Robert Sean Leonard on Wrestling the Ghost of Gregory Peck in a London Stage Version of To Kill a MockingbirdInterview by Matt Wolf May 8, 2013
It’s been 22 years since Robert Sean Leonard last appeared on stage in London as George Gibbs in Our Town. Half a lifetime later, the 44-year-old star of TV’s House is back in town prepping to play Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch in Christopher Sergel’s stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Timothy Sheader’s production of the play, based on the Harper Lee classic, is set to run from May 16 through June 15 in the alfresco environs of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. Broadway.com caught up with Tony winner Leonard to talk about acting outdoors, the specter of Gregory Peck and the role he would love to play on Broadway next season.
It’s hard to believe more than 20 years have passed since you did Our Town, here—and now you’re back in an equally iconic American title.
What’s interesting is that I got the feeling Our Town wasn’t especially well known in England, whereas everyone here seems to know To Kill a Mockingbird, from construction workers to photographers! It’s a beloved book and film in the States but not a beloved stage production, while I get the feeling that [Mockingbird] is almost like the Our Town of England: Everybody seems to know it.
That’s surely due in part to the enduring popularity here of the Gregory Peck film.
Tell me about it! Everyone’s been asking whether I’m worried about the British weather, but if the prospect of wrestling the ghost of Gregory Peck in front of 1,200 people doesn’t scare you more than the rain, then you’re just confused! [Laughs.] I’m not counting on a great number of people being unaware of Gregory Peck’s performance.
So, how do you deal with those memories of Peck as Atticus Finch?
I’m the first to say that it’s towering. “Perfect” is an overused word, but it is a pretty flawless performance. If someone says when they see the ad, “Why would anyone try to remake that role?” I would be the first to agree. The only thing I can say is that stage is different from film, so I think this is worth exploring. It could be a worthwhile and moving theatrical piece.
I assume you’re one of the few Americans in the production. Does that feel odd, given the material?
I am the only American! [Laughs.] If this were another play, it might feel strange, but I think with this play it’s okay, especially since Atticus Finch is such an almost deliberately removed character. That might actually work for the piece. When I first talked to Tim [Sheader, the director], I said, “I hope you’re not looking to explore Atticus very much,” by which I meant that I don’t think we need to seek out the dark underbelly of the character. In my view, he should be what Harper Lee presents him as: a single father with this steadfast, morally upright perspective on life who would have presented that face to the world. It’s not like playing Hamlet!
Have you done any particular preparation for the role?
I was able to go to the costume warehouse at 20th-Century Fox in L.A. to pull a suit from 1935 because I thought, “I just can’t just walk into the rehearsal room wearing jeans and a T-shirt.” I don’t mean to be all Daniel Day-Lewis about it, but we have three sets of children for Equity reasons, and I thought it was important that from the moment they saw me, I was wearing a three-piece suit with a watch chain. I wear it every day to work with three different shirts and ties and I think it helps the kids. I also went to the Bronx and got them all Yankees caps, which is essential to where I come from [laughs].
You’ve got two daughters of your own. Do you think either of them might one day make a good Scout [the feisty daughter of Atticus]?
My wife would love to hear you say that! The truth is, it’s hard to tell at the moment since one is a baby and the other is four. But the older one does know two things about England: that there is a queen who lives in a castle and that it’s an island surrounded by very cold water. As far as her playing Scout someday, that reminds me of when I said to my father recently, “Do you really want to see this?” And he replied, “Every father in the world wants his son to grow up to be Atticus Finch.”
So, are you prepared to perform the play outdoors, given London's unpredictable weather?
Oh yeah! I looked at the statistics for last year and 94% of the shows were completed. And, as you know, the heat and the humidity and the stillness of the Alabama summer are so much a part of this story that it will be interesting to see what of that remains in a London downpour. They managed Crazy For You, so I’m sure they can deal with us.
You were exactly half the age you are now when you did Our Town here. Does this experience feel very different?
It’s funny: Ethan [Hawke, Leonard's close friend] tells me that I used to call him twice a week saying I wanted to come home. So clearly I was homesick at some point and called Ethan Hawke! [Laughs.] My recollection of that time was of taking the bus to work and of how much I loved the play and working with Alan [Alda, as the Stage Manager], who is probably the nicest person I have ever met, and Jemma [Redgrave, as Emily], who was incredible.
You’re certainly embracing theater at the moment. You go directly from London to playing Henry Higgins in Pygmalion at Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
It is quite a summer: playing an Alabama lawyer in London and then a London speech coach in America. It’s like I’m living the dream! At least I've played Higgins already, at the Old Globe in San Diego, so it’s not like I’m doing that one from scratch.
And you can polish your English accent while you are here.
That’s true, though I’m so scared of doing an Alabama accent that my focus is on that at the moment; I’ll wrestle the angel—or demon, I should say—of the appropriate accent for Henry Higgins when we get there. It’s not as if I’m trying to tune the Englishman out, but I’ve got this other accent to get right first.
Talk of English accents brings to mind your superb Broadway collaborations with Tom Stoppard on Arcadia and The Invention of Love, for which you won a Tony. Any chance of seeing you next season in Roundabout’s revival of The Real Thing?
I would love to do that and have told [casting director] Jim Carnahan as much. Henry in The Real Thing is something I have wanted to do always, but these days you’ve got to go through the famous people—or, at least, through the famous people first. In that sense, I’m not something special. I ain’t no Katie Holmes!
Robert Sean Leonard swaps House for his true passion – playing theatreBridget Galton Thursday, May 2, 2013
Star of hit US medical drama series tells Bridget Galton why he is in his element when on stage and how he is haunted by his latest role
To paraphrase the Queen: he’s given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, but House star Robert Sean Leonard is having none of it.
His eight years as relentlessly nice oncologist Dr James Wilson in the ratings topping medical drama were not his finest acting hours, indeed he’s not much of a screen actor, he insists.
Now he’s back on stage, at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, the US-based actor is in his element.
“House was interesting, we dealt with interesting themes, but me leaning into a door and saying, ‘Hey I saw you looking at Cuddy’s ass,’ is not the same (as theatre).
“TV is a great job because I have two daughters and money is important in this world. After 22 years of theatre, believe me, you don’t have much of it. But I did miss what I feel I do best. I am not a great film or TV actor, I do feel I am unique on stage, I’m not always on target but when I hit that’s where I hit best.”
With his dry humour and scorching honesty Leonard can sound rather downbeat about a performance that showcased his skills, especially as a comic actor – wasn’t working with co-star Hugh Laurie fun?
“Hugh Laurie is a great, talented guy,” he sighs, possibly weary of Laurie-related questions.
“Working by his side I had laughs but I lived an hour and a half away from the set, woke up at 3.30 in the morning to get to work by six and worked 15-hour days when you don’t see your kids go to bed – it’s not hard it’s just long and dull.
“We shot 24 episodes a year – 10 days to make each one – which gave us a month off and left no time to do theatre.
“To me that’s why you get the big money, because you agree to eight years of something that you feel pretty good about but not great.”
While he’s glad to be on stage, he’s gloomy about tackling the paragon of integrity and moral rectitude that is Atticus Finch – the unbending centre of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill A Mockingbird.
