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TV Preview: Hugh Laurie Dons the Director’s Cap in House

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On April 12th,House returns with “Lockdown”, the first brand new episode after a three week break. The episode is noteworthy not only for its premise (Princeton-Plainsboro goes on lockdown after a newborn is discovered missing) but also that it is the first time its star gets to wear the director’s hat. Through the years, Hugh Laurie has proven he is a man of many talents, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the seemingly daunting task of directing a show as complex as House.

According to Olivia Wilde, who plays 13 on the show, he handles it just fine. “Having Hugh direct this episode is a dream come true for most of us,” she says. “And I’m not exaggerating." She goes on to say that the cast and crew have been after Laurie to direct for some time. “He is a natural leader and we know he always has the best ideas.”

But Laurie insists he’s a meddler, “always leaning over, giving instructions”, which, he insists, became so annoying for the people running the show, they finally said, “Okay, you drive. See how you like it.”

Laurie actually has directed a few projects prior to House, although not very many: some commercials and a few episodes of his 1990s Britcom, Fortysomething (in which he actually did direct himself). But this was a more massive undertaking. “It’s a very big show, it’s a big operation.”

The episode itself is an ambitious one for the medical show. It is divided into five different stories happening simultaneously. “I’m only in one of them,” Laurie says. “So I had two very intense days when I was acting and directing. I was directing myself. The rest of the time I was able to wear my own clothes, which I greatly enjoy.”

The fact that a star of Laurie’s caliber has not become jaded regarding the inner workings of his show is refreshing. He says, “The truth is that when it comes down to it, the thrill of actually seeing what you had in your mind happen in front of a camera, or even to have what you had in your mind actually improved upon in front of the camera by an actor who does something that you absolutely hadn’t thought of…is an enormous thrill.”

Adding to Laurie’s directorial challenges was having Oscar nominated actor David Strathairn on board as the Patient Of the Week. Laurie felt a certain amount of trepidation directing Strathairn, an actor he calls “a towering figure” and “an actor I’ve admired for many years.” He lauds Strathairn’s performance in this episode as “stunning” and says, “I sort of marvel at the the tiniest thing he does that can just break your heart.”

Robert Sean Leonard, who plays the beleaguered James Wilson, puts Hugh Laurie’s directorial debut in perspective: “I’m not sure what makes a good director. I’m not sure. Certainly I’m not sure what makes an actor a good director. I think you are just are one or you’re not one. I’m sure I’m not a good director, but Hugh, whatever it takes he’s got it. He’s smart, he’s good with the actors, he’s good with the crew, and he’s most importantly good at telling a visual story using a camera…”

Quotes in this article were taken from interviews provided by Fox.

The “Lockdown” episode of House airs at 8PM ET Monday, April 12th on Fox.

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About Mindy Peterman

  • Donna

    I have been eagerly awaiting this episode since it was announced Hugh Laurie was directing it and David Strathairn was guest starring. Two very amazing actors who always give high quality performances whether their roles are large or small. This Monday’s [H]ouse episode is ‘must see T.V’ for me and my tivo will be set to record!

  • Grace

    Can’t wait!! I adore Hugh Laurie!

  • Melissa

    Feels like we’ve gone way too long without a House episode! Can’t wait to see this.

    Barbara, Hugh also apparently directed some scenes for “Maybe Baby”, the Ben Elton movie he starred in. If you listen to the DVD commentary (Hugh and Ben), they discuss the fact that in an ironic coincidence Ben’s wife had a baby during shooting. While Ben was away, Hugh stepped in as director.

  • Mindy Peterman

    Melissa: Thanks for the clarification. Oh,and I’m not Barbara (although she was my editor for this article).

  • Melissa

    And you’re not Barbara! Whoops! Sorry! Just followed the link from Barbara’s tweet, so just assumed…

  • Mindy Peterman

    Melissa: No problem 🙂

  • Fortysomething is 2003, not 1990s.