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Why Hugh Laurie Was Never The Same After House

From dramas like ER and Grey's Anatomy to comedies like Scrubs, TV audiences have always been fascinated with the inner workings of the medical world. But of all the fictional doctors that have graced our TV screens over the years, none have had the same sarcastic sensibilities and biting wit as Dr. Gregory House, the titular lead on House. A diagnostician who specialized in infectious disease, House wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy, but he was nearly always right. Despite his brusque approach and his lack of bedside manner, his patients were always in good hands.

For eight years, Hugh Laurie starred in the lead role on House. Although he was already famous in the United Kingdom, this was the part that brought him international recognition. In 2008, House was the most-watched show on television, and Laurie earned recognition from Guinness World Records as the most-watched man on TV. On top of that, he was also one of the highest-paid. But despite Laurie's incredible success with House, he's not a huge fan of the limelight. House ended its run seven years ago, and it's still the actor's biggest role to date. Here's why he isn't chasing success for its own sake, and why Hugh Laurie hasn't been the same since House.

He needed a change in routine

For an actor, every day on the job doesn't necessarily feel glamorous or exciting. After all, they're employees going to work. It's not all dressing up for red carpet events or rubbing elbows with other rich and famous people at cocktail parties. So after spending almost a decade playing House, Hugh Laurie definitely wanted a change of scenery. Anyone who works at the same job for years on end will eventually feel ready to try something new, and actors are no exception to this rule. 

Even when he was shooting the final season, Laurie still enjoyed playing House, but the routine was starting to get monotonous. He had begun to feel like he was on "a conveyor belt," and he wasn't sure if he was really cut out for that kind of commitment anymore. "You know, we have done 170 episodes now, I think," Laurie told The Telegraph when the final season aired. "That's about 50-60 feature films-worth. You want a break, you really do."

Hugh Laurie went on hiatus after House

So what was the first order of business for Hugh Laurie after House wrapped for good? Taking a long break from acting. True, Laurie did have a few loose ends to tie up before "clocking out" for a while. He did voiceover work for the animated short Shrek's Thrilling Tales, and his film Mr. Pip was released shortly after the House series finale aired. But once he had fulfilled those commitments, it was time to put his feet up.

Laurie ended up taking a full three years away from Hollywood, although he did make a brief exception to lend his voice to the LittleBigPlanet 3 video game. He finally got back in front of the camera in 2015 for the film Tomorrowland. Laurie loved playing House, but he often felt like he was working himself to the bone on set. Getting up at 5 am for a 16-hour workday was not uncommon, and he stuck with this schedule for nearly a decade. No wonder this guy needed an extended vacation once the cameras stopped rolling. 

He wanted some family time

House was set at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, but the show was actually shot in Los Angeles. Hugh Laurie is British, so while filming House, he was based in LA for nine months out of every year, putting him 6,000 miles away from his wife and three kids back in London. Naturally, Laurie missed his family during those long months in Los Angeles. When he began working on the show, he and his wife debated whether or not the whole family should just move to LA for the duration of the job, but they decided that they didn't want to take their kids out of school. 

Laurie missed out on years of family time due to his commitment to House. "I've missed bath times and dentists' appointments," he told The Telegraph. "But that's the same for everybody who goes out to work." Even though Laurie acknowledged that this issue wasn't unique to actors, it's clear that making up for lost time with his family was a positive side to House ending. 

House gave Hugh Laurie a huge confidence boost

Although Hugh Laurie would certainly have preferred more privacy than the press afforded him after the success of House, the overwhelming praise for the show and the high ratings did give him a major confidence boost as an actor. After all, he'd never been a part of such a universally successful show before. Previously, Laurie occasionally felt insecure because he'd never gone to drama school, and he wondered if he wasn't a genuinely qualified actor. 

Laurie used to question whether or not he really "belonged" in the entertainment industry. But once House took off with audiences, and he saw the impact the show was having, he realized that he'd definitely earned his place. It was a huge turning point in his career. "House was something I didn't have to apologize for," Laurie told The Guardian. "It was something I was really proud of and it was sort of ... whether you liked it or not, it was undeniable."

Laurie has been making music

So what was Hugh Laurie up to when House went off the air? Although he wasn't acting, he didn't completely stop working. He just chose to invest his time in a different creative pursuit. Laurie is actually a very talented blues musician, and he loves recording music even more than he loves acting. 

In 2011, Laurie released his first blues album, Let Them Talk. He was surprised by the success of the album, and he eventually went on to release a second album in 2013, titled Didn't It Rain. He admitted that he was quite nervous in the recording studio, but as it turned out, he had nothing to be worried about. His concerts sold out, and the albums were certified gold. "There's a sensual pleasure involved in making sounds, harmonious sounds, that I just can't get ... from acting," Laurie told The Guardian. He went on to add, "It just cannot get better than that. It takes over my whole body in a way that acting just can't."

Picking up the pen

Laurie isn't just an actor and musician. He's also a writer. In fact, long before he ever landed a role on House, he'd already written a novel. Laurie's crime thriller, The Gun Seller, was published in 1996. The book was eventually translated into 28 languages, and it became a best seller. He always planned to write another book, but his acting career ended up getting in the way, and he's never really had the time. Sadly, he hasn't picked up the pen since (well, to our knowledge, anyway).