Nervous that Atticus is a potent character whom many feel a personal connection to, he’s been avoiding the 1962 movie with its Oscar-winning performance by Gregory Peck “like the plague”.
“It’s not a part I feel I am right for, I am not looking forward to this. Resurrecting the ghost of Gregory Peck in front of 1,200 people a night is not my idea of a good time but I have played Henry Higgins recently and dealt with the ghost of Rex Harrison so there is always that to contend with.
“I am doing the best I can, but I feel the ghost of Gregory Peck quite keenly.”
Set in depression-era Alabama, the story involves a widowed lawyer who takes on the unwinnable case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.
Narrated through the eyes of Finch’s eight-year-old daughter, Scout, it deals with childhood loss of innocence, the bitter racism of America’s deep south and Scout’s relationship with reclusive neighbour Boo Radley.
Leonard, whose CV includes the doomed pupil Neil in Dead Poet’s Society and acclaimed Broadway performances in work by Tom Stoppard and Eugene O’Neill, insists Finch is “in many ways a peripheral character”.
“In some plays the character’s moral journey is the story, but Atticus doesn’t have much of a journey, he’s not a man who shows the cracks in the marble. He fears for his children, takes a few wrong turns in the case, but he never doubts that he has to represent this man or that it is his moral obligation to do so.
“In another play he might be a boring character but in this one he is interesting.
It’s not really his story, it’s Scout’s and Tom Robinson’s and Boo Radleys’.”
It’s a tale that has left the father-of-two in tears in the rehearsal room.
“On the last page of this novel, out of nowhere the book lifts into the air and switches into the third person, into poetry – I just started openly weeping about Boo Radley saving these two children. That’s the difference between theatre and TV.
“It’s the difference between what’s OK and what’s brilliant.”
Leonard is understandably phlegmatic about playing outdoors in England’s famously changeable weather.
“It’s a crapshoot, I hope it will not rain too often but it’s a beautiful story that’s quite informed by the weather although I don’t know how the humid still-as-a-funeral-train summer afternoons of Alabama are going to work when the rain pours down but there are fairy lights and it’s a gorgeous setting.”
He’s staying close by, on Baker Street where his wife Gabby and daughters will join him once the run starts. And since House was a twist on Sherlock Holmes with Holmes translated to a medical detective called House, and sidekick Dr John Watson into Dr James Wilson, does he feel his temporary home was fated?
“In a bookmark karma kind of way?” he laughs. “I just feel sorry for the poor f***ing actor dressed like a bobby outside the Sherlock Holmes Museum every day. The poor guy was probably playing Hamlet last year.”
Something of a stay-at-home type, (“I don’t leave my house,” he says seriously), he can’t wait to see his nine-month-old baby and four-year-old, who in turn is dying to visit ‘The Queen in her castle’.
“I miss them but we are right in the middle of new baby sleep deprivation and I hear such contempt in my wife’s voice that I am sleeping more than two hours in a row and living the bachelor life.”
And although the 44-year-old won’t rule out more TV work, he’s that rarest of things, a contented actor, who doesn’t feel the urge to rush around chasing work.
“Every job I take I ask, ‘How does this affect the kids?’ I am not ambitious, I am pretty on the ball when I am in something and it excites me but I am very happy to just live.
“I’m perfectly content to let six months go by doing nothing but reading by the fire, making dinner and looking after the kids.”
appears in To Kill A Mockingbird and chats with The American
April 30, 2013 In conversation with Michael Burland
Robert Sean Leonard is... Wilson from House to millions, Neil Perry from Dead Poets Society to many, a great stage actor to New York’s theater-goers — and a guilt-filled Dad to his four-year old daughter, who he’s just dropped unwillingly off at school. To London audiences he’s soon to become Atticus Finch in a new production of To Kill a Mockingbird in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Back in Los Angeles he has been collecting clothes in preparation for his new role. “I don’t want to be all Daniel Day-Lewis about it but just I can’t walk into that rehearsal room wearing a J. Crew T-shirt and say to the little girl who’s going to play Scout, ‘Hi, I’m your father...’ So I went down to Fox and got some suits from the Thirties. I don’t always do it, but if you’re doing a Shaw play for example, it helps to not be in Reeboks. You walk differently... It’s about avoiding the shock of rehearsing something for three weeks then trying on your costume and finding out, oh dear, you can’t bend over!” he laughs.
“In this case, with To Kill a Mockingbird,I couldn’t be more terrified. There are many ghosts I wouldn’t mind wrestling in front of 1200 people, but Gregory Peck’s is not one of them. I have every confidence in the world in Tim [Timothy Sheader, Artistic Director of the new production], and I’m excited to try and mount this, My sister and my friends say I’m a great choice for it... but God, I wish I felt that way. I’m going to do the best I can. I think there are qualities I have that are right for this guy, but I just look at the picture of Eleanor Worthington-Cox [one of the girls who will share the role of Scout, and the youngest recipient of an Olivier Award for Matilda The Musical] and think, I can’t meet that girl wearing jeans! The presence this man has in the book is so powerful. I said to Tim, I have no interest in exploring the dark underbelly of Atticus Finch. Peck got it right. What you see is what you get, he’s what Harper Lee describes. A man, at that time, raising two kids alone wouldn’t show the cracks, even if there were any... And that’s a long-winded way of explaining why I’ve been at Fox raiding their wardrobe.”
So Robert doesn’t feel the need — as many modern actors and directors do — to deconstruct an iconic character, turn stones and find the darkness in the soul? “No, and there’s something else. The story is a bit of a trick. You’re seeing Atticus through the eyes of an eight year old girl, in one sense, even though she’s writing the book as an older woman. I don’t think she’s saying, When I was eight I thought my father was a shining example of truth and principles but now I realize he was nipping gin in the back room and having an affair with Calpurnia! That’s not what this book is about. It’s about the best you can do in this world. The town looks to him to fight the battle.”
Sometimes it’s OK to have a hero? “Yes — there’s a reason Luke Skywalker wears white and Darth Vader black. It’s storytelling. Atticus is conflicted and worries about his worthiness to raise children, and he hears his sister’s complaints about his parenting. He has doubts about some things, but not about the big ones — not about Tom Robinson.”
It’s been 22 years since Robert’s last appearance on the London stage, in another American classic play, Our Town. A simple question: why, and why now?
“Why is always a tricky question. The answer’s almost always, because they asked! I had done theater since I was fourteen in New York, then Dead Poets Society came up when I was nineteen and I became internationally known on some level — a pretty low one, but a level. Kevin Wallace, who was producing Our Town in the West End with Jemma Redgrave, thought I’d be right for it. It was one of the first slam-down offers I had without meeting anyone or auditioning. It’s so familiar in America but it hadn’t been done in England since the Forties. I thought, what an experience. I see a lot of similarities between it and Mockingbird. One is set in the North-East, the other very much in the South, but they’re both, rightly. warm American classics.
“And why now? I’d been doing a lot of theater and a few years ago my wife and I knew we were going to have kids soon so I decided to do a TV show because we had no money. I got very lucky in walking slam-bang into Hugh Laurie and having eight years of financial success with House. But then I told my agent I didn’t want to get up at 3.30 in the morning and drive through Malibu Canyon to sit in the make up room at 5.30. I wanted to do some plays. I did Pygmalion at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.” He pauses. “Actually I don’t know how this came up! I’ve only had one conversation with Tim — I must ask him. I tried hard to get into his production of Into The Woods in New York last year but I didn’t get that... So, why? Why not! I’m terrified, that’s another good reason.
