” Lucas helps her with her life. “He’s uncomplicated, very loyal, and has sex with her. The question remains, ‘Is that enough?’”

On the other hand, House is “the guy that she had this long, deep, fascinating, back-and-forth with that she can’t seem to steer clear of.” Cuddy’s trying to reconcile what that means to her. “I think there’s a lot of levels to it,” she said.

Right now, explained Edelstein, sometimes “you just want to be in the relationship that looks good on paper and that is the relationship you think you’re supposed to be in. But, I’m not sure that that really works.” And if it doesn’t work out, Edelstein would think Cuddy would want to “give it a shot with the thing that excites [her] most.” She wanted to assure viewers that she wasn’t giving anything away, because she actually hasn’t the “faintest idea what’s happening” in the future to either her relationship with House—or Lucas.

For right now, Cuddy needs to at least give the relationship with Lucas a chance “because she’s been alone for a while, a long time and kind of chasing after a House that was completely unavailable.” But as season six began, House is finally ready for something with the object of his affection. “Suddenly he turns around and announces he’s available, but it’s years that this has been going on. It’s not so easy,” said Edelstein.

Echoing Hugh Laurie’s oft-stated theory of television characters, Edelstein believes her character hasn’t changed over six seasons so much as become more revealed. But, she elaborated, “as the years go by and the writers get to write more deeply about each individual, they just expose themselves little by little.” Although she didn’t mean physically—as in “nude,” Edelstein laughed “that’s pretty much what happened with my character. Every season, I become more and more disrobed.”

One thing that has changed Cuddy is motherhood. Edelstein is delighted to be playing a mother simply coping the best she can. Playing “single working moms and what they do is always nice because they’re unsung heroines,” she said. Edelstein believes that motherhood has factored directly into her view of relationships. In fact, she attributes Cuddy’s relationship with Lucas to motherhood. “I think him being in her life is really directly related to that. She really needs somebody she can rely on.”

The Cuddy-centric episode does seem to soften her chilly relationship with House, and there are a couple of lovely scenes between them. She confides in House, and he helps her with the difficult situation that drives the episode’s plot. “I did really like that and I liked the way it looked next to her relationship with Lucas.” Edelstein noted that there is something very special between House and Cuddy that also is historical and deeply complicated, "but has a nice weight to it." But now in the middle of an easier relationship, Cuddy finds it “a very confusing thing to have in [her] life when [she’s] trying to do what [she] think[s] is the right thing on paper.” But, no matter what has passed between them between the end of season five and this point in season six, they can’t seem to help falling back into that very intimate trust existing between them. And it is lovely to see it back in “5 to 9.”

Be sure to vote in my poll on Lucas and his nasty behavior in “Moving the Chains.” And enjoy the “5 to 9” teaser. I’ve seen the episode and found it an enjoyable—and quite different—House experience.

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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.
  • andree

    Barbara, thank you for the article update on the Cuddy episode. Would love to have more juicy stuff! Any chance Lucas can fall under a deadly disease that House can’t diagnose? Sick of this smurffy guy. Want Cuddy with House PRONTO, NOW, Immediately. You get the point.

  • Cleide

    Frankly I’m so full of Cuddy and his men that not even I want to watch the show.
    Where are the patients? Where are the special diagnostics are increasingly forgotten?
    All this Mexican soap opera is causing me nausea!

  • sdemar

    Thanks for the great article. You know my love of the character and of the relationship between House and Cuddy.

    You could have very easily just typed out the questions and answers to your interview. Instead you turned it into a really nice article.

    I have missed the House and Cuddy interaction this season. For that reason, the season has felt off kilter for me. I am glad to see we will get some nice scenes between them. Let’s hope that continues until the end of the season.

    As DS said, the relationship with Lucas won’t last and that makes me happy because Lucas is a weazel. Who purposely sets out to physically hurt a handicapped person? It’s like hitting an animal. I will never like Lucas. I hope they take Lisa’s advice and allow her character to try it with the one that she can’t quite get out of her mind.

