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Lisa Edelstein on House, Cuddy and the Acting Life

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Lisa Edelstein, the fine actress who plays Dr. Lisa Cuddy on House, fielded questions from the press during a conference call this week. She was gracious and patient and seemed to enjoy speaking with journalists from all across the globe.

The call lasted about thirty minutes and the number of journalists dialing in was less than I had anticipated. The fact that I got a couple of questions in was a lovely surprise.

Lisa EdelsteinEdelstein is a versatile actress who has taken on some quirky roles in her day. On Ally McBeal she played a transsexual, on The West Wing, a high priced call girl, on Seinfeld she played George Constanza’s girlfriend, “The Risotto Girl”.

If you’re in the business long enough and luck is with you, you’ll eventually find that one defining role. If you’re really lucky, that role might last for a considerable amount of time. Edelstein seems to have found that role; she’s played Dr. Lisa Cuddy for the past seven years.

During the call Edelstein fielded questions on topics such as House/Cuddy intimacy to how Cuddy’s clothes define her to what Edelstein does in her free time. Thirty minutes went by quickly but were put to good use.

When asked about the emotional challenges she and Hugh Laurie face in their roles, Edelstein replied, “We’ve been working together seven years, which is like ‘dog years’ in our line of work. It’s like forty-nine years”. Their personal friendship, she maintains, makes it easier to show the intimacy of their characters. “If there’s anybody I would have to be intimate with on camera, it would have to be someone I knew and trusted as much as I do Hugh”.

The news that Candice Bergen would do a guest shot on House made both viewers and the cast of the show extremely happy. Edelstein, obviously a fan, revealed how she grew up watching Bergen and that Bergen is really fun to work with. “She is an incredibly bright woman, which I think just shines through all the dialogue”. Edelstein also said it was fun pushing the envelope and seeing what it would be like for House to have to deal with Cuddy’s “very pushy mom”. That pushiness makes it clear why Cuddy’s mom would be able to tolerate a character like House.

The season opener laid the groundwork for what was to come in the House/Cuddy relationship. The dialogue between the two in that episode was so natural, in some way more than in an average episode. When asked why this was so, Edelstein replied that the episode was “more like a play. The writers felt that you couldn’t put these two characters together. You have to give them a moment”. She went on to say that the writers worked hard to think of various ways to handle the relationship and make it work. “They (House and Cuddy) are two complicated people who want to be together. They might not be able to, but they want to”.

Has Cuddy changed over the years? In response, Edelstein quoted showrunner, David Shore: “Characters don’t change. They get unveiled”, and then went on to describe how it is a melding of the actor’s portrayal of the character and the writer’s take on that portrayal that truly forms the character.

Edelstein offered some excellent advice for those who dream of pursuing acting as a career. “It is a very hard business. Find a way to enjoy the process. If you can’t enjoy auditioning and not getting the job, you will suffer. The whole life of an actor (and that means the ups and downs, the good and bad) is something you should derive pleasure from”.

When asked what it’s like working on the show, Edelstein explained that the House set is fun because the cast and crew all like each other. But it is not filled with pranksters. “There is too much to do”, she said with a laugh. “However, there are many great “disturbed” wits on the set”.

One of Edelstein favorite episodes is “5 to 9”, the Cuddy-centric offering from Season 6. Being on the set more than anyone else and keeping her attitude upbeat was a challenge she rose to. “If you have an attitude or are tired, it drags everybody down”.

Did she have a notion early on that House and Cuddy would become a couple? “It wasn’t a surprise”, she said, and thought she saw signs of it when they filmed the pilot. She felt Cuddy and House had a complicated relationship and if the show went on long enough, there would be time to explore it.

The clothes Cuddy wears have always attracted attention. But what do they say about the character? “She’s very controlling so she wears very structured, tight outfits. Her life is very restricted, all work and very little play. She can’t even run fast in those skirts! Everything she wears holds her in. She doesn’t have great freedom. Also, she is a woman who lives most of her life in the hospital and uses that time to feel sexy and beautiful”.

A deeper look into Cuddy’s backstory enables us to see how her family defines her. “It’s easy to see how Cuddy can tolerate a guy like House when we see how difficult her mother is”. In the next episode, “Family Practice”, a health crisis hits and things get even more complicated family-wise. “It gets very messy”, Edelstein revealed.