“It’s an interesting book, people feel strongly about it and take it very personally. I so enjoyed revisiting it when this came up: the gentle presence of Boo Radley, the phantasm that floats over the book and runs on this parallel track of free judgements... nigger-lover, trash, all these words that float through the book. And it all comes back to this little girl wondering about this phantom in a house she never sees. It’s about how we treat each other. He gives her a soap carving of herself, and sticks of gum, and he puts a blanket over her as she watches a neighbor’s house burn down, so gently she doesn’t feel it, and eventually saves he her life — probably. As Atticus says at the end, Thank you for my children. My God, of all the residents in that town to say that to. It’s so beautiful, so moving, it resonates on so many levels, that’s reason enough to try to create a theatrical experience from it. I’m looking forward to even failing — and certainly to trying.”
Robert on House
There’s an old quote from Robert about being in House: “I didn’t want to be the lead guy. That’s too much work. But I thought that it might be fun to be the lead guy’s friend.” That’s unusually ego-free for an actor — and Atticus Finch is the opposite. How does he square that circle?
“It all depends on the medium. I’m not a film lover. I read Joaquin Phoenix, and even Ethan Hawke who’s a friend I’ve had for years, talk about film and it’s not how I feel. I enjoy elements of film, but not many. To me there’s a reason you make such a lot of money doing it, and that;s because it’s such a pain in the ass. The hours are so horrible, you don’t get to read your daughter a book at night. Maybe there are some people who like disappearing into that world for sixteen hours a day, but I don’t. I like my family and my dogs and reading Stephen King books. Theater is my first love, and I think I’m better at it.
“With House, I watched Hugh struggle with that. He was there from the first shot of the day to the last. He did all the press and had to go to all the parties and opening nights. Even the awards — it’s nice when you’re being honored, but you gotta go. There’s something nice about sitting by a fire reading, and you’re wife says ‘Oh, Hugh’s won a Golden Globe’, and you say ‘That’s great!’. Attention’s nice, but for me a little goes a long way. But then again, having just played Henry Higgins in Pygmalion and now Atticus, I guess you’re right, I do go for the jugular when it comes to the theater.
“In House I was happy to stick my head in his office and say, ‘Hey, have you seen Cuddy’s ass today?’ and then go home. I didn’t watch it, it didn’t affect my life. When I give something I care deeply about, like Mockingbird, I’m happy to be in the pilot’s seat.”
Before House, Hugh Laurie was a comedy actor in the UK, but he was always in collaborative, ensemble roles, not the comic standing out front. “Oh yeah, and when we first did the pilot it was considered an ensemble like ER. House was clearly the most interesting character but he was very much in the shadows, a mystery character who didn’t even meet the patient ’til the last scene. The mantra of the pilot was, who is this guy House...? Who is my doctor...? a bit of a Keyser Söze thing. They quickly got rid of that because Hugh was so good and they brought him front and center. It didn’t have a title, it was called ‘the untitled David Shore project’, and when they picked it up and called it House, Hugh called me and said, ‘I’m dead, my life’s over’. It was a great boon for me in every way. I have seen episodes and it was always good creatively.”
Source: The American
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre production of To Kill a Mockingbird runs from May 16 to June 15. For more details, visit openairtheatre.com.
What a kiss-and-tell merchant this boy is!
Robert couldn't wait to talk about snogging...wet ones, ones that make you want to puke! Eee...yuk!
But first we wanted to find out what he'd been up to since Dead Poet's Society and what his new film Mr and Mrs Bridge is about.
So Robert, what have been doing since Dead Poets Society?
"Oh, I filmed that a little over two years ago now. At the moment I'm in the stage production of Romeo and Juliet with the Riverside Shakespeare
Company in Manhatten. I've also just made a movie called Married To It. I hope the title will change 'cause I don't like it very much. It's about
three couples and I play the husband who's married to Mary Stuart Masterson. Cybil Shepherd is in it too.
"For a While after Dead Poets I went back to college. I took a year off and did some theatre. I also wanted to wait for a good film. A lot of the
films that came my way were just typical teenage American junkie films. I waited and waited for something special until Mr & Mrs Bridge came
along. I was so thrilled to get it."
What is it about then?
"It's about a family at a time before the war when four individuals spoke up, rebelled. It's sort of the last family unit in America where father
knows best. The children don't have any rights-because they're the children.'
I play the strong silent type, who rebels when his father won't let him join the army. Paul Newman plays the father, and he's just such a brilliant actor. To me Mr and Mrs Bridge is about the importance of communication.
Going back to Dead Poets, is it true you got the part because you were unknown?
"Yes. The director, Peter Weir, had the talent and the guts to tell Touchstone pictures that he didn't want any famous actors. I was 19 when
I got the part of Neil Perry, but i'd been working on stage in New York for five years before that-I started young.
"I still remember the weekend when we filmed the shoot-it was really depressing, just like the whole film. I'm just glad I didn't have to shoot myself on screen-all that mess!"
Was your school much like Dead Poets? All those stuffy traditions and horrible uniforms?
"My school was very, very, very different. I went to an ordinary public high school. It was much less restrictive. And we didn't have to wear uniforms. At my school there were the metalheads, leatherheads, deadheads and band fags -and I was a leatherhead, wore all the biker gear!"
So you were a rebel just like Neil then?
"Ha ha ha! Well I wasn't exactly a goody goody, thats for sure! I suppose I was a bit of both really. I was so focused on acting I didn't become too rebellious as a teenager. Besides I got to rant and rave on stage every night.
"But I was never at school that much anyway. I had to leave lunchtimes to go to the theatre. Strangely I didn't have many good friends like "The Society" But I did get along with everyone. There were a lot of similarities between Neil and myself, though. His passion for acting and learning. But unlike his parents, mine were, and are, incredibly supportive. The Dead Poets Society still get together you know. Most of the guys from the film live in New York and I've kept in touch with them all. There was a real camaraderie between us on the set that's carried over.
What subject did you hate the most at school?
"Well I loved things like history but my worst subject was gym. I always 'forgot' my trainers. I mean I like sports, but it's just that i'm such a miserable failure at them.
Did you get lots of Valentine cards when you were younger?
"I got a lot of cards at school, but not since. Actually I got a Valentine card last year from a fan, a girl in London would you believe. I don't know if I'll get any cards this year, but it would be nice. Am I sending any this year? Ahh Now that would be telling....!"
Have you ever sent love letters?
"I've never sent a love letter to someone I didn't know. I sent a secret one at school. There was a girl in High School that I had a heavy crush on, for four years! But I never had the guts to ask her out. I wrote her a card and I actually quoted a Blues Bothers song. 'I have everything I need, almost, but I don't have you. And that's the thing I need the most'. But I didn't sign it. She may have thought someone else sent it.
So, who was this lucky girlie, then?