    Thanks for the article. You can feel Lisa’s bubbly character through the words. From some of the reviews I have read, she is given high marks for her performance.

  • Eli

    Thank you, Barbara, for your article.
    I can’t wait to watch the new episode.

  • Elizabeth

    This article was great :) I am so happy that the writers used this episode revolving around Cuddy to go back to the intimate relationship and hidden trusting relationship that House and Cuddy had back in previous seasons. I’ve missed seeing that part of House, which we now only see slightly with Wilson.

    I know this episode will be heavily criticised by Hameron’s and fans who dislike Cuddy, but I won’t let their childish tendencies ruin it for me.

    From what I’ve read from people who have already seen it, it is miles better than Wilson’s special episode, and probably one of the best this season; I put that down to Lisa’s wonderful acting skills alone.

    Thanks

    x

  • Elena

    Thank you Barbara. I think this will be one of the best episodes of the season.

  • http://twitter.com/b_barnett barbara barnett

    Cleide–the episode really has very little to do with Cuddy’s relationships. they are tangential to the story (actually there are two different–very good) stories interwoven in the episode. Her relationships with both Lucas and House prove helpful to her.

    BTW–to all–Ausiello’s latest tidbit: nothing to worry about. Seriously.

  • janine

    Barbara- is the tidbit you’re speaking of the one about the Lost actress having a guest spot? Why would people worry about that, all the comments on Ausiello’s site seem to show people are excited about it

  • Epiphany

    janine, Barbara’s not talking about the Lost actress. She’s referring to Ausiello’s attempt to overhype something that’s already in the promo trailer for 5 To 9.

    I don’t understand why Ausiello’s mentioned that in his column – pretty silly of him.

  • blacktop

    Nice write up of the Lisa interview, Barbara. She come across as intelligent, articulate, sassy, and insightful — a wonderful juxtaposition to the more buttoned-up character of Cuddy.

    I am glad for all the positive information coming out about the upcoming episode. It sounds as though Cuddy’s episode will be among the real highlights of this season. If this one is even half as good as “Broken” was, it will be the standout of the year.

  • Delia_Beatrice

    Thank you, Barbara, and thank you, Lisa!
    I am SO happy that my feeling was correct – the writers will use this opportunity in order to make House give back a little of that amazing loyalty and support she’s always given him, and to make them “fall back into that very intimate trust” – lovely put.
    I’m gonna go drink that champaign now, because this is actually what i really hoped for – not necessarily sex and a relationship, but a new and improved, deeper and better relationship between them, in which House gets to reveal his beautiful humanity. Thank you again, Barbara! Cheers:)

  • Val

    Great article Barbara and how cute is that title! From the looks of the clip and promos it will be fitting.

    I love your writing style and Lisa E. seems to be as candid and funny about Cuddy as always. I am looking forward to Monday.

  • Carmen

    Hi Barbara, Sorry but I don’t understand, why should we be worried about Wilson getting a new girlfriend? I adore Wilson and anything that gives him more screentime is perfect for me. 😉 greetings.

  • cj_housegirl

    Sounds good Barbara, I didn’t watch the vid because I like to stay relatively spoiler free but your comments make me excited about this week’s episode. Really looking forward.

    Great interview.

  • http://twitter.com/b_barnett barbara barnett

    Carmen–That’s not the spoiler I was referring to. It’s a spoiler about Cuddy interrupting House in a compromising position.

  • Orange450

    Thanks for a great article, Barbara. I really appreciate the opportunity you give us to get behind-the-scenes glimpses of the real, live people who bring our – or, at any rate, my – favorite fantasy world to life! As usual, Ms. Edelstein sounds completely delightful and very insightful about her role.

