Actor Omar Epps has played television doctors in both ER and House. He recently talked to WebMD the Magazine about what he's learned about medicine from his TV roles, as well as how he keeps himself healthy.
Omar Epps, what has playing Dr. Eric Foreman on House M.D. and before that Dr. Dennis Gant on ER taught you about your own health?
Be vigilant and pay attention to your body.
If you were sick, would you want to be treated by your TV boss, the ornery and brilliant diagnostican Dr. Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie?
Yes, I would want to see Dr. House. The thing about House is that he is the best. House is the doctor that they send you to when all else has failed. His bedside manner is rude, but he is a straight shooter and he will find the right answer nine out of 10 times.
Has being on all of these medical dramas made you a hypochondriac?
I wash my hands a lot more now because that is how germs are passed on. In the past few years, the only times that I haven’t caught a bug that is going around on the set is when I have been diligent about washing my hands.
You have three kids ages 9, 4, and 1. It must be hard to stay healthy when they are constantly bringing home germs.
Yes. They are like petri dishes.
Speaking of fatherhood, what has been the most exciting part for you so far?
To see them learn something and to really see them go from zero to past zero.
What have you learned from your children?
I have learned to keep my innocence. I am an artist, so I have it in me to find the wonder in life. My kids are also pretty disciplined and determined. If they set their mind to do something, they will accomplish it and that is pretty admirable.
Any tips or advice for new dads?
When it comes to parenting, there are many books and a lot of helpful things, but nothing can really prepare you. Once you are driving that ship, it's the hardest, yet greatest job in the world.
Who wakes up with the kids at night?
It’s tough. When I work, my wife sleeps in the one year old’s room. My hours are too crazy and I can’t deal with midnight wake ups, so we make do.
Who makes the doctor’s appointments in your household?
My wife pretty much keeps that in order.
How do you eat healthy when you are on the set and filming all day and presumably bombarded by trays filled with fattening foods?
I like to bring food from home. I am not a health nut per se, but I believe that you are what you eat. I eat a lot of greens, salads, and fruits. I also eat a decent amount of raw food because it just tastes better to me. Every now and then I will get a Fatburger. You have to have balance.
Any other guilty pleasure foods?
Potato chips. I could eat a whole jumbo bag of barbecue Lays if I don't stop myself.
How do you stay in shape when taping?
I do exercise, but not as often as I like because of the hours I work. I love to box or hit the gym and do a general workout. I don’t like basketball because it is too hard on the knees.
How do you unwind when you’re not working?
I like to catch a movie with the wife or take the kids out. I like to box and shoot so I go to the gun range. To shoot well, you have to be relaxed. Some of my more relaxing moments have been at the gun range. I also like to get a massage here and there or chill out on the beach.
How do you balance your busy work and home life?
I feel blessed to do what I love and be able to make a living and take care of my family. It has been a great ride so far, so it’s kind of easy to find a balance.
If you had to lose one sense -- taste, sound smell, feel, and hearing -- which would you choose?
Knock on wood. I guess maybe smell because if I could still taste food, I wouldn’t need to smell it.
What disease would you most like to see eradicated and why?
The first one is cancer. It is kind of something that can happen to anyone. A person could be totally healthy, never smoked a day in their life and they still get cancer.
Did you ever smoke?
I used to, but I stopped.