"Her name was Joanna, she was my first big crush. From 13 to 17! She never ever knew 'cause I was really shy...I still am! Her last name was Lenz,
so her locker was right next to mine, Leonard. So I got to see her every morning when we got our books. I did talk to her, and tried to make her laugh. Her house was pretty near mine too. I had a few pretty late nights where I'd go and sit on her lawn. She didn't know, but i'd just sit on the grass and think. I suppose that's just a normal thing about growing up."
Have you met her since you've become a famous filmstar?
"Well she moved to Florida when I was 17. It was the last I heard of her. Maybe I'll see her at our class reuinion. In America you always have a
five-year reunion when you're 22 and you go back to school. I don't know if I'll still fancy her though..."
What first attracts you to someone?
"When I was 13 it was simply the way a girl looked and talked, and moved. Those things are still important now. But also someone who can make me laugh and talk about the same things and who has the same dreams"
What is your favourite romantic movie?
"It has to be 'Singin' In The Rain' I just loved the dancing and the scene where Gene Kelly sings to Debbie Reynolds in the studio. I'd love to do something like that, but I don't think I'd have the talent for it.
Have you, erm, heard of the word 'snogging'?
"Ha ha ha! That's a really English word. If you had asked me before I'd done Romeo and Juliet, I wouldn't have had a clue! But our stage director is English.
There's this one scene in Romeo and Juliet, the kiss goodbye, and he used to snap his fingers and shout "Come on, come on you two, we don't want this to be a snogging session"."
Do you remember your first snog?
"My first proper girlfriend used to play the piano and I played the guitar...we used to play music together (we'll bet!). That was when I had my first real kiss. I was terrified! She blew me away. There was a lot of fumbling, not knowing what to do. I remember kissing, then feeling nauseous (ie. wanting to puke). I just wanted to go home. I didn't feel pressurised into doing it, or anything. I just felt strange 'cause it was something new. In some ways I wasn't quite ready for it. Like it was something you're expected to do. But it's kinda hard to tell a girl you feel nauseous and you want to go home!!"
What's your biggest snogging turn-off?
"Gosh! Well it really turns me off when girls kiss wildly, when they try to swallow you. Or when their mouths are wet. I prefer it when it's relaxed and tender."
Have you had any other dating disasters?
"Not lately. I'm much to busy for girlfriends just now. But there was something in Romeo and Juliet, though. On the opening night I was in the tomb and I had to kill Paris then go and talk to Jiliet. I realised my dagger was missing, and she needs it to kill herself. So I just had to stop the show. I just looked at the audience and said 'Er, excuse me, but I've just lost the dagger! We'll have to stop until I find it'.
So I looked and looked until I found it...underneath Paris actually, who was lying dead in the corner. So I put it back in my sheath and said 'Okay, move on!"
Are you a good Romeo?
"Yes, indeed. Luckily I didn't have to climb up the wall to the balcony or anything.
Shakespeare really made an error at that point. If Romeo and Juliet touched or kissed in the balcony scene I think Shakespeare would surely have written about it. Whereas there's no indication where they touch at all. Did I have to wear tights? Oh, yes, I had to wear them all right. I've worn them before too. You get used to it. You forget you're wearing them after a while." Could be dangerous that...
Thank to discofunction
Robert Sean Leonard indulges his first love: Theater
'House' made him familiar to TV audiences, but he's always been a man of the theater. He's at the Old Globe now, savoring the words in 'Pygmalion.'
January 11, 2013, 12:08 p.m.
As 2013 begins, Robert Sean Leonard is the theater world's equivalent of a star athlete who's just completed his contract and become a free agent. There isn't a team that wouldn't want him; all he has to do is pick the best fit and sign.
What's missing — this being stage acting instead of professional sports — is the chance for a big payday.
But that's all right with Leonard. For eight seasons ending last spring, he played Dr. James Wilson, the often-bemused sole friend of Gregory House, the brilliant, extremely eccentric and incredibly arrogant protagonist of the Fox television series, "House, M.D."
He took the gig in 2004 because he needed the money. For him, "House" was just the thing — a good but not very taxing part in an unusual and well written show opposite an actor he liked and admired in Hugh Laurie. He didn't realize going in that it would be like winning the lottery.
Leonard's return to acting for love, not money — that is, stage acting — comes at the Old Globe in San Diego, where he'll be Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion."
When he says that he pulled down as much as $2.4 million for a 24-episode season of "House," he's not boasting, but marveling. First, at how lavish the rewards can be for something as nonessential, in his view, as acting, and second, at how lucky his ride has been.
Theaters have been his professional workplace since he was a 14-year-old understudy at New York's Public Theater. Now he is at a crossroads of sorts, and maybe that's why he waxes a bit philosophical about it all as he shares a big, worn, brown, leather chair with Bradley, a tan Chihuahua mix that he and his wife, Gabriella Salick, brought home years ago from a Manhattan animal shelter.
Nearby, in this house on a horse ranch in Thousand Oaks, is a hearth with Christmas stockings hung for nearly the whole family, dogs included. Leonard and his 4-year-old, Eleanor, have a date later in the day to complete the set by making one for her 6-month-old sister, Claudia.
"When I was 23, I felt what I did had great importance, and that was part of the joy of it, walking on stages performing Shaw or O'Neill or whatever," Leonard says. "I've changed. Maybe it's being 43. Maybe it's having family and kids. I love what I do, but I wouldn't even put it on a par with school teaching or even fixing power lines at this point. Maybe I'd put it on a par with the guy fixing sandwiches in the deli.
"I feel what I do can give people pleasure, at best, or maybe help them have an insight into their own lives," he says. "After seeing a very good production of 'Our Town' [in which Leonard played opposite Alan Alda in London when he was 22], maybe people will look in on their kids sleeping and just look at them for five minutes."
He says he took the part at the Old Globe because he wanted to do a play ("Born Yesterday" on Broadway in 2011 was his lone theatrical turn during the "House" years), because he loves Shaw (performing in "Candida" in 1993 earned him the first of three Tony nominations) and because his friend, director Nicholas Martin, asked.
Leonard said it hadn't occurred to himthat playing Henry Higgins is a role reversal from "House." Having been the sensitive, comparatively level-headed sidekick to Laurie's scabrous and scandalous ace diagnostician, now he gets to be the brilliant, eccentric, arrogant one. Paxton Whitehead plays the levelheaded sidekick, Col. Pickering, and Charlotte Parry is Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl Higgins undertakes to turn into a proper lady spouting perfect English as a testament to his own genius as a world-renowned expert on dialects and elocution.
The parallel with "House" had, in fact, occurred to Martin, who'd directed Leonard in a 1998 off-Broadway production of Shaw's "You Never Can Tell." He thought the connection might help lure the actor to San Diego as opposed to stepping right back to Broadway, where Leonard has done a dozen plays.
"He has a blend of sensitivity and masculinity, with a real intelligence, that few actors can match," Martin said. "One thing you can't teach or suggest in actors is charisma and simpatico, and Bobby's always had it."
Jack O'Brien, the former Old Globe artistic director who first brought Leonard there in 1993 as Edgar in "King Lear" and later directed him in his Tony-winning turn as poet A.E. Housman in Tom Stoppard's "The Invention of Love," raves about the superior technique that helps Leonard excel in complex parts for which the words must dance.
"He's a perfect Shavian actor. His mind moves at lightning speed, and he knows how the language works," O'Brien says. "He has a set of lungs that are leather, and he can get to the ends of those [long] lines. There are 12 to 15 actors you want every time you cast a show, the people who can really do it. I would get him every chance I got."
