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Hugh Laurie Makes a House Call

The actor plays the ornery Dr. Gregory House on TV but says he respects physicians -- especially his well-mannered doctor dad.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

One thing is sure: Hugh Laurie, the star of Fox's hit medical drama House, does not suffer from "white coat hypertension," the well-documented phenomenon in which blood pressure increases in the presence of a doctor. If anything, this six-foot-plus Golden Globe winner experiences the opposite reaction. "I find white coats rather saintly in some ways," he says smoothly. In fact, "I have a reverence for the practice of medicine -- I'm a great believer in Western medicine and all its wonders."

Reverent? Dr. Gregory House? The ornery yet masterful infectious disease specialist, who never met a hospital rule he didn't like to break? Make no mistake: Hugh Laurie and the good doctor -- a character the actor has portrayed for the past three seasons and who has taught him a thing or two about the practice of medicine -- are not one and the same, even if Laurie is supremely comfortable assuming his persona.

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The son of a general practitioner in the United Kingdom, Laurie once considered becoming a doctor, as opposed to just playing one on TV. "There are regrets," the 47-year-old admits. "I didn't have the gift for science that perhaps I needed to be a doctor, and I certainly did not have the appetite for hard work that I knew was needed."

Doctor's Notes

So what, exactly, has Laurie learned during his tenure as House? "There are no clear and immediate answers to medical problems," he answers. "The average lay patient assumes or hopes that as soon as he walks into a clinic, his condition will immediately become [clear] and the course of treatment will be immediately apparent." Of course this isn't the case in reel -- or real -- life. "A lot of times, doctors are groping with conflicting therapies and things that work -- and don't work -- and they really have to improvise," he muses.

But that's not all he's absorbed. "Eat more green vegetables," the actor quips, brandishing a bit of House's trademark sarcasm.

Talking American

Americans may be surprised to learn that Laurie, best known to his British fans as the comic star of such hits as A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, finds it difficult to speak with the doctor's accent. "It is immensely hard to speak American," he says. "I have to struggle and check myself every day, every scene, and every sentence. It's almost as if I am speaking another language, and mentally, it's very draining."

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