Hugh Laurie has recently become the center of attention as the title character on the popular FOX television show House, MD. This gripping medical drama owes a lot of its success to sharp writing and an excellent supporting cast, but the show’s primary draw is the intriguing title character, a brilliant diagnostician with a rebellious edge and a flair for wisecracks, a character brought charismatically to life by the actor Hugh Laurie.
Few “House” fans are aware of the fact that although Hugh Laurie portrays an archetypal brooding American rebel on the show, he is anything but a typical mainstream television star.
Hugh Laurie recently won the Golden Globe for his work on the show, much to the delight of his now massive fan base. This newly discovered leading man is anything but a newcomer to the entertainment industry, but Hugh Laurie was hardly a household name before he was cast as the misanthropic doctor. In fact, this mysterious new star lauded for his subtle facial expressions and rich inner life on “House” is a British character actor who usually specializes in broad physical comedy and made his name doing low-budget period farces for BBC television!
Hugh Laurie’s best known work before he became Fox Television’s resident curmudgeon was as the effusive and wildly incompetent 1920s-era fop Bertie Wooster in the “Jeeves & Wooster” series produced in England in the early 1990s. Bertie Wooster could not be farther from the character of Dr. House. Where House issues scathing wisecracks, Wooster giggle and simpers, and where House limps, Wooster cavorts, his limbs flapping wildly.
House takes no orders from any boss and is astonishingly competent to an almost god-like extent, whereas Wooster is putty in the hands of anyone and everyone and cannot get anything done on his own. Anybody who finds Hugh Laurie a delight on “House, MD” is sure to find watching his work as Bertie Wooster an astonishing testament to this actor’s ability to transform completely.
Between his days as Wooster and his days as House, Hugh Laurie performed fairly forgettable roles in a series of fairly forgettable films. He had small roles in “The Man in The Iron Mask,” “Spice World,” and “101 Dalmatians,” and a leading role as the father in the film of “Stuart Little” and its sequel. He did a large amount of voice work, mostly for animated children’s shows.
In addition, he pursued some low-profile but highly regarded projects in Britain that didn’t make much of an impact in the United States. Although his career up to “House” has been diverse and exciting, and he had won a modest following in Britain, there were no signs that in his mid-40s, Hugh Laurie would become a huge international star.