Leonard wasn't shaped by a high-powered actor training program. Nor does he come from a showbiz family — although he earned a Tony nomination playing the tortured scion of a notably dysfunctional one in a revered 2003 Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" that also starred Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Dennehy and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Leonard's mother and father, now retired, were a nurse and a teacher; his sister and brother are an English teacher and a cop. All are back in New Jersey, and the previously New York-based Leonard says that after the "House" years in Southern California, he feels the tug of family back East. For now, he continues to live rent-free on the horse ranch where his wife, the daughter of a Los Angeles physician, grew up.
She's more famous than he is in some circles, Leonard says — a former Princeton and Columbia University classics scholar who has won horse jumping championships on the international equestrian circuit. They were introduced by a producer at Malaparte, the New York City stage company he founded with Ethan Hawke after they'd become friends acting together in "Dead Poets Society."
"He said, 'I only know one person on earth who goes out less than you do — my cousin Gabby,'" Leonard recalled. "We were a perfect match. We're very boring people. We love being home and reading and occasionally watching a 'Law & Order' if we have a spare hour."
Leonard appeared steadily in films and television movies before "House," and he doesn't intend to focus solely on theater now.
During the interview he was still sporting a ragged beard grown for a guest-starring role fighting alien invaders alongside Noah Wyle in several episodes of the coming season of the TNT television series "Falling Skies."
But screen stardom isn't something he craves, having seen how hard celebrities have to work at their fame. "I don't have it in me. There are some people who want to be adored by millions of anonymous people, and I think that's an unfortunate desire, because from all I've ever read and seen in my life, I don't think it actually ever fills the hole you think it will."
But Leonard is not casual about acting, even if he'd rather think of it, in the grand scheme of things, as a relatively unimportant craft instead of a noble and brilliant art. Interviewed three days before the start of rehearsals for "Pygmalion," he said that for four nights running he'd been having bad dreams about being unprepared for what he expected to be an uphill battle to seize Henry Higgins back from Rex Harrison, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
Many in the audience will know the Higgins and Doolittle of "My Fair Lady," the blockbuster 1950s musical adaptation of "Pygmalion" that also starred Audrey Hepburn. Shaw's comedy is quite different, even apart from the fact that Higgins and his protégée are not seen flamenco-dancing through "The Rain in Spain" together.
"When I'm on stage, I want to excel. I do feel driven that way, and I'm actually quite ambitious in that regard," Leonard said. "To have a strong sense that what you do is not vitally important to the universe, but also to be passionate about it and believe that wanting to play Henry Higgins as best you can does have importance — they both exist for me at some level."
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times
- Current Mood: amused
Interview: Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer And Peter Jacobson
The doctors of House discuss the end of the hit show.
Say goodbye to medical drama House with the release of the House Season Eight box set on Blu- ray and DVD, out today from Universal Playback.
The final season features our favourite maverick doctor become the victim of the Princeton penitentiary system and ends up in the slammer.
To celebrate the release of the Season Eight box set today we’ve got an interview with Jesse Spencer (Dr. Robert Chase), Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. James Wilson), Omar Epps (Dr. Eric Foreman) and Peter Jacobson (Dr Chris Taub).
How are things changing for your characters at the start of this season?
Peter Jacobson: Well, we all sort of arrive in different places from where we were. The structure, the hierarchy of the hospital has changed, and that changes the whole dynamic of the hospital. House is coming back from prison, so things will remain off-kilter for everybody, which is good.
At the beginning of this season, we see a different side of Wilson. Robert, you punch House in the face, do you not?
Robert Sean Leonard: I do. I, being Wilson, yes.
Do you think Wilson gets along with House because in a way, he’s the same as House? He never changes. He says, “I don’t like you,” then he punches him in the face and he’s really very forgiving, actually.
Robert Sean Leonard: Yeah. I like what Hugh has to say, or I should say, what David [Shore writes]… I like that line in the MRI room where House says something like, “I like you. You like me. I have fun with you.” He had this beautiful little four-sentence, light, quick definition of friendship, kind of, that I really like and I think that’s it. They have a strange [attraction]… it’s like when you break up with someone and then you see them and the next morning, you wake up with them, and you think, “What am I [doing]…?” you know? It’s literally like that. They just have a chemistry. House is right: they fit as friends. I had this in my life with Ethan Hawke, who I met when I was 18 doing Dead Poets Society. We could not be more different, and we actually think of each other more as brothers, because it seems those relationships you have in life like with a brother or a sister where it’s no-one you would choose, but you somehow get through life together, I think those are the friendships that really last the longest. I wouldn’t say it was unhealthy – and I think the first episode or the second episode of this season is a good example – it’s not necessarily healthy or good or anything except it is just what is, and House knows it and Wilson fights it and at the end of the show kind of gives in again. It just is.
House is taking more advantage of Wilson than Wilson is of House though.
Robert Sean Leonard: Right, but there are many levels to this, from what we get from each other as two people, two human beings.
Having been on House for all these years, do you all become more aware of illnesses? Are you ever sick?
Jesse Spencer: It is amazing. I don’t think anyone has ever taken sick day on the show in eight years.
Omar Epps: Yeah. Can we all knock on wood at the same time?
Jesse Spencer: Yeah, let’s knock on wood. I don’t know, but that seems kind of a long time with no-one having anything. I mean we’ve worked when we have been sick too. I remember when Peter had to cut and run off and vomit into a bucket kind of thing. We’ve all done that when we’re being sick. But we’ve never taken a sick day. Touch wood, but no-one’s had anything major.
But have you become curious and looked into medical stories that you portray and done more research into them, and have you ever worried or become paranoid that you might have got something too?
Omar Epps: It kind of freaks you out. I mean, some of the medical stuff, a lot of the stories come from real circumstances or real events. I’ll be talking with Bob – one of our medical consultants, Dr. Foster – and I’ll sit and have a maybe 15-minute conversation with him about some really weird thing – and it just freaks me out. In the medical world, a lot of the practice is by trial and error. A lot of times you go into the hospital, they don’t know what’s wrong with you, they really are like, “Well, if you react to this, maybe it’s this,” and just that, in and of itself, freaks me out. I just want to be normal.
Jesse Spencer: You don’t have to deal with that anymore either, because you’re in the office.
Peter Jacobson: He’s the head of the hospital now.
As the new Dean of the hospital, do you think that Dr. Foreman will be able to control House?
Omar Epps: Good question. I think Foreman knows he won’t be able to fully control him, but as long as House doesn’t fuck it up for everyone – you know what I mean? – like go too far… part of House’s brilliance is that he needs to do what he does, the way he needs. He needs his space to do his work and I think Foreman knows that. He knows all of his tricks. He used to facilitate half of the madness, so I think he feels like he has a leg up, but House is House so you never know what’s going to happen.
Also this season, Taub has two babies on the way?
Peter Jacobson: He does indeed. Is that shocking?
A little. So he told the girl at the desk that he wants to keep the baby but that was before he knew his wife is also pregnant?
Peter Jacobson: Correct. I don’t want it spoil but, yes, you will see two little Taub-ettes by the end of the season.
Is your wife fine with that?
