Odette Annable admits she was intimidated but thrilled to join the cast of the long-running TV series “House,” which stars Hugh Laurie as the complicated, cranky and brilliant Dr. Gregory House. At the end of the show’s seventh season, House drove his car into the house of his supervisor and on-again/off-again lover Dr. Lisa Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein, who left the show in 2011). At the beginning of the show’s eighth season (which premieres on Fox on October 3, 2011, at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time), months have passed since House’s car-ramming meltdown, and he is serving out a prison sentence for the crime.
When a medical emergency ends his prison sentence early, House discovers that things have drastically changed at the diagnostic medicine department at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, including the chain of command. Annable plays Dr. Jessica Adams, a prison clinic physician who ends up joining the Princeton Plainsboro staff. In a telephone conference call with journalists, Annable (who used to be known as Odette Yustman before she married actor David Annable in 2010) and “House” creator/executive producer/writer David Shore talked about how the Jessica Adams character has an effect on “House,” how the House character has changed since being in prison, and the rumor that “House’s” eighth season will be its last.
Odette, we know that your character has some feelings for House, but how is it working with Hugh Laurie?
Annable: Hugh is fantastic. I couldn’t help but to be nervous at first really for the whole thing but to be working with Hugh and just to get to know him as an actor and as a person, and he really blew me away. He might be one of my favorite actors that I’ve ever worked with. He’s so generous and so talented and so easy to work with so it’s been a pleasure so far.
Can we expect to see you around for the full season?
Annable: I’m around for most of the season, yes, and I guess that will be determined later how many episodes I will actually be in. But yes, you’ll see me stick around for a little while.
We’ve seen House angry, hurt and depressed, but never so overwhelmingly sad as in this season opener. And the sense of sadness seems to have taken a lot of the fire out of him. Can you discuss House’s mindset in this episode and if he’ll be emotionally better further into the season?
Shore: Yes. I didn’t think of him as being overwhelmingly sad in this. We threw him into a different environment and different environments call for different reactions. He’s got it more or less under control but unlike in any other situation he does have to behave himself.
He’s in prison and that’s a challenge for House and so playing with that challenge was challenging. I did not think he was overwhelmingly sad. I thought there were clearly issues there but going forward we want to — we’re going to get him back into the hospital quickly, and we are going to get back to kind of the fun at the root of the show.
David, will you be writing an episode solo this season?
Shore: Yes, maybe. My job is to make sure the scripts are all up to the level we expect on the show and I rewrite every script to a greater or lesser extent and I’ve been quite happy in that role. This show requires a lot of research and I don’t have a lot of time for that research so for that simple reason I haven’t been writing a lot from scratch. If it turns out that this is a final season, which is yet to be determined, I may well write the last one. I will probably write the last one.
David, the series has been a lot about House sort of rehabilitating in some way or forming his behavior in any kind of backsliding. Are we going to see permanent changes in his behavior from his stay in prison?
Shore: One of the several mantras on this show —one of House’s sort of mantras — is nobody changes. I think that’s largely true. I think the show has been about a guy who’s striving to change and failing for the most part and that is human nature, and it’s really about the striving to be different. You’re not going to see a different House this year.
On a very fundamental level, I don’t want to do that. I like him and I think the audience likes him. And I think what happened was last year he tried to change and I think this year he’s going to say that was stupid on a certain level. We’re not going to get bogged down about that.
I just opened myself up to being misquoted. I’m not saying last year was stupid. I’m not even saying that the relationship was stupid. I think the relationship was great, but I think it didn’t work out and so House’s reaction to that is to not go down that path again so fast.
Odette, did you have a big adjustment playing a doctor, such as learning medical terms?
Annable: Absolutely. At first I got the script probably a few days before shooting, so I didn’t have time to throw myself into that world but we do have some great researchers on the show and some great medical techs. They’re on hand every single second whenever you need them so I will prepare with them.
I will do my own research just sort of episode by episode into what we really do, because we really don’t know where our characters are going and what we’re going to be doing per episode so we’ll take it sort of on an episode by episode basis. But yes, there are a lot of medical terms that I have to learn and this isn’t the type of show where you can just show up and wing it. You really do need to know your things and prepare so it was very challenging and still is, working on it.
Odette, you have the great fortune of being on “House” and having “Breaking In” picked up for a second session. How will that work for you to juggle both shows?
Annable: Fox is killing me. I actually have no idea. I’m very excited that “Breaking In” got picked up, but my number-one priority right now is “House” and working on that. So I will be doing double duty at some point. I don’t know when that will be yet.
I do think the show “Breaking In” will start probably early in the new year , so we shall see how that goes. I’m willing absolutely but I guess that needs to be worked out with my bosses so maybe that’s more of a David question.
Shore: We’ve been very good, I’d say. I pride myself on being quite good, on our team being very good, at making accommodations and working with other shows and movies over the years to make sure that our people get all the opportunities that they’ve earned.