“There is a great history between House and Cuddy.” she said when asked a what these characters do for each other. “As you get older, that’s an important thing to have with one another. For him, she is someone he trusts. He knows she wants the best for him. He knows she’ll tell him when things have gone too far. Then he decides for himself if he wants to listen. For her it’s his intelligence and brilliance that really excite her. Getting attention from a man like that is not an easy thing to achieve. Whether or not he is someone she can trust is something he has to prove”.

On her time away from the set, Edelstein enjoys taking care of herself, hiking, slow mornings, walks with her dog, swimming. She tries not to drive too much. Keeping calm is the key.

The not so great news, Edelstein revealed, is that the show has not yet been picked up for next season, citing legalities that have to be worked out. NBC wants FOX to take over costs for production and FOX doesn’t want to do it. Hugh is the only cast member to be signed for an eighth season. Until NBC works out things with FOX, cast negotiations will not be able to go forward.

When asked why people continue to watch the show after seven seasons, she replied, “It’s the magic bullet, isn’t it? I can only thank (David) Shore and Hugh Laurie and be grateful for the ride. It’s so arbitrary as to what makes it and what doesn’t. We had the luxury of being on after American Idol. Before that we were on their own and (probably) would have been canceled”.

Lastly, Edelstein was asked what her hopes are for future of the show. With a laugh, she replied, “I stay out of it and enjoy the ride”.

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About Mindy Peterman

  • Sera G

    Thanks, Mindy,
    I enjoyed this interview. Maybe since the ratings were up this week, it will help Fox/NBC make up their minds.

  • Thanks, Sera: I sure hope so!

  • Sdemar

    Nice article, Mindy.

    LE is a very bright, articulate and funny woman with a bubbly personality. No doubt she is the show’s best cheerleader.

    I love the actress, her character and Huddy and i am counting on her getting signed for Season 8.

  • Beria

    I hope we´ll see Lisa in season 8, she is amazing. But if not, i´m looking forward to her next role. She is a fantastic actress.

  • andrew

    She is a great actress.

  • Orange450

    Mindy, thank you so much for sharing this! You make LE’s incandescent personality shine right through my computer screen 🙂

  • Orange450: Thanks so much! 🙂

  • tania

    i love house its my number 1 tv show

  • Ingrid Von Tess

    I really like this show! I can say that I love it because of all the characters and the awesome diagnostics. But most of all I really enjoy it because they seem human! I mean Cuddy acts like a woman who wants a relationship and a baby, having to deal with an ego-centered boyfriend… But it’s one of those few shows where not the body impresses but the talent of the actors. I love the show.. and I really love Cuddy’s character

  • Andi

    Lisa Edelstein just made a commercial supporting the “right” to murder babies. Why do these ads never state that we also have the right to chose not to murder our babies? And why are we forced to pay for others who chose to murder their babies? I HATE when entertainers spout their political views as if they’re views should be everyones views. I will never watch her show again!

  • I HATE when entertainers spout their political views as if they’re views should be everyones views.

    And yet you repeat over and over the phrase “murder… babies” as if this, too, should be everyone’s view, rather than just one side of the abortion debate.

  • El Bicho

    Andi, have you ever seen a car ad state you have the right to walk to where you are going?

  • lady liberty

    I’m glad you guys chimed in here about this woman pretending she understands politics. These people (Hollyweird types) need to SHUT UP AND ACT! This just proves the point that leftists everywhere can gain access to cameras and tell mind-numbed morons (democrat voters) what they should think. The ONLY thing these people, like Edelstein, are good act is pretending.

  • This just proves the point that leftists everywhere can gain access to cameras and tell mind-numbed morons (democrat voters) what they should think.

    Um, sure. And political ads by Republicans are just suggestions.




  • If you must. But can you at least do it without your caps lock on?

  • Cynthia

    Yep because of her “Job” and her political appearence I am boycotting House. No longer on my DVR schedule.

  • Because there’s no better or more hard-hitting way to get to the heart of an important issue than to boycott a television drama show because of what one of the cast members thinks.

  • Costello

    Unless you are a Nielsen household, your boycott is meaningless. I really wish idiots like you would stop making conservatives look like ignorant fools

  • susieQ

    Last time I watch house after Edelstein Pro Abortion Ad on Move-on

  • Linda

    Ms Edelstein needs to continue her role on House but needs to stay out of politics, she did a really poor acting job on the Planned Parenthood commercial. Will have a hard time watching House going forward.

  • JET

    I’ve enjoyed Lisa Edelstein’s performances ever since I fist saw her on Ally McBeal. HOWEVER I just saw Lisa Edelstein’s delusional MoveOn.Org commercial. I will NEVER EVER again watch my favorite TV show, FOX’s HOUSE or ANY TV or movie that includes Lisa Edelstein. I had no idea she was such an idiot. Her commercial on MoveOn.Org is the kiss of death to her promising career. Bye Bye Fool.