Peter Jacobson: Well, we’re not together, so I’ve got two kids from two different women going at once and it’s really cute. There’s comedy in that, definitely. It’s like a real gift to House in terms of more abuse on me.
Would you trust a doctor like House to treat you?
Jesse Spencer: No.
Omar Epps: You know what’s funny about saying, “Yes,” is that technically the patients don’t know who this guy is. They don’t know he’s some amazing…
Is there any real hospital in the United States with a team like House’s team, to deal with just diagnosis? Any real inspiration?
Jesse Spencer: It’s not even a real department.
Omar Epps: I wonder if this would inspire that.
Jesse Spencer: That would be awesome.
How can the audience like a hero as nasty as House?
Omar Epps: He is just so honest. The honesty is huge. The character is… going back to what we were talking about, if you would have a doctor like House, it is because he’s that honest and doctors really aren’t like that. I think the characters within the show react to that. I think the audience abroad is like, “I wish my doctor would just tell me what it is.” You know what I mean? “And not give me the run around and I could deal with that much more than the rigmarole.”
Peter Jacobson: Through all, he’s essentially utterly human and we all respond to that. I mean, TV does not offer that many really human characters, and even though the sheen is extreme on this character, thanks in, I think, a large part to Hugh, there’s just a well of humanity there.
Could you be a good doctor in real life? Or are you disappointing to everyone you know?
Jesse Spencer: We all are.
Peter Jacobson: We all are. You know, I look like a doctor. That’s the best I could do. I could almost take blood – although not really – because when I try to do it on the show and say lines, it’s very, very difficult and it took me many times to get, but I now know the steps in order, on my own. I’m not saying I do it well. I might have trouble finding a vein, but I at least know the steps and I could put a bed back like that. I know that’s freaky.
You draw real blood on the show?
Peter Jacobson: No. I’m just saying that I thought if I was… I would be a terrible doctor, I’m just saying there might a couple of things I could do. That’s just to say how lame a doctor I would actually be.
How do you deal with the medical world? The terminology is very complex. How do you deal with that?
Robert Sean Leonard: I don’t have to, that’s why I took this part. But every script, on the second page, there is a vocabulary list, and I haven’t seen that in my life, since the eighth grade. It’s a vocabulary list, with all the medical terms, and their pronunciations, on every script for us, like we’re morons! But we still mis-pronounce the words.
What is the most complex medical word that you have had to remember for the show?
Peter Jacobson: “Synesthesia” was the first word I had to say and I couldn’t. I would lisp my way through it. “Synesthesia.” I just couldn’t say it but that’s because I was new. Now, it’s “schistosomiasis” and I have no idea what that means. Not to say as actors that we don’t find out what it means, but we really don’t need it.
Omar Epps: But you definitely have to understand what’s going on in order to emote, and in order to think about the medical stuff. It has to be second nature after a while.
Robert Sean Leonard: I had Aspergillus fungus balls.
You had it or you had to say it?
Robert Sean Leonard: I had it! No, I had to say it, and I had to say it to everybody, and Olivia [Wilde] actually specifically said, “Whatever you do, don’t look at me and say, ‘Aspergillus fungus balls’. Everything was fine until the ‘Aspergillus fungus ball’.” So I said it directly to Olivia every time.
Is that a real thing?
Robert Sean Leonard: If this was ER, we’d know.
Jesse, isn’t your father a doctor? And most of your family? Does that help?
Jesse Spencer: He was actually a radiologist in Miami in the 60s. And it actually doesn’t help at all. It makes it worse. I have people at home, like my brother, who emails me whenever he sees something that he thinks is wrong. He emails and puts, “Ha ha ha!” at the end of everything he writes.
You must have some funny moments that happen here on set.
Peter Jacobson: I always enjoy the guests who come in, the dying patient of the week: they will often spend upwards of 10 hours literally lying in bed, and my favourite part is when they really fall asleep. I have a picture of Donal Logue crashed out in the MRI and he was just… [mimes snoring]. It’s really sweet, I love it. I love that. That’s hilarious.
This show has been really successful, do you know why that is and can you put your finger on what makes it special?
Robert Sean Leonard: I just make it! I can't tell one episode from another. We have really good directors and I trust the actors I work with and I've been acting for 20 years. So I just wing it... I don't really see the show the way others do.
So what’s your favourite thing about working on a show like this, that’s as successful as this?
Omar Epps: For me, it’s humbling: we’re actors, but we’re artists and we’re people, and we want our work to mean something in the world. It’s humbling to be in a position where David [Shore – creator] and the guys get to write about certain conditions and diseases that may not get too much shine, or that sort of thing, so to be in this position is incredible, to give light to people who may be in the dark. For me, that’s the cherry on the pie.
Robert Sean Leonard: People talk about these great ratings we have, world-wide now, and it’s very odd because, for us, all we know is driving onto the lot, talking and working on the scene and trying to make it good, then going home. That is the show. But everyone here is smart and funny and kind, and determined to do good work. And I don’t think that’s happened in any other job I’ve had. So it’s a real blessing.
What is the best medical show on television in your opinion?
Robert Sean Leonard: You mean other than House? I don’t know. I haven’t watched television in 75 years but I used to watch a show called St. Elsewhere that I liked. I don’t know if that went overseas. St. Elsewhere, we used to stay home before VCRs and watch that on Thursdays or Wednesdays.
The actor talks why he loves stage and doesn't love the word "bromance"
By ABBIE BERNSTEIN / Contributing Writer
Article Source:Assignment X
HOUSE ends its eight-year run tonight with a two-hour finale beginning at 8 PM on Fox. We caught up very briefly with Robert Sean Leonard, who has played Dr. James Wilson, exasperated best friend of Hugh Laurie’s difficult-to-get-along-with Dr. Gregory House, for the entire run, and got his views of two topics – his love of theatre and his dislike of the term “bromance,” especially as applied to Wilson and House.
ASSIGNMENT X: You’ve been on Broadway twelve times so far. Do you have a preference for doing series television or theatrical film or stage?
ROBERT SEAN LEONARD: Yes. It’s hard to say this without sounding like you’re fishing, but I think I’m fine on the show; I think I’m better on stage. But I’m me, so it’s how I feel. So how it looks or comes across, I don’t know, but that’s how it feels. So I look forward to [doing more theatre work]. I feel better when I’m doing it, but I love the show [HOUSE] and I love my part and I love the job, but I feel better as an actor when I do plays. I think I’m better at it.
AX: And do you want to hit the person who coined the term “bromance”?
LEONARD: I do. It really annoys me. It just seems kind of a cheap shot, [that is also insulting to] gay people. Why is that the place you go with it? And even if you do go with it, is it to be funny, or to be coy, or to be – to me, it’s like saying about a gay couple, “Oh, they seem so straight.” Well, what’s the point of that? I think it would offend the gay couple to hear that. So anyway, I find it odd when people use sexuality in that way. I don’t know what it means, I just find it odd. And I find it slightly loaded, even though I don’t know what it means.
AX: And it’s been coming up a lot.
LEONARD: Yeah. And I just feel like, “No, they’re not gay and next question. What are you talking about? I don’t know why it’s even intriguing.”
AX: Well, BFF is more like a female term, which I also don’t like because there’s a snarkiness about it. It sounds like it means the opposite.
