Lisa Edelstein stars as Dr. Lisa Cuddy opposite Hugh Laurie in the hit television show House, MD. Tonight’s episode, “Joy” focuses on Cuddy’s desire for motherhood, as she hopes to adopt a baby girl, after trying to get pregnant since the end of season two. House’s hurt and shocked reaction at the end of last week’s episode “Lucky 13,” suggests that he is not too thrilled with this turn of events. And needless to say, “Joy” focuses much attention on House’s feelings about the matter and — possibly — his feelings for his boss.
With Cuddy’s juicy and intense storyline hitting its stride tonight, Ms. Edelstein generously agreed to an email interview. She offered her take on Cuddy and Cuddy’s complex relationship with House. "Joy," airs tonight on FOX at 8:00 p.m. ET.
As an actress, what have you added to Cuddy's back story?
I think the fans know more about Cuddy's back story than I do. The things I added myself were really specific to how she met House, how well she knew him over the years and why she took him on at the hospital.
How much influence do you have over the direction of your character? Do you feel that Cuddy has been written consistently over time? What are her strengths and weaknesses?
In the broad strokes, no, I don't have any influence over the decisions made about Cuddy's story line. However, I think when an actor has been playing a character for long enough, the way you end up inhabiting the character has an effect on the way the stories unfold in the writers' minds. It would be a different Cuddy with a different path if someone else were playing her. In the beginning I was worried that she wouldn't be fleshed out, that she (and I) would be trapped in this mechanical role of saying "Oh no you don't!" every episode. But little by little, as time went by, the character of Cuddy began to emerge. I don't think it's been inconsistent in terms of who she is, it's just that she doesn't get to win very often. She is, much of the time, the one that has to say "Doh!"
It’s been established that House and Cuddy have known each other a long time; in your view of Cuddy and House, how do they know each other? How long and under what circumstances?
House was a legend at the college Cuddy went to. A legendary genius and personality. She met him while she was still a student. They knew each other for awhile before having one hot night of good lovin’. It didn't end up working out. Still, she greatly admired him and years later he came to her when he had his infarction. After that, his anger and pain melted his career away and it was Cuddy who believed in him enough to hire him, despite himself.
Cuddy has an ability to get into House’s personal space like no one else can… and he allows it. How does Cuddy affect House?
I think House is well aware of what Cuddy made possible in his life. I think he has a deep trust in her, something a person like that has a hard time finding elsewhere. He constantly pokes and prods at the boundaries but he appreciates the tenacity of his true friends. She's smart, she fights him and she trusts him, too. And he likes her body. Which is weird to say because it's my body. But there you go.
The final scene of last season had House lying in his hospital bed with Cuddy sleeping in the chair next to him, holding his hand. She had clearly been there some time. Why was she there, when Wilson clearly placed a great deal of blame on House for Amber’s death?
Though Wilson blamed House, Cuddy never did. She understood the complexities of the situation. All that mattered to her was that House should survive. She drops all pretense in that moment. Here was a man she admired and loved whose survival was in question. She stays by his side until she's sure he's on his way to recovery — something she's done more than a few times for him.
The Cuddy-wants-a-baby story arc stretches back to season two of the series. It's something, if I recall correctly, that you brought to the producers. Were you surprised to see it re-emerge after being shelved for more than a season? Was it something that you had continued to advocate?
There are a lot of stories to tell on our show, and sometimes it just takes awhile. I wasn't advocating one way or another, it was just always there, on the back burner, waiting for it's moment in the sun.
Cuddy’s efforts to have a child resonate deeply with many women hearing the biological clock tick-tocking. Not having seen the episode “Joy,” I don’t know if her adoption results in a Cuddy-baby. Will Cuddy’s desire to have a child continue to be an ongoing theme for her if things go bad with the adoption?
It definitely carries through the season…
How do you explain House’s reaction to Cuddy’s news at the end of “Lucky 13?” He seemed shocked and deeply hurt.
I don't think House wants the competition of another baby in Cuddy's life. He's hers, already.
What does House feel for Cuddy, do you think? How do you and Hugh Laurie view that relationship differently?
Hugh and I are pretty much on the same page about the relationship. We've talked about it before, though I don't dig too deeply. There is something nicer about letting House be nearly as mysterious to me as he would be to Cuddy. That way, it's kind of exciting.
Cuddy is very protective of House. Is House equally (in his own way) protective of Cuddy?
Absolutely. But much less tolerant, though he wouldn't think so.
Putting yourself Cuddy's shoes, why did she hire House in the first place?
Because no one else can do what he does and she's the gal to handle him.
In season one’s episode “3 Stories,” it is suggested within House’s narration that Cuddy was his attending physician when he was originally in the hospital. Was Cuddy there? Or was House simply using Cuddy as a stand-in his physician of record?
It was Cuddy.
The character of Cuddy is Jewish (but not obviously so) as are you (as am I). I have noticed a lot of Cuddy’s artifacts in her office and in her home are bits of Judaica…?
I'm not sure Cuddy was originally Jewish, but when one hires Lisa EDELSTEIN, it kind of seeps out. I mean, I've played non-Jews, to be sure, but apparently I don't pass for all that long. And why fight it?
In season two’s episode “Who’s Your Daddy,” when Cuddy asks House to help with the injections, she confides in him and involves him with her motherhood desires. This time she didn’t; she confided in Wilson. How does House react to that?
I think any reaction to that is superceded by the idea of Baby coming and overshadowing him.
How does House feel about Cuddy adopting or continuing to pursue her motherhood ambitions?
He doesn't make it easy.
Have to ask about a teaser scene (for tonight’s episode “Joy”) which showed Cuddy in tears with a very serious looking House, very near to her. Can you tell me anything about that without divulging too much about the episode?
I love that scene. It's the closest we've yet to see these two people. Cuddy is in so much pain that in a way, they can see each other eye to eye for a moment. Absolute clarity…
Where is Cuddy’s relationship with House going? Will there be intensification? A pulling back?
Why ruin the fun and blab about that? I will say this: David Shore does not make anything easy. These two characters are the same people they were before, life has not changed, no magic spell has been cast…
Can you characterize Cuddy’s relationship with Wilson and how that dynamic works in both controlling and supporting House?
Sometimes I feel like Wilson is House's conscience and Cuddy is his heart. But I think Cuddy and Wilson had a great camaraderie. There is an unspoken understanding between them in regards to House and all things House-related. They know the other's piece of the puzzle and they both use and support each other through it.