  • Abortion is a personal matter. If you don’t want to have one yourself, fine, but what other people do is none of your or anybody else’s business.

    Attitudes like the ones above are simply another assault on personal liberty by people who should know better.

  • Could all you ‘mini dictators’ who propose to control other peoples’ bodies please go to my blog and send me your contact info. I have a load of kids who need homes and I would like to arrange for them to be cared for by your good selves.

    Anyone who claims to be pro-life and does not house an unwanted child is a hypocrite and is actually more interested in enforcing their beliefs than saving children.

    As an aside to people who have a problem with the content of the advertisement, I don’t get it, exactly what in that ad is incorrect? Is she not historically correct? Do you have a problem with reality?

  • Jeff

    Because of Lisa Edelstein’s appearance in the moveon.org planned parenthood non-sense video, I will no longer be watching House. Unless, of course, she gets written out. Just as she has the right to be in such propaganda, I have the right to not support any work she does. It’s unfortunate for anyone with whom she works.

    This has nothing to do with pro-choice and everything to do with LE being in a far-left lie blaming republicans for the cuts to the PP program. The GOP still does not ‘own’ the Senate nor the white house. Any cuts to any programs are going to have to be approved by the left or it’s not going to happen. I’m pro-choice, but I don’t believe the taxpayers should be footing the bill. Condoms aren’t that expensive. Let’s keep the conversation on topic if we’re going to discuss moveon’s motives. Wait, is that moving close to ‘personal attacks’?

  • Hopefully none of you ‘support our troops’ to murder innocent people at the taxpayers expense.

  • Your taxes pay for collateral murder, cozying up to dictators, holding people without charges in prisons–indefinitely, and keeping most o the world hungry…

    How do you expect to have any credibility claiming to be concerned about the unborn, when your track record of concern for the already born is nonexistent?.

  • El Bicho

    is this actually a group of new commentors?

  • lynda

    I won’t be watching HOUSE any longer as this actress is a member or supporter of MOVEON.org – an organization that is doing its best to destroy America, our Constitution and trying to force its socialistic views upon our freedoms.
    Abortion should NOT be funded by tax dollars! You want an abortion pay for it with your own funds. This is a disgrace!

  • lynda

    El Bicho, you need to wake up and see that MOVEON.org is infiltrating into our homes any way they possibly can. Lisa Edelstein should not be promoting an America-hating, freedom killing organization despite her commercial trying to say republicans want to put women back in the stone age with back alley abortions.
    Abortions have been around since the stone age and MOVEON.org supports keeping women in the stone age and not promoting contraception but the killing of innocent life. It is not always about the MOther who obviously needs help not an abortion.

  • lynda

    Cindy: I do support our troops. Wars are fought and innocent people do get killed but terrorists kill anyone and everyone who doesn’t do their bidding. We must keep terrorists from coming to America to kill us as randomly as they kill, murder and blow up innocent people in market places and public places in their own countries!
    That will certainly happen in America if we do not fight them in their own country. Do you have any idea what their acts of terrorism would be like in America? You would be afraid to walk out of your front door. Terrorists must be stopped in their homelands! Despite what you think there is evil in this world.

  • But lynda, ‘our troops’ are the terrorists. Just ask those they terrorize.

    What makes them different?

  • Gov’t authority does not legitimize terrorism.

  • Do you recognize, lynda, you are legitimizing war against people who never hurt you? people just like you, who’ve done nothing wrong?

  • P.S. ‘House’ is one of the few shows that I actually like. I am glad warmongers find it distasteful. My sensibilities are such that I would hate you to enjoy watching something I enjoy. Good riddance.

  • Jeff

    Wow Cindy, what planet are you from? [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] You don’t know any of us, yet you stereotype anyone that doesn’t believe exact what you believe.

    Retired U.S. Navy Veteran
    Someone who served so you can live free and watch house. Let’s see how much longer that lasts the way our country is being spent into a deficit the likes this World has never seen.

  • I hope that Barbara Barnett will soon weigh in on this controversy. She is of course Blogcritics’ co-executive editor, author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., and BC’s resident expert reviewer of House, M.D. episodes. Last October, Barbara reported here on her exclusive interview with Lisa Edelstein. And when the progressive spirit moves her, Barbara also blogs at BC on politics.