LEONARD: Yeah, slightly frenemy-ish.
AX: Yeah. “Frenemy” at least describes what it is, as opposed to “BFF.” But House and Wilson are, at the end of the day, not frenemies but real friends?LEONARD: Yeah.
- Current Mood: amused
Actor, Manly Man and Seinfeld Watcher
emily blunt interview
Robert Sean Leonard's a quiet little studmuffin. He has that wispy hair that makes a girl want to run a bubble bath and play hairdresser…well…me at least. We are talking YUM-O-RAMA people.
Enough small talk let the chat begin!
[ I have no idea what to actually call this guy Robert, Rob, Bob Sean…Robshalenskadiddle…Mangod Burlyboy…so I just start] Your movie selections are so diversified. I mean Swing Boys, Much to Do About Nothing, Dead Poet's Society….Driven? I thought you were a theater guy?
[laughter] I had done Driven because it seemed like a way into the larger films…to be honest, it's when New York's changed that I decided to do it. Eric McCormack replaces Craig Bierko in 'Music Man', Deborah Messing has the offer to play Viola in Central Park in 'Twelfth Night' this summer. It's changed. Chris Walkin and Kathleen Widows and Sam Waterston and Meryl Streep, they're not coming up through Yale through the public theatre anymore.
Theatre is now that you bring people from L.A. to New York be in it. To get people to go see it. Yeah. You start losing roles to start losing roles to people who are well-known. You work fifteen years, and you just know you're right for the role and someone else gets it because they're on a television show. And you say, 'ok, that's different than it was in the seventies with Chris Walkin or Ron Julian but okay I guess I've got to adjust to that.'
Then again, television stars and movie stars coming to Broadway can be a good thing. Prime example is your 'Iceman' role, thanks to "star power" namely Kevin Spacey , 'The Iceman Cometh', which is a colossal and behemoth production, played unedited on the Great White Way again…and I had the great pleasure to see you do Don Parritt ...him do Hickey...so that was a good star-power thing.
Yeah, but Kevin also had been in New York for fifteen years doing theater.
True. How was it to work on the 'Iceman Cometh?'
Great! It was grueling! Those matinee days were pretty memorable. It was five hours onstage, so it was a long night!
Yeah, I guess I don't mean star power per se. It isn't bad at all.
I would have gone anyway because I love O'Neill.
But with the powerful 'name' in the key role the doors were opened for a proper staging! I got YOU, Paul Giamatti and a dozen other real rounded talents in the mix! And look whose shoes Spacey was stepping into [Jason Robards, the most famous Hickey, was the reference]. I have a ton of respect for him.
Oh sure I see what your saying. Not a small easy piece huh? [laughter] And Eric McCormack did 'Music Man' because he loves Frank Wilson, and Eric was great. The thing [casting stars because of their names] in itself isn't bad, it's just true. So if you're a really good actor, that's great. If you're a really good actor and you're on television, that's more helpful. Sometimes it's unfair is all I really mean.
Yeah that's an absolute truth. But again, I feel if using a "name" on a marquee gets people into theater seats it's acceptable. Provided the human can act of course. Or ,also, if they're able to get a production on stage that wouldn't even get made without their "name" on it I'll take it!RSL:
Sure, but that's very rare. What Kevin did is rare. Most people, like with the 'Graduate'. It's more just placing people in shows than actually originating works from people like Kevin did.
I saw 'Judas Kiss' with Liam Neeson too that season. He broke fourth wall at least six times! [we laugh at the quasi-thespian's faux pas] Though he was still very good. What made you take the role in Driven? It's so off character for you no?
[laughter] Hmm. So you do four movies in a row and they all go to video [laughter] . So you call your agents and say 'look, I need to do a movie that will come out. I can't do another movie like this… I don't want to hear this is a first time writer/director again. [laughter] I'm sure that they're the next Scorsese and I'm gonna blow it, but I've done that four times and they weren't the next Scorsese, so get me a movie that I know is coming out. I just need to be in a movie that's coming out and is in some way good and a part that will be right for me and memorable.' And I read about ten scripts and Driven was the part. I loved the part. It was really funny and very clear and very well-driven and very well-defined in the script. He had very clear tensions and I thought he was a funny guy to play. He was a fun guy to play, actually.Emily:
Did that experience sour you on the big studios?RSL:
No no no. It just was a bomb! [laughter] You know! But no. I had a ball. I loved the character. His girl, Stacy Edwards, was great.
I had a great time with her. No, not at all. I also haven't seen it, because it was out so short. But no, I really enjoyed playing that guy. And it was nice to be in a movie that came out [laughter]!
I actually liked it…other than the kid that kept sweatin' through the damn thing- what was that? [laughter] Chelsea Walls recently opened. You and Ethan Hawke [who directed] have been friends since you were teenagers and have the theater group [Malaparte] together . What was it like to have him in an authority role over you here? Did you find yourself laughing at him when he got too serious?RSL:
Not so much at him. I'd say 'I'm not laughing at you, but more I'm laughing near you.' [laughs] No, it was something I'm used to. He was creative, the artistic, director of a theatre company, whatever that meant, which even he would laugh at. You know, he's a leader. He's one of those guys who is extremely proactive. He gets things done. And that's great. We're both very similar actors; we use the same language. It was in no way uncomfortable. It was a little bit odd, but mostly enjoyable. You know, he's in that power. So yeah a little of both. It was a little bit weird, but in no way uncomfortable. Just sort of strange. Honestly I was more proud than anything else I guess. In a way his authority status was strange, except we really were all friends, so if it was a set with complete strangers and Ethan was directing I would probably feel differently. But this was so familiar to me, just sitting in a room with Steve Zahn and Nicole Bernette and Ethan, so a little bit, but the place was so familiar and the people were so familiar that it wasn't too shocking.Emily:
Now you also said you felt lazy around him sometimes. Why do you say that?RSL:
He's extremely artistically, uh, if you could say it... he's... I want to say he's prolific. But I guess it's better to say he's so multi-talented and he refuses to ignore any of those places he can go. He bangs out a tune on the piano and he writes a story and directs a film and produces a play. You know, he's very impressive that way.Emily:
He's like a human Swiss Armyknife. Your true love is theater right?RSL:
[laughter] The one thing I love about theater is that you're home in time for Seinfeld, Which I've always loved. You have your day to see your family and go to the town pool and read a book, and you have to be at work at seven and you're home by eleven. I love that. I'm a little more…… I don't know what it is….. but I don't feel quite as on fire artistically as Ethan does.Emily:
Perhaps wiser ?RSL:
[laughter] No, I just have less to say.Emily:
You said you had your Chelsea Walls role really worked out well in rehearsal. You all worked in it like a play.RSL:
We rehearsed a little bit. Not on tape we really did rehearse like a play. Yeah.Emily:
Was working in DV different from another medium because of the freedom to "waste" film?RSL:
Sure, sure. You could be free to play. Even in a play, every night you stick to the script. I mean, we didn't improvise, but there were surprises you know? You turn around and the guy who was facing you the last time you did that line isn't facing you this time so you tap his shoulder. [laughter] Sure.Emily:
Keepin' it real method. [we laugh at my tacky thespian joke] Are you working on something right now?RSL:
No I just did a year and a half straight and I'm exhausted.Emily:
Taking a vacation? [thought but not spoken: so I can conveniently be in the adjacent room with my handy peep-hole tool?]RSL:
Yeah, perhaps. I did a [Tom] Stoppard play, and then, as you know, I did Music Man [Harold Hill] after Eric, so I've been singing
"Trouble" for six months. I'm exhausted! I need a little break!
