So about this time every year, I help put together a number of special issues of The Hollywood Reporter in advance of nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards. We here at the trades call it Emmy Season (not to be confused with our four regular seasons in Southern California: Fire, Flood, Earthquake and Pilot). As such, I have an opportunity annually to talk shop with all sorts of TV series and made-for-TV movie producers and stars discussing the merits of their projects/of themselves for Emmy consideration.
The process can be a little bit awkward -- I mean, you know, asking people to essentially tell you, "Yeah, I deserve an award from my peers." Those who coat their answers in wit, irony and self-deprecation tend to come across best. It's why I so adore Hugh Laurie, who won a Golden Globe this year for his protrayal of Dr. Gregory House on the hit Fox medical drama "House." He's British, though you wouldn't know it from his impeccable American accent on the show. Better still, while the man is a brilliant performer, he never takes himself at all seriously, as I've found on the three occasions when we've spoken.
I was disappointed that Laurie hadn't the time to talk on the phone in advance of Emmy season this time but jumped at the chance to conduct an interview via e-mail. I sent questions through his publicist. The answers arrived a scant two hours later. I offer the exchange here in its entirety, eloquently demonstrating why Laurie is my favorite actor on this or any other planet.
1. "I'm a bit confused. How does "House" get an Emmy nomination for drama series...while you personally do not? You ARE House. To my mind, it was a bit like honoring the meal while ignoring the chef who cooked it. Did you feel this way, or did you not have the time and energy to become properly incensed?"
Hugh Laurie: "I'm greatly flattered by your analogy, but I'm not sure it's quite right. (Executive producer) David Shore is really the chef, (executive producer) Katie Jacobs is the Maitre D', and I am merely the waiter. 15% is considered normal."
2. "Did receiving an Emmy nomination for series notably energize the "House" staff? Is there now a swagger in everyone's stride?"
Laurie: "Swaggering is actually forbidden on the set. Something to do with insurance. But I think everyone was pleased and proud to be nominated. I hope so anyway. A lot of people work incredibly hard on the show and it's nice to be recognized for it."
3. "Where do you keep your Golden Globe trophy? Does it make an effective bookend? (And congratulations, by the way.)"
Laurie: "Forgive me for being pedantic here, but I actually now have two - so your bookend idea works even better. Particularly since they weigh more than any earthly substance could in that volume. Friends who try and pick them up assume that I've welded them to the shelf. They are now installed in my son's bedroom, which I have converted into a Hall of Fame. He sleeps in the garden."
4. "Has your work schedule lessened at all or is it as unfathomably insane as ever? How much longer can you conceivably keep up this exhaustive pace?"
Laurie: "It's as unfathomably insane as ever, made more so by the fatigue. I have seen camera operators fall asleep against the viewfinder during a take. If we were pilots, we wouldn't be allowed to fly. But we're not, so there's no sense getting all hyperbolic about it. I do worry about how long we can go on like this. I worry that tiredness will make us worse and people will lose interest. Or that someone will fall over, or crash their car driving home. That would be horrible."
5. "Will Dr. Gregory House ever be happy?"
Laurie: "I think it's unlikely. Perhaps that will be the last scene we ever do. House on the doorstep of a rose-covered cottage, his arm around Donna Reed, two moppets scampering at his feet, maybe a Labrador. The camera will pull back and back, a helicopter shot, House and Donna waving, getting smaller and smaller. Then House will pull out a shoulder launched missile.... there'll be a flash of light, getting bigger and bigger, filling the frame, then BLACKNESS.
"That's my pitch."