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[06/17/09 - 10:54 PM]
Live at the Paley Center for Media: "The Creative Process: Inside House"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Dr. Gregory House is such a vitriolic, antisocial lead character that it is hard to believe he has become a welcome guest in American homes. The inimitable Hugh Laurie and the creative team of House will explore why bad bedside manners makes good television, even after more than one hundred episodes. The panelists will screen an exemplary episode, and then examine how they continue to invigorate their irreverent medical series with mysterious diseases and dysfunctional working relationships.

7:15 PM - Welcome to tonight's mini-Paleyfest! It looks like they're running a little late. And it looks like there won't be a legacy clip!

7:20 PM - Our old friend Craig Hitchcock is here to intro tonight's moderator: The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond. He turn informs us we'll be seeing a brief clip package from the show's last few episodes this season.

7:32 PM - And with that Ray brings out the panelists: Omar Epps! Lisa Edelstein! Robert Sean Leonard! Hugh Laurie! Katie Jacobs! David Shore! Greg Yaitanes!

7:35 PM - Ray asks about House's trip to the loony bin at the end of this season. "It's all drawn heavily on my personal life," Hugh quips.

7:37 PM - "I was actually a little worried," Shore says about the show's initial pitch. "When we pitched it we pitched it primarily as a procedural and the character, the crop of characters was not really what the focus of the pitch was." Katie adds, "The notion we had was what if we told a medical show as a mystery where the suspects were the symptoms. And at the head of that was the doctor, what they really say after the patients leave."

7:39 PM - Ray wonders which accent Hugh is faking, the one we're hearing now or the one on the show. "I'm faking the one on the show," Hugh says. "As you very well know, you minx!" He goes to note he was filming "Flight of the Phoenix" in Namibia when he shot his audition tape. "I made this tape with the help of some other actors. Jacob Vargas was operating the camera, never got credit for it, and Scott Campbell was reading [Wilson's part]. And at the end, [when] I did this tape I was actually going to get drunk. And they were impatient to get on with it so they only let me do it once. And I did it and I remember as they were packing up the camera I said, 'What did you think of the accent?' And Jacob said, 'What accent?' And I said, 'The American accent.' And he said, 'Oh you were doing American.'"

7:41 PM - Hugh also confesses he thought Wilson's character was the lead, which he also read for. "I didn't put much work into the Wilson [character]," Hugh admits. "Why would you?" Robert quips. "It really acts itself doesn't it?" Hugh adds. "The character's description was a handsome, boyish face, a handsome, open face or something like that. And I thought well that's plainly not for me. So I didn't exert myself very hard in that role."

7:42 PM - "I confess to not reading the entire pilot before sitting down [for the table read]," Robert admits. "When it's not cancer I have a short week."

7:43 PM - Omar on working with Hugh: "He's an incredible artist and set the bar pretty damn high there buddy."

7:45 PM - Greg on directing the show: "One of the great things about this show as opposed to some of the other shows I've worked on is there is a sense of community and there's a sense of support where everybody is looking after everybody and is 100% there when they're off-camera for someone else's dialogue... and one of the things that I love is, that attracted me to come here for this season, was that in episode 100 and something everybody's still striving to make it as fresh and original as the first day that they were at the table."

7:46 PM - Ray asks why the season premiere will pick up shortly after the finale wrapped instead of the usual three month or so gap. "We don't want to shake things up for the sake of shaking things up," David says. "We just want to keep exploring this character... we're just seeing where his life progresses and where it goes. And the end of last year obviously we did something that felt natural and real to me but is very extreme and we want to be as true to that as we can and follow up on that. So we are doing, Katie's going to be directing a two-hour season premiere, which is basically a movie which basically follows House through that institution. And it takes place over a much longer period of time than we're used to. And [it's about] his life in there, his search for getting better."

