Lisa Edelstein has played Dr. Cuddy on House for 7 seasons. The show is a huge hit and part of it lie’s in the chemistry that she and Hugh Laurie have together on-screen.
I talked to Lisa in a conference call where she talked about House, her advice to actors and if she thinks her character has changed over the years.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download from iTunes
House airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX
Given the dynamics between House and Cuddy, can you talk about the challenges that you and Hugh have with keeping pace with the emotional side of the character.
Lisa Edelstein: Challenges, we know each other quite well now, we’ve been working together for seven years, which in our line of work that’s like dog years, that’s like 49 years. So, I really feel like as our friendship as people, as we got to know each other better this kind of intimacy between the characters was an easier thing to do than if it had started from day one, where you have to kind of just jump in and pretend to know each other. So, it’s been great, I really appreciate if there was anybody that I would have to be intimate with on camera, to have it be somebody that I knew and trusted as much as I do Hugh.
Regarding the season opener; the thing about that episode was the dialogue between the characters was so natural and so real. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the shoot. How was it different?
Lisa Edelstein: Well, it was more like a play. It felt more like a play. It felt very intimate and the writers felt, and I certainly agreed that you couldn’t just get these two characters together and go on as normal right away. You had to just kind of take a moment, experience these two people together, and then get back to the normal hospital stuff and House stuff. They really thought about it long and hard. They went down several different roads trying to figure out how to handle it and that was where they ended up to have this very intimate play-like episode where you just kind of were with these two people alone and experiencing intimacy and friendship.
You’ve played this character for a while now. How do you think Cuddy’s changed over the years?
Lisa Edelstein: I don’t really think— I mean, according to David Shore, characters don’t change, they get unveiled. They become more complicated in terms of how the viewers perceive them and how the writers get to write them. When you sign on to a show, you are as an actor hired to perform something that came out of the writer’s imagination. As the show goes on, how you perform that affects how the writer imagines the character and it becomes like a melding of the two. Of course, it’s always David Shore’s characters, it’s always his stories, he controls the world he controls all the puppets. But, rhythms and humor and all those things kind of become embellished once you put an actor in the part, any actor, and it’d be different no matter who plays the role. So, I think just because the show has matured, the characters have to become more complicated, more real, make different choices and have life experiences that take them on a journey, but, they don’t in essence ever really change.
What is your advice to actors?
Lisa Edelstein: It’s a very hard business and you have to find a way to enjoy the process because if you can’t enjoy, for example auditioning and not getting the job, you will suffer too much to survive. So, you have to find a way of making each audition the performance that begins and ends there and try to have a performance experience of all the joy that you can get out of doing that, so that the whole life of an actor is something you derive pleasure from.
With the show, there’s some very intense scenes and then there’s humorous scenes, what’s the atmosphere like usually on set?
Lisa Edelstein: We’re not pranksters. We have too much to do, but there are a lot of great wits on this crew. There’s some very smart, very disturbed people that work together so it’s more of just funny … but mostly, it’s very concentrated; it’s a lot of fun because we all like each other. If the scene is very heavy then, you have to take your time away to concentrate and just kind of stay in that space. The lighter scenes are of course always more fun and playful.
Last season you guys did an episode that was centered on Cuddy. What did you bring from that experience?
Lisa Edelstein: Well, I had a great time, I mean not just because the show was about my character. It was really fun for me to kind of be the person that’s on set the most, kind of setting the pace and the atmosphere on stage because you really are responsible for that when you’re there the most. If you have an attitude or you’re tired then it kind of drags everything down. It was fun to have that responsibility and I loved doing it. I loved it, but boy, Hugh must be exhausted.
If someone had told you during Season One or Two that House and Cuddy would be a couple, what would you have thought of that?
Lisa Edelstein: I wouldn’t have been surprised. I thought I saw it in the pilot and then it just kind of didn’t become a story and then— I just felt like they have a complicated relationship and if the show lasted long enough it would be a relationship worth exploring. If you had told me that House and Cuddy would be getting together in Season 6 or Season 7, I would have more surprised that we would have had a Season 7, because that’s probably more shocking than anything else.
What your hopes are for the future of the show? Is there anything that you’d like to see happen in the course of the story line for Cuddy and House.
Lisa Edelstein: I stay out of it, I would hate to see David Shore reading my opinion about what should happen about my character and House. So, I just stay out of it and enjoy the ride.