David, you said on the call that you won’t keep House in prison for long. Can you expand on that a little bit like how many episodes will we see him in the slammer?
Shore: You see we wanted to do two things this year. We didn’t want it to be trivial. We wanted him to be appropriately punished but we also didn’t want to do a prison show so we had a bit of a dilemma. He will be out in episode two. That’s episode two, but what we did was we had it take place over time which has been helpful for a number of reasons because a lot has changed in our hospital, which I think is great.
So the first episode takes place months after the end of last session, six months. We didn’t really define it, and then the next episode takes place a decent amount of time after the first episode. So House’s world has changed and in the second episode we throw him back into his revised old world.
And it seems like from the Season 8 premiere that House will have a lot of reconciliation to do with a lot of the characters on the show. He is a little bit friendless right now. How do you feel about this possibly being the final season of “House”?
Shore: It’s always sad in some ways, but this has been eight years … whatever it turns out to be it’s been a tremendous luxury. It’s been way more than I could have possibly imagined. It’s been unbelievable. I’ve been extremely lucky as a writer to have been able to explore this character for one year never mind eight so I’ve got to focus on the positive, and it’s just a question of when is the right time to go out before it becomes later.
How did you kind of come up with Odette’s character and that angle for House?
Shore: Well, once we put him in prison and once we knew that we had this challenge this year, bringing in some new characters, those two thoughts kind of went together, and then our casting people and Katie Jacobs brought us Odette, and things fell into place.
In “The Dig” episode, which was obviously the 150th episode, ended with Thirteen sort of hinting that she’ll need House’s help. And it’s also been so speculated Olivia Wilde (who plays Thirteen) won’t be in full capacity this season. Where that story’s going to go, and are you going to hold off for it for a while because potentially this is the final season? Or will we see any continuity with that at the start of the season?
Shore: Olivia will be in very few episodes this year. Very, very few episodes not because of particular creative reasons on our part but because she’s got a very thriving movie career and has asked us to allow her to do that. We had a great association with her and we do have an episode planned which is kind of the goodbye episode — not just planned; we’ve got it shot. I think it’s very nice.
About two years ago and episode focused on Wilson, and then there was the “Five to Nine” episode with Cuddy. Is there any chance we could see some episodes maybe devoted to like Foreman or Chase or Taub, where we’re seeing their workday from their perspective, rather than House’s?
Shore: Yes. Nothing is firmed up on that but that is something we talk about on a regular basis in the writer’s room. I believe the Wilson one was first right, and we liked it a lot … Wilson was first, and then we did the Cuddy one. We like that to. I think it’s a great way to still be our show and yet get a different perspective on it so absolutely we would love to do another one with somebody else.
Odette, since you’ve been acting since a young age, what makes Jessica Adams a little different than the other roles that you’ve had in the past?
Annable: It’s a little bit different than the one from “Kindergarten Cop.” I’ve grown. This is actually unlike anything I have ever done, and I feel so lucky thus far in my career not to have been stereotyped. I’ve been able to do sort of a little bit of everything but this is so different.
I believe that this is a television show that’s on the highest caliber of writing and acting. I think it’s so flawlessly executed, and it’s been definitely the biggest challenge that I have had yet in my career. And I’m embracing it, and I’m taking it in, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. The character is so intriguing, and I really love playing her every single day, and I’m just excited just to go along with the journey with the audience basically. It’s a very good thing. It’s very exciting.
Are there any episodes coming up that really mean a lot to you and you think might be a game changer for the season?
Shore: No. We haven’t done any good ones this year. That was a joke. There all my babies. They really are. I pride myself on every single episode of this show, and I strive to make them as good as they can be. I think we’re doing some really interesting stuff at the beginning of this year. Bringing House into a new environment, starting with House in a different environment, bringing him back to the same environment but it’s new.
The funny thing is I think on this show those kinds of departure episodes, which I think we do a really nice job of, they got a lot of attention but I think it’s the regular everyday episodes that are the greatest challenge. And in a weird way, I take the greatest pride in because that is the challenge of series TV is taking that environment, that environment that you spend your life in and making it new and fresh and interesting week in and week out. And I pride myself on what myself and our writers have done.
With Cuddy gone and Wilson staying away from House, at least for a little while in the beginning of the season, shall we expect House to push more boundaries or is someone going to be as conscious this season?
Shore: Yes. House is always going to push boundaries with or without Wilson. He’s going to have to earn Wilson back but he will. I’m going to give that away. Spoiler alert. He will win Wilson back. House is going to be House.
House is always going to be House is the short answer to that question. Doesn’t matter what environment he’s in, it’s just a question of whether he can get away with it and to what extent he can get away with it without going back to prison.
Odette, how does working with House change Dr. Jessica Adams’ way of practicing medicine?