7:48 PM - Ray praises the show's smart, cable sensibility and how it still leads to huge ratings. "Imagine how good it would do if we dumbed it down?" David jokes. "We just do a show we all like and a lot of people seem to like it and that's really gratifying. And that's the extent of the analysis of that for me. I am amazed that it does as well as it does and I find that very gratifying... The audience is smarter than certainly the networks give them credit for or even sometimes I give them credit for." Hugh deadpans, "People are great."

7:50 PM - David admits that they really don't get many notes from the network at this point in the show's run. "They've got shows in their first year that they're worried about and they want to screw up," he jokes, adding that FOX has been nothing but supportive. "They gave us the plump 'American Idol' post slot for several years... and I want it back."

7:53 PM - Hugh shares more of the show's origins: "[Early on] it wasn't actually called 'House,' they didn't have a title for it at all. I remember Bryan Singer actually saying, 'You know, the show is pretty much about this guy House,' like that was sort of this great discovery. And it was. It hadn't been packaged or sold that way." Katie tells Hugh, "It's really interesting because I remember telling you that [House] was going to be the title and you were like, 'No, don't call it that!'"

7:55 PM - David on the origins of the names House and Wilson: "It was just a little tip of my cap to Holmes, Sherlock Holmes. House and Wilson versus Holmes and Watson."

7:57 PM - Robert on the show's success: "For us, all we know is driving into the lot and parking and getting out and having coffee and talking and working with everyone to try and make good and going home. That is the show... I'd want to hang out with us. Everyone there is smart and funny and kind and determined to good work and I don't think that's happened on another job. It's a real blessing."

7:59 PM - Hugh on what it was like to make out with Lisa: "There's a bunch of people around with cameras... if you were trying to seduce someone you wouldn't set that up as a romantic aid. It's unnatural, it's a strange, peculiar situation and yet the blessing of it is that everyone can acknowledge that. It's not as if you're alone finding, 'I find this a little odd!' Of course it's odd!" Lisa fires back: "If someone was trying to seduce me, yes I would have them set up cameras."

8:02 PM - Ray asks about when the Cuddy/House ball started rolling. "Very early on," David says. "No matter what we wrote, the two of them had this odd sexual tension. And that's been something we've been nurturing and trying to explore from day one." As for their imaginary hook-up: "I think it was significant even though it turned out not to be real. It was very significant - we got an insight into House's subconscious."

8:04 PM - Hugh on the show's current storyline: "I'm often asked... whether I, what I think should happen to House or what do I hope will happen. I don't really mind what it is, I only care about the how. That's my concern, that's my job in a way to worry about the how, not the what. Good ideas or good stories. In my mind it's all the execution, it's all how the script is written not what [happens]. If House becomes a transvestite, I don't really mind what it is as long as [they] do it well. I know for a fact lots and lots of people can write a good idea and I would much rather do a bad idea written by David Shore." David responds that he's given him so many bad ones.

8:08 PM - "I love point of view," Katie says about the show's directors. "I get very angry if - and this no longer happens - if we have to create point of view in the editing rom. You know, too often, and I think it's actually a old-school idea, audiences are so smart and savvy - they turn on the TV and they expect to see the same thing, the same level of quality... that requires a point of view. I think in the 'Dallas' or 'Dynasty' days it was sort of, you cover every actor in a wide shot, medium shot, close-up and then you're sort of out. But I think the fun is, the audience knows that there's going to be this medical mystery. They don't know how it's going to be told... so if you can bring a different perspective, and that starts at casting and all the way through music."

8:11 PM - Hugh on the sometimes hectic filming process: "We're [supposed] to do an episode every eight days. We actually [take] eight, nine or 10 days. We start a new one every eight days. Ah ha! How that works is we have days where we are shooting two episodes at once and it [puts pressure] on every department. You've got to have six cameras all of a sudden, where do they come from? I have no idea. But it is logistically incredibly complex... different sets, different stages, different casts."

8:12 PM - "And that's where it really is different from a network show to a cable show," Katie adds. "The reason why we have to be getting new episodes every eight days is we have air dates. And we have a lot of air dates. And not 13 or 10. So it's a very, very different venture from a workload standpoint. And a storytelling standpoint." Hugh deadpans: "We are superhuman." David goes on to add they didn't have a hiatus between seasons 4 and 5 due to the strike.