    I’m looking forward to “5 to 9″ as another enjoyable leg of the Housian journey. I’m not sure I completely like the way the whole Lucas thing is being done (for several reasons), but since TPTB didn’t ask me, I’ll just sit back, take it all in, and float along with the current. (Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist a “ship” metaphor!)

  • Orange450

    P.S. Some days are like that. Even in Australia. :)

  • Alex

    Lucas is obviously a two minute man!. What a toad!

  • Donna

    Thanks for this interview Barbara.Happy Lisa (Edelstein & Cuddy) is getting this opportunity with a showcase episode in “5 to 9″. Can’t wait to see it!

  • Eve K

    I really hope – and it sounds like it – that this episode isn’t about Cuddys relationship with Lucas or House. Or even the baby, but that i focuses on Cuddy as a leader of the hospital. I think there’s more than enough material there to make it an interesting episode.

  • Mel

    I don’t like the choices TPTB made for Cuddy this year, but your interview makes me feel excited for the episode so…YAY! :) Can’t wait! :)

  • Flo

    I find a little weird that Cuddy is sleeping on this side of the bed. I mean the few times we saw her in bed before she was always sleeping on the left side (her left).
    She may just changed this because of Lucas and it is not a big deal but it is typically the kind of thing that I baulk at.

    Otherwise, nice interview. She has interesting insights and I think is it good she got the opportunity to make suggestions.
    Looks good.

  • Delia_Beatrice

    Ha ha, Flo. You do pay attention:) Perhaps it’s just another way to show that Cuddy made a lot of unnecessary compromises in order to make her relationship with Lucas work:) Also note that House sleeps on the right side, and on a show like this, that is not by any means accidental.

    On Lisa Edelstein herself, I was at first taken aback by her exuberance. It didn’t seem to fit that well with the show and how everyone else in the show tends to express themselves. But then i came across many interviews with her, in which it is obvious that there is a lot of substance underneath her funny face. She seems to have serious, deep arguments for every attitude that firsthand may seem superficial or too much on the giddy side. For example, she is an activist in the fight for sexual freedom, against AIDS etc, so the openly sexual side of her speeches are justified by her commitment to help people be more open and more sincere about it.

  • Lady Friend

    The internet would really appreciate it if you stopped posting snide “I’ve seen it but I’m not actually going to give you any spoilers, just lord it over you so I can feel superior” comments over at HHoW. THANKS!

  • sunnysea

    Barbara, Thank you yet again for the wonderful article about 5 to 9. So many of us have dreaded watching “the sex scene” between Lucas and Cuddy for months. It was wonderful to be able to get past that and hear about the real meat of the show. LE is very smart and talented as well as socially and politically aware. She has such a light and welcoming and tactful touch in interviews. I especially like how she lets us know she is a fan of the show and I believe she tries to be as honest as she’s allowed to be with fans. I have to say how much I’m looking forward to this episode. She will show everyone her true level of talent, something she has yet to have the opportunity to do in her very limited screen time.
    I also have renewed Huddy hope, not for the explosion of wild, hot and passionate sex (although that is definitely on my wish list) but at least the return of that beautiful emotional connection neither can apparently escape.
    As for Lucas, he is a selfish lover and a PIG, not at all deserving of Cuddy. The expression “easy come, easy go” seems to fit. The first is done. Now it’s time for him to complete the second half. He should go! He has overstayed his welcome! :)
    Thank you for being someone we can count on and for your honest and thoughtful reviews

  • CorkyB

    24 – Lady Friend
    Feb 05, 2010 at 3:24 pm
    The internet would really appreciate it if you stopped posting snide “I’ve seen it but I’m not actually going to give you any spoilers, just lord it over you so I can feel superior” comments over at HHoW. THANKS

    That’s pretty uncalled for. She made one comment at HHoW and that was to say to ignore Ausiello’s latest spoiler. It sounds like you’re a bit jealous you didn’t get a sneak peak.

    Barbara I really enjoy your reviews and appreciate your take on the episodes. You always seem to catch something that I’ve missed.