A lot of supporting actors on a TV series would jump at the chance to have an episode where they’re the central focus.
“House’s” Robert Sean Leonard, who plays the title character’s (Hugh Laurie) colleague and best friend, Dr. James Wilson, is not one of those people.
“Oh, no, it’s my worst nightmare. Are you kidding?” Leonard said during a conference call last week. “[When] I read ‘House,’ and Wilson was in about three scenes a show, I thought, This is perfect. You know, I’m the Carlton the Doorman of my show. I’m not the most ambitious guy. I like playing the best friend. It’s good to be the lead of a show for a week, but I wouldn’t spread it all around too much. I like my role the way it is.”
Leonard is nonetheless stepping up in Monday’s (Nov. 30) episode of “House,” which is appropriately titled “Wilson.” He treats a former patient and friend (guest star Joshua Malina) who shows up at Princeton Plainsboro with some strange symptoms and soon puts Wilson in an ethical quandary as he tries to distinguish between patient and friend.
Leonard also talked about his “weird” character, the life of a supporting actor and whether he’d give someone like House the time of day in real life. Some highlights of his chat with reporters.
On whether “Wilson” shows a different side of Wilson:
“Well, he’s not different; he’s just examined more. You see my assistant you’ve never met. You see the oncology floor, you see where I work. My office next to House’s is just my office, so there’s a whole floor where I work in oncology. I have my own patients, my own assistant, my own day that doesn’t include House, so you basically follow Wilson around for a few days and see what his life is like.”
On playing Wilson’s ethical dilemma:
“A lot of the time I’m sort of the side man to Hugh, and I’m the guy who says, ‘Let’s go get a burger’ and ‘What’s wrong with Cuddy?,’ and then I go home. So, yeah, it’s always much more fun to play a scene where there’s something at stake, or a question that hasn’t been solved yet that you’re burning to find an answer to.”
On his average day:
“My average day involves me not going to the set, which is why I like the role so much. You know, Hugh Laurie is on that set 15 hours a day. I’m there about one or two days a week, usually. Lately it’s been more because our characters have been living together, so you see me a lot more than you used to.
“A typical day for a TV actor on ‘House’ is you get up — well, I get up at four o’clock because I’m living an hour north of L.A. [and] our call is six. So, I get up at four, and I’m out the door by about ten to five, and I’m in the makeup chair by six, and hopefully we’re done by 6 p.m., but usually it’s a little later than that, and then the week goes on. It’s 12- to 14-hour days, and it’s a lot of filming. I’m used to being on stage, so it’s a long, tedious day for me. But having said that, I’m massively overpaid and overpraised, and it couldn’t be a better gig.”
On whether he could stand a guy like House in real life:
“Probably not. Maybe when I was 20, but at 40, no. I think House is an incredibly intriguing guy. … He’s, I imagine, great fun to be around; I mean, he’s extremely smart, self-deprecating, sarcastic; what’s not to like? The only thing is he’s self-involved, and has agendas often, and gets you in trouble and screws you over sometimes. I think when you’re 20 that doesn’t matter so much. At 40, I don’t know. I have a wife, and a daughter and two dogs; I hardly have time for people I like, so I don’t know if, myself, I would hang out with him very much, or be close.”
On his own character’s quirks:
“I get very different descriptions of who Wilson is from people. I think people project on him a lot. … Maybe this episode will help a little bit, but I think Wilson is a very weird guy. I think he’s dark. I think he’s very lonely.
“Hugh and I have a joke of one day I’ll be sick in the hospital dying of something, and basically I send him on a mission to get all the porn out of my house that has been hidden in the basement, and he comes back with like boxes and boxes of porn, and I look up and say, ‘Where’s the rest? Where’s the German stuff?'” That’s my joke with Wilson. I think he’s a dark guy. He has three ex-wives, he lives alone, he deals with death every day, his best friend is House; I mean, he’s very odd. He’s not Mr. Rogers. I think he’s a very dark, strange guy.”
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Photo credit: FOX