8:14 PM - Hugh on the show's script process: "I sometimes think it's a bit like an old house where there's many layers of paint that have been applied to a wooden window. Because I sometimes find myself, I'll ask a writer a question - 'Why doesn't House [do this]?' They'll say, 'Well, we had a line about that once.' And then I'll go, 'Oh, okay.' If I want, they'll give me an explanation about why he didn't pursue it or why they didn't pursue it. And then I will do the same thing [again], 'What about this here?' 'We tried that.' And so there's many, many layers, you become aware of all the layers of paint that have built up as you chip away with a knife... which I would do at your house, if you'd let me."

8:15 PM - Ray asks if anyone has any favorite episodes. "Of House?" Robert deadpans. The consensus: it's too hard to pick but everyone was really proud of "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart."

8:16 PM - David on his first gig: "Paul Haggis gave me my first staff writing job. And he told me the typical season is 24 episodes and eight of them you'll love, eight of them you'll go 'eh' and eight of them you'll hate. I think I'm way ahead of that. I really like what we've all done with this thing." He later jokes, "So Haggis is a hack! He can't even get a job in television anymore."

8:19 PM - Audience Q&A time. Someone asks about casting Hugh. "I loved [Hugh's shows]," David says. "I did watch them as a kid. And when I heard he was coming in or putting stuff on tape I was very excited about it. I thought it would be fantastic to meet him. I didn't think for a moment he could do the part... I had no idea he [could] act."

8:21 PM - The youngest fan in the room asks which scene was the grossest for Hugh. He says the episode where he pulled out the girl's intestines during a hallucination. "Most of the time you're doing things that you know are not real - blood and guts - and I'm not particularly squeamish generally anyway. But it just went on for so long. You kept thinking, 'My God, this looks real!'"

8:23 PM - "Our character doesn't believe people can change," David says about the challenge of putting House in a mental institution. "I think [our first episode] we'll get to a point where he wants to change. Whether he can, whether he will is an open question." He later adds, "There's also a very non-artistic answer, which is I like the character and don't really want him to change."

8:24 PM - A fan asks if we'll venture outside the hospital more this season. "Well you'll like the first two hours of this year," David says. "Because we aren't in the hospital at all."

8:26 PM - Would Hugh be up to writing an episode? "No," he answers. "It's way beyond my talents. Absolutely not, absolutely not." This is followed by a love fest between Hugh and David. "This season, I'm going to make out with Hugh," David says. "I'll give you one example," Hugh says about David's awesomeness. "The [story with] Mirror Syndrome. And there's a scene - I'm sorry to go on about this, you probably don't mind too much? - I bring the patient into the operating theatre to meet Dr. Wilson to see how they will respond to each other to see whether he will reflect Wilson's behavior. And the opening line of that scene is, 'Mind if we play through.' Now I promise you, any other show on television and cable - with a capital-K-six-shows-a-year-oh-I'm-so-tired - any other show on television you would have a line - Dr. Wilson meets so-and-so or so-and-so meet Dr. Wilson or just some non-specific introduction between them. The fact that House enters with a completely unnecessary and yet very funny and elegant introduction, I found it absolutely exquisite. It was like seeing a magnificent building and yet noticing that the screws on the doorknob are all lined up. I just thought that's fantastic."

8:30 PM - Someone asks who came up with "everybody lies." The answer: David. "I think the more significant aspect of that is people see the world through their own lenses," he adds. "And that lens is always distorted. And that search for the objective truth is really what the show is all about."

8:31 PM - Hugh on whether he prefers doing comedy or drama: "I feel as if I'm doing [both] now. I'm doing this character and this show unlike any other I've been involved with... I find I have absolutely the best of all possible worlds."

8:33 PM - That's a wrap! I'm sure we'll be back again soon.





  [june 2009]  
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· HOUSE (FOX)
· PALEY CENTER (TFC)











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