    Edelstein’s MoveOn.org ad We Won’t Go Back and its reception since being launched on February 15 would therefore seem to be tailor-made for Barbara Barnett. A piece by her would also provide a more timely forum for this discussion than the present article by Mindy Peterman, which was published more than three weeks ago and has nothing to do with We Won’t Go Back.

    Considering that Blogcritics has published hundreds of articles about House, M.D., it’s clear that Barbara missed the boat this time, both as editor and writer. She should’ve posted a BC NewsFlash on We Won’t Go Back yesterday, already. What’s the holdup? Perhaps it has something to do with not wanting to alienate House, M.D.‘s fan base by defending Lisa Edelstein’s politics, which may be consistent with Barbara’s own but antagonistic to many House, M.D. loyalists.

  • “Someone who served…” because they were sold propaganda and lies that there service was for my and others’ freedom.

    When did the US military ever make me free? When did you, wasting your and other people’s lives and time and money every make anyone free?

    “Let’s see how much longer that lasts the way our country is being spent into a deficit the likes this World has never seen…”

    By wars, among other things, which you seem to be taken in by. Good riddance to this country and it’s evil propaganda of domination.

  • Also, I trust that Barbara will address the heavy-handed symbolism of the piano music on Edelstein’s MoveOn.org ad We Won’t Go Back, with its no-doubt deliberate echoes of Chopin’s Funeral March (Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, CT. 202: Lento “Marche Funebre”). Isn’t that overdoing it just a tad, ladies?

  • You don’t know any of us, yet you stereotype anyone that doesn’t believe exact what you believe.

    Criticism does not equal stereotyping. Perhaps, as some here appear to do, you’ve learnt to criticize by making empty accusations. Please explain what you meant by this. How exactly do you presume I have stereotyped anyone here?

  • El Bicho

    No, lynda, you need to wake up from your Beck-induced nightmare.

    “You don’t know any of us, yet you stereotype anyone that doesn’t believe exact what you believe.”

    Like your pal, lynda. How did you miss the irony, Jeff?

  • I’ve been away all day today inundated. I saw the video and the interview she did last night on MSNBC. It’s her right as an American citizen to participate in whatever political expression she wants to within legality. And as far as I know, at this point in our history, it’s still legal to support a woman’s right to choose.

    I really didn’t consider the video that Lisa Edelstein made to be worthy of a newsflash as it really isn’t “breaking news,” but simply an advertisement.

    I have not yet read all the comments, but I am struck by some of the nasty tone and suggestion that organizations “like moveon are infiltrating our homes.” Excuse me? Infiltrating? What? Have I just been time-warped back into the early 1950s? Is that Senator Joe I see?

    Alan-you say I’ve “missed the boat on this” because I didn’t chime in with an article about the video. The video is not about House, it’s not connected with the show, and doing a piece on an actresses personal choice to lend her name to a cause is hardly news.

    Personally, I agree with Edelstein, and I fear the recent news from some western states that there is consideration to make the murder of doctors who perform abortions “justifiable homicide.” That just makes me sick.

  • I disagree. If Hugh Laurie were to appear in an ad produced by a gay rights advocacy group, and call for the legalization of same-sex marriage, that would be news. Of course it’s his personal choice. But he’s not some anonymous citizen. He’s the star of the TV show you’ve been tirelessly promoting. I’d expect you to cover that as news.

  • Of course, Alan, he’s a much bigger (and international) star. But I’m not sure I’d cover that as a big new story–in the grand scheme of things–do you really think it ranks up there? I’d cover it, possibly, but I really don’t do stories on the stars of the show outside the realm of the series. The column is about the series, it’s not a “celeb” column. Even my interviews with the actors focus on the stories.

    What actors do on their own time is their business. They have that right, just like you do. I would applaud HL if he made such an advert–and it’s completely plausible come to think of it since his best friend (Stephen Fry) is gay.

    However, the ad would likely be in the UK, since Laurie is British and is very unlikely to advocate for a specifically U.S. policy POV.

  • I’m disappointed, Barbara. You’re clearly in denial. We Won’t Go Back is not a hair-coloring commercial featuring some bimbo off a sitcom. It’s a serious political ad starring an actress who plays a doctor and Dean of Medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital on a hit medical drama.

    That’s no coincidence. We Won’t Go Back concerns a controversial medical procedure and obviously trades on Cuddy’s credibility as a female physician. To pretend it doesn’t matter, as if We Won’t Go Back were just another ad by just another actress, underestimates the intelligence of House, M.D.‘s many fans and their respect and affection for this character.

