It worked in a big way once before for Hugh Laurie, so he’s back playing a similar sounding character in his new series for Hulu. The British actor spent eight seasons portraying a doctor with his own set of problems who went by a one-syllable name when he starred in the FOX series “House.” His latest role is as a forensic neuropsychiatrist with loads of issues who is known as “Chance.”
Laurie didn’t originally make a connection between the roles except for the monosyllable name.
“I thought, should he be called ‘Chancelington’ or something or ‘Chancefordbury’?,” Laurie says. “I don’t really see similarities, and maybe that’s because I’ve artificially erected a wall between the two things.
“Maybe I’m incorrect. Maybe it would be a terrible distraction for the audience, but I hope not because, to me, the characters are massively different. Their practices are different. Their attitude to life is different, and the story that unfolds is infinitely removed from that other world you mentioned.”
To me, the characters are massively different. Their practices are different. Their attitude to life is different, and the story that unfolds is infinitely removed from that other world you mentioned.
Actor Hugh Laurie, on comparing ‘Chance’ to ‘House’
The story of “Chance” is based on the Kem Nunn novel. Dr. Eldon Chance (Laurie) reluctantly gets pulled into a dangerous world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness. He becomes the target of an abusive spouse of one of his patients who just happens to be a ruthless police detective. Gretchen Mol, LisaGay Hamilton, Paul Adelstein✔ and Ethan Suplee✔ star in the series that will begin streaming weekly on Hulu.
Subconsciously, Laurie might have been attracted to a role that, to the casual observer, has similarities to his biggest hit. He knows the obvious big attraction was getting to play such a rich and complex character. Roles like “Chance” and the ones he played in “Veep” and “Night Manager” were enticing enough for him to return to television.
It does help that his recent TV projects were for streaming services or cable channels. That means fewer episodes to make than the 24 he was making each year with “House.”
“I was just intrigued by the notion of just telling a single story from A to B or A to Z, if you like, in these 10 episodes. Generally speaking, television or the older form of television was about the central characters kind of remaining the same while the surrounding characters change, as opposed to film where central characters transform,” Laurie says.
“In this, we are doing something rather different, I think, and we are seeing, or should be seeing, if we get it right, a genuine and rather profound transformation of a number of characters who are unrecognizable at the end from where they started.”
Executive producer Alexandra Cunningham explains that at the start, Chance is beginning to feel that he’s never had an effect on the world around him. He’s a neuropsychiatrist who feels that he has never been able to help any of his patients, that he’s part of a broken system, that he lives in a world that doesn’t work. His saving grace is that he continues to embrace the idea that he can change.
Laurie has called on lessons learned from his father, who was a general practitioner, who told him about dealing with sick people: It’s never a matter of curing someone, but rather just trying to find the least bad option.
This changes when he meets the characters played by Mol and Suplee. His relationship with them helps Chance become more of a man of action.
Laurie has called on lessons learned from his father, who was a general practitioner, who told him about dealing with sick people: It’s never a matter of curing someone, but rather just trying to find the least bad option. He’s brought that philosophy to playing Chance.
“Having to confront this kind of pain and suffering and know that, actually, the best you can do is hold someone’s hand and just guide them through something that is almost unsurvivable, that takes an enormous toll,” Laurie says. “Chance has paid about as much as he can pay of that toll. He’s reached a point where it has become intolerable to simply carry on knowing that he’s not making a difference.
“I think what we would most like, all of us, to have on our gravestones, you know, ‘They made a difference,’ of any kind, in any field, just to make a difference. It’s a modest ambition, but it’s a pretty important one, I think.”
▪ 12:10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, Hulu