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.
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
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."
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.
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."