  • Anyone who’s glued to their TV set to view the next exciting episode of House. MD or any other soap opera has forfeited whatever intelligence they had had; there’s nothing to underestimate.

  • Lou

    Lisa had a “choice” in making this abortion ad for Move-On…and sadly my choice is to now stop watching House. A show that I will miss.

  • Roger, that’s awfully harsh. Barbara wrote an entire book about this show, and BC has published hundreds of House M.D.-related articles, which have garnered thousands of favorable comments. Is this the first time you’ve deigned to insult Barbara and the many other House fans here? As usual, you’re putting politics above common courtesy.

  • Alan, do you value common courtesy?

  • Also, Roger, I direct your attention to comment #35 above. Do you include Cindy among those who have forfeited whatever intelligence they had?

  • Alan is right about the casting of Edelstein in this particular ad (and about Roger’s snobbery). However, it’s entirely Barbara’s editorial decision as to whether she wants to address the topic in her column, or to focus strictly on the show itself.

    In a way, the decision was made for her by the several people who decided to flame this thread yesterday (and are unlikely to be back); and by those who responded and kick-started a debate!

  • seancoddington

    Would have been nice if lisa’s mom felt
    the same way and exercised her rights!

  • Ooh, ooh, I know this one. Sean is one of those pro-lifers whose respect for life ends at the point where the fetus leaves the birth canal.

    Do I get a star?

  • El Bicho

    Apparently sean doesn’t understand Lisa’s mom did exercise her rights and chose to have the baby

  • Alan, I can’t allow Barbara’s preoccupation cloud my judgment on the matter. As to Cindy, I doubt she is any kind of TV addict, let alone soap. Besides, her redeeming qualities exempt her in my eyes.

  • “Roger’s snobbery?” kinda off coming from a Brit unless the underlying intent is to come out smelling like a rose.

    Bias would be a better term since I’m not trying to impress anyone.

  • kinda odd …

  • “Roger’s snobbery?” kinda off coming from a Brit

    That’s racist.

  • Good show, Dreadful, so now we’re escalating?

  • Boeke

    #46 – Roger is right. Anyone who takes this stuff seriously is demented.

    Lisa E. is entitled to her opinion and can pontificate all she wants in advertisements. Why should anyone else care?

    Personally, from what I’ve seen, she’s a cutey but a lightweight. I wouldn’t even try to see her ad on moveon. If the recommendations of movie/TV stars has any influence on your ideas you are indeed a a lost soul.

    All actors are professional dissemblers, paid well to represent ideas and feelings to you that are not their own. They are paid liars.

    Ronald Reagan was very charming and a practiced liar, and was even a good movie actor in his last movie, “The Killers”, but I didn’t fall for it, even though it was “The Role Of A lifetime” as one biographer said.

  • Boeke

    That is, being the President was the role of a lifetime.

  • I don’t actually know when House is on I just watch it whenever I see it on. I like it in any order old or new. It’s not violent and its not particularly sexist or objectionable. However, we do often watch George Lopez from 10-11 on Nickelodeon. (hums Low Rider);-)

  • I’ve continued my end of the conversation elsewhere on the site.

  • C. DeWayne Fletcher

    Because of Lisa Edelstein’s appearance on the moveon.org (liberal blog) planned parenthood abortion alert commercial, I, too, will no longer be watching “House”, even though I have enjoyed Hugh Laurie and his amazing acting talents over the many years.

    I will not be watching unless the writers “take her out” by scripting her in a life ending scene of an abortion in her hospital, performed by a “professional child butcher”… ironic as it would be. Dr. House will show up at the end and declare her illness as “slut”, that he was a part of in his godless moment, with this whore.

  • That’s a little over the top there, DeWayne. These are, after all, mere characters on a TV show. They are not real people.

  • C. DeWayne Fletcher

    surely they could leave their “real self” to their own vices, and out of our “imaginary world” when it comes to our favorite shows.
    I will miss “House” very much.

  • Delaney

    I think its funny that people are boycotting HOUSE because Lisa did the move on video. If you are knowledgeable with this campaign its not about ‘murdering babies’….. its about CHOICE!

    We live in a country where we can make our own choices, but unfortunately, the republican party is trying to take this away from us. Get an abortion or dont get one….. it’s your CHOICE. Im glad people in the entertainment industry are fighting for me, as a woman, to let me keep my power of decision over my own body.

    GO LISA! Thank you for using your voice!!!!

  • Johanna12

    wow I knew her in college and she was one catty egotist back then….great to hear that her acting skills have improved and she (or at least the character she played on House) is so well loved! Quel monstre!