Annable: I think she’s used to being really the smartest person in the room, and now she will be the second-smartest person in the room, and she knows that when she meets House. She doesn’t have his experience or wisdom or knowledge yet but she’s truly fascinated by him as a doctor. The interesting thing about her is that she’s fortunate enough to be in a financial situation that she doesn’t have to work but she wants to.
She’s there to learn. She’s very passionate about medicine and he sort of changes that in her. He revives something that she was maybe losing for a second, and she’s sort of an overachiever with a cause and her cause is to help people. I think her relationship with House; they’re going to be playing sort of on that line and towards the end of the first episode you’ll see that they help each other. Yes, so it will be definitely a very interesting relationship.
Who do you think influences the other the most?
Annable: Oh, boy. I think they both will influence each other in many different ways. I wish I could tell you where my character was going and how that sort of will develop but that’s really the beauty of television. You’re sort of going to take the journey with the audience and it’ll be as much of a journey for me as it will be for the audience and we’ll see how that relationship develops. I have no idea where it’s going.
David, when creating House for this season, what’s the biggest change for him?
Shore: Everything’s changed. Unlike in previous years where we sort of picked an individual thing to change, this year for reasons largely beyond our control everything’s changed. Well, not completely beyond our control with some of them but we are going to bring back House to his old world having months and months have passed. The dynamics within that world have completely changed. Everybody has moved on and he’s got to try and get back to that place where he feels comfortable.
Odette, as the newest cast member of “House,” is it what you expected from the show as being the newest cast member and fitting in and everything else?
Annable: Yes. I would have to say, yes. I was definitely nervous. My nerves were taking over coming in because this is a show that’s been on for now it will be eight seasons and these actors have been working together year after year not only just the actors but everybody, the crew. It’s such a well-oiled machine that I was hoping that I could come in and that I was welcomed and to have the dream, and I sort of have.
I’ve walked into a group of people that really have just welcomed me with open arms and have some compassion for me because they were right there with me in the first year, the second year so they understand how challenging the show is. And everybody is encouraging, and Hugh Laurie is such a pleasure to work with as well as the other cast members and our executive producers.
Shore: But I’m on the phone right now so you might want to ask her that when I’m not on the phone.
Annable: Yes, exactly. I’m on my best behavior.
Odette, you started acting at a young age. How did you get into acting?
Annable: The short answer was that I was a very introverted child, and my parents didn’t know how to get me out of my shell. So the better option for them was to throw me into the entertainment business, which I think is ridiculous but now it sort of worked out. I was about years old, and a family friend was doing commercials and they thought, “Well, let’s see what happens.”
My first audition happened to be for “Kindergarten Cop,” and I took that role. I was only starting to learn English at that point. Spanish is my first language, so they made me a speaking character in the movie. I didn’t really know I was shooting a movie. I was just having a lot of fun with 30 kids my own age. Ad my parents thought, “Well, if you want to keep doing this great. If not, no worries.” Ad I really had a great time and I continued to do it throughout the years.
I’d still focus on school but my passion really was to act. It was either to be a CEO of a company, which may very well still happen, or to really push through acting and I did. I took it seriously and I’ve been very lucky and I’m so grateful to be on House now. It’s sort of a dream.
David, did you always think that House would end up in prison when he drove his car through Cuddy’s house or was that something that came to you guys over the summer when you knew about the different cast changes that were happening?
Shore: We never know anything for sure. We knew he’d wind up in prison. We had some debate internally about whether we’d keep him away for a while but we quickly got beyond that, and we kind of want to get back as quickly as possible to the roots of the show so we streamlined the process a little bit.
You’ve written this show for so long and run this show for so long. How challenging is it or how different is it to write the House character or to write the show without him having Cuddy as a love interest, boss, challenger — all the different purposes she served for him on the show?
Shore: I miss her. I miss her personally. I miss her as a writer. But as always is the case, new challenges mean new opportunities and we’re embracing those opportunities.
So House will not be pursuing any kind of romance this season?
Shore: Certainly not initially, but he’s a human being — well, he’s actually not a human being which is a big secret — but in my mind he is a human being and we will treat him accordingly.
Are we going to see House’s Vicodin addition again?
Shore: That has been something that has been a challenge from day one. A practical challenge and a dramatic challenge in the sense that … as a human being. From day one, we have wanted to be honest about that. I made him a Vicodin addict in the pilot, and it’s something that could be played comically. Rhere have been opportunities for that and there have been opportunities for amusement.
We’ve done some of that but it was also extremely important that we treated it honestly. He is an addict. It is a problem and that we explore that honestly. Having said that, the practical issue is just it’s not entertaining to watch a guy dealing with addiction every week of the year. That’s not what the show is about, so it’s alive.
It’s in there. We discuss it. We will have certain episodes where it’s more of a story than in others but it’s not at the center of the series, at least the beginning. There are other issues at the center of the series at the beginning of this season.
For more info: “House” website
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