But now that Laurie isn't working the intense hours that he used to, he's considering putting out a follow up. His publishers were interested in a second novel from him, so perhaps it's not too late to take them up on that offer. "God, 15 years ago I signed a contract to do another one, and I haven't delivered it yet," Laurie told The Telegraph. "But I hope to. That's my plan, and as more of my hair falls out, I think writing is probably a more dignified way of continuing in this business."

Laurie wanted to play a villain

Sure, Dr. Gregory House was prickly and brutally honest, and yeah, he relied on Vicodin to get through the workday, but it would be tough to argue that he was a villain. Despite his rough exterior, he had a kind heart, and he genuinely wanted to help his patients. But Laurie eventually wanted to play a truly evil character. In 2016, he finally got his chance when he landed the role of Richard Roper on the BBC series The Night Manager

Based on John le Carré's novel of the same name, the plot follows a former soldier (Tom Hiddleston) who manages to worm his way into Roper's inner circle as Roper is arming the Egyptian government in the midst of the Arab spring. At one point, Roper is described as "the worst man in the world," but Laurie was up for the challenge of bringing this vile character to life. "Villainy serves a purpose in all good storytelling," Laurie told The Telegraph. "It's a very well-trodden path, in all kinds of stories, so when I was offered the chance to play [his character], there was no way I could possibly pass it up."

Being a leading man is tough for Hugh Laurie

Holding down a leading role for eight years was a privilege that Hugh Laurie didn't take for granted, but it was also a huge responsibility. And Laurie didn't consider that responsibility lightly. He's admitted to being a perfectionist who likes to "meddle" with every little detail on set, and playing a lead was difficult for him because he was so concerned with the final result. 

Laurie never wanted to show up on set and just phone it in. He always aimed to give it his best effort. Because he pushed himself so hard, he was hesitant to sign on to another show for a leading role in the future. "I'm not sure that I could physically do it, to be the lead of a thing, to be in every scene and to take responsibility for something," Laurie told The Guardian. "It's hard going." But eventually, Laurie did accept another leading part, and funnily enough, it was the role of a doctor in the Hulu series Chance.

He's trying not to be typecast

After eight years of playing House, Hugh Laurie knew that he could find a similar role as a doctor in the future if he wanted to, but he felt like doing so would mean that he was basically putting himself in a box. He didn't want to typecast himself, so he decided against working on other medical shows. But when he was offered the part of Dr. Eldon Chance in the Hulu series Chance, he just couldn't pass it up. "For about two minutes. I opened the script and thought, 'Oh, this is good. It's a shame I can't do it because it's medical,'" Laurie told Junkee. "After three pages I'd forgotten."

Why did Laurie make an exception? Dr. Chance was a forensic neuropsychiatrist, and he was dealing with very different patients than House. It's a medical drama and a suspenseful thriller all wrapped up in one, and Laurie didn't feel like he was playing the same role all over again.

He's a workaholic on set

Hugh Laurie will be the first to admit that he had a tendency of working himself too hard in the past, especially on the set of House. When everything was said and done, he knew that he needed to dial it back. While shooting House, Laurie would run on very little sleep for weeks on end. He rarely had the time to sit down and eat a meal. Nearly every waking moment was spent on set. 

So what motivated Laurie to push himself to the brink? Well, his philosophy at the time was if you weren't suffering for your art, then you weren't doing it right. He's changed his perspective since his time on House, and he likes to think that he's a bit more laid-back these days. "I had this feeling early on in House that it could be really good, and I so wanted it to be everything it could be. I got very Presbyterian about it," Laurie told TV Insider. "I'm sure I was an absolutely horrible person to work with. Grumpy. Obsessive. Mildly paranoid." Luckily for everyone, it seems like Laurie's attitude has changed a lot since his days on House.

Dealing with too much attention

Hugh Laurie isn't exactly the kind of actor who enjoys the attention of the paparazzi. In fact, he never anticipated that he would achieve the kind of success that resulted from starring in House. He didn't like leaving his house in LA, even just to run to the grocery store. Whenever he tried to drive somewhere, pedestrians would spot him in his car and hold up traffic. Laurie said that he sometimes felt like he was living in a gilded cage. He knew that he was incredibly privileged compared to the vast majority of people, so he didn't like to complain, but he also couldn't enjoy all the same freedoms that he had before. 

It was all a big trade-off for Laurie, and although he doesn't regret playing House, there will always be aspects of his former, quieter life that he misses. "It's hugely satisfying to be part of something which you believe is good and which resonates with people," Laurie said, going on to add, "But you can't go out and lead a normal life. You can't just be yourself."

Hugh Laurie turned to therapy during House

Playing House represented a radical shift in Laurie's career and personal life. He had struggled with depression in the past, and like the doctor he played on TV, he was comfortable seeing the world through the lens of an unapologetic pessimist. He went to therapy well before he started working on House. In fact, he says that he first sought professional help back in 1996, but when he felt overwhelmed by the unexpected success of the show, he turned to therapy again.

Laurie admits that he's been known to self-sabotage, once confessing, "If I don't have a stone in my shoe, I'll put one in there." But these days, he's not under the same pressure. He isn't thousands of miles away from his family, and he can look back on the work he's done so far and feel proud. He's got a new film coming up, The Personal History of David Copperfield, and he'll also be in the pilot for the sci-fi comedy series Avenue 5

Hugh Laurie may not be playing Dr. House anymore, and he's certainly changed in the seven years since the series finale, but the authenticity that he brings to every role still makes him one of the best actors in the business.