With that we babbled a bit about vacation spots and I offered to draw him a hot steamy love bath -- well in my "inner dialog" at least. Purr. Bobby had to boogie. He's a lovely man; so handsome and talented. And alas yet another very upfront open chap. I dig that. Hopefully his next Hollywood shindig will be better received than Driven. And Chelsea Walls, while not a huge crowd pleaser, definitely shows off his talents. Find it if you're into actors acting….just don't expect a huge plot m' kay.
December 17, 2010
Robert Sean Leonard is not a doctor. He just plays one – superbly – on TV. The actor, who grew up in Ridgewood, co-stars on Fox's long-running hit drama House as Dr. James Wilson, best friend and in many ways the conscience of Hugh Laurie's bitter, quirky and generally unpleasant Dr. Gregory House. Leonard is also a Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran, and many moviegoers may remember his performances in Dead Poets Society, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Age of Innocence. "If I walked down the street in a lab coat I think people would recognize me more," jokes Leonard, who currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife Gabriella and their young daughter Eleanor. "When I'm dressed as I dress, which is usually jeans and a T-shirt, a lot of people look at me and think, 'Wow, that guy looks like the guy on House,' but they don't think it's me. It just doesn't happen very often that people recognize me, but if it does, it's people in L.A. recognizing me from House and people in New York recognizing me from my theater work and saying, 'Oh, I saw Long Day's Journey' or 'I saw The Iceman Cometh.'"
"It's always tricky when people talk about their childhoods because you're so tainted by nostalgia by the time you're 40 that it's difficult to remember anything with any kind of clarity or truth. But I remember my childhood in Ridgewood being bucolic, Oscar Hammerstein-like; riding my bike on the streets, utterly safe from every negative force on Earth. I remember Graydon Pool, and kickball games in the street until sunset. My memories of Ridgewood are pretty idyllic."
"My mother and father live in Waldwick, my brother lives in Midland Park, and my sister lives in Allendale. So I'm in the area all the time, but I don't actually go to Ridgewood very often. When I'm back, I notice there are a lot of restaurants. When I was there, the town was a lot simpler than it is now. I think the only restaurants were Friendly's and the Daily Treat, and there was a Chinese place across the tracks."
"I'm a little bit spoiled when it comes to House. I did one pilot in my life, with Patrick Dempsey, Balthazar Getty, John Larroquette and Martin Landau. That was six years ago and it didn't go anywhere. House was my second pilot. I talk to a lot of actors who've come out to L.A. every year for 20 years and never get a show, let alone one that runs. So it's remarkably rare, what's happened with House. I'm very lucky. We [Laurie and Leonard] have a lot of Tony Randall-Jack Klugman stuff to play, and that's fun to do."
- Current Mood: good
Oakland Tribune, USA, 7th February 2006
AT LUNCH the other day my pal Zoe looked at me and said, "If I had your job, I think I'd just shoot myself."
This from a woman with various TiVOs and a television gadget closet that is more high-tech than the local TV station's.
Well, I'll tell you what keeps me from being bundled up for the loony bin: shows like Fox's "House."
After a month off the air, "House" is back tonight right after "American Idol" -- and it's smokin'. If you've never seen an episode, it centers on brilliant diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), whose self-involvement distances him from his patients and most of his colleagues.
Laurie's considerable acting talent combined with great writing makes House an intriguing character with biting wit that brings humor to the medical drama.
Last month, a group of TV critics toured the "House" set in Los Angeles. Our tour was led by Robert Sean Leonard, who plays oncologist -- and House's lone friend -- Dr. James Wilson, and Jennifer Morrison, House's beautiful team member Dr. Allison Cameron, who has a crush on her mentor.
The first stop on the visit was the new pediatrics set.
"Didn't we have kids on the show before?" asked Leonard, who hadn't seen this part of the set before.
"We put them on the maternity set," Morrison said, showing the same crisp efficiency as a tour guide as she does in her "House" character.
We walked through the sliding doors, which are actually glass doors opened by two guys using fishing wire.
"They just stand around and open those doors when we are shooting those scenes," says Morrison. "I have no idea what someone would be paid per hour to do something like that."
Ah, the reality of TV sets. Which prompted Leonard to reveal that his hospital name badge has always said "Jack Wilson" instead of his character's name James.
"I keep telling them to change it to James, but they say no one can see it anyway," Leonard said, a bit chagrined.
He brightened up a bit when we mentioned digital and HD capabilities might force the wardrobe people to give him a correct badge.
As we moved along to the next part of the tour, Leonard remarked that the atrium used on the show was right around the corner.
"There's the atrium with the trees and the... um, It's gone!," a surprised Leonard said.
"We haven't had that since the first few episodes of the first season," Morrison told him.
"Apparently, I don't even work here," Leonard said a bit forlornly.
"He isn't in a lot of scenes around here," Morrison whispered to the tour group. "He's mostly in his office, or on the roof, or in the elevator."
"I do spend a lot of time in the elevator," Leonard confirms. "I guess I need to get out more."
Next stop was the operating room, where special effects wizard Tyler Patton demonstrated a handy little thing that allows an actor to lie down with the head exposed and the rest of the body hidden under a model of a human body used for the surgery scenes.
"The actor just slides underneath this open cavity," Patton explained. "It's much better than the old days when we used make- up. Especially if they need to go to the bathroom."
Good to know.
Apparently Jesse Spencer, who plays cute Dr. Robert Chase, another member of House's elite team, doesn't get to take pictures while he's on the clock. He happily snapped away through most of the tour.
"This is great," he said. "I've always wanted to take pictures of all this, but we never get a chance to hang around here unless we're working."
Then Patton showed us some cool stuff, like the scalpel that allows (fake) blood to seep out. Spencer started snapping again.
As we walked past the office of attorney Stacy (Sela Ward), Leonard pointed out that it was Stacy's old office, and they would probably use it for something else later.
"Wait. You guys knew that right? That she was only guest starring for a limited number of episodes? It's not a secret, is it?" Leonard pleaded.
Not any more.
Moving on to House's office, we learn that the famous red ball that he used to toss and play with while pondering a tough diagnosis isn't around any more.
"Someone took it and sold it on eBay," Leonard said. "And I probably wasn't supposed to tell you that either."
Too late, baby.
Over to the left is House's outer office, where most of the action takes place during the show. And there's the famous white board where House jots down the symptoms and the possible explanations. The board used to be clear. Then it was white. It used to be on wheels, but it kept rolling away.
"Now it's so solid and heavy, you'd have been in a week of traction if you tried to move it," said David Foster, one of the show's writers.
Foster says that they get ideas for the series from friends, the Internet and medical journals.
"You use those sources for inspiration, but then you have to take these rare diseases and stretch it into a four-act play," Foster said. "That makes it even more rare."
The tour ended at the main lobby of the hospital, where Laurie was swarmed by "House" fans posing as critics.