'House M.D.' interview: Katie Jacobs talks Cuddy, Cameron and House triangle

Monsters and Critics joined a few journalists on a teleconference with "House M.D." executive producer Katie Jacobs, and the call got into the nitty-gritty of the whole House-Cuddy-Cameron heat currently being played out.

The unorthodox love affair will continue to tease and torture those who want Cameron to win House's affection, and team Cuddy (me) who feel she is Gregory's woman.

FOX's "House M.D." features the brilliant work of Hugh Laurie as the contentious, afflicted and cranky Dr. Gregory House.   The show is overseen by his executive producer Katie Jacobs, who keeps the storyline simmering between House, Cuddy and his supplicant medical minions who share a love-hate relationship with their brilliant mentor who takes pleasure in pushing them all to their limits.

Exciting episodes are in store for November sweeps month:  ďEmancipation,Ē airing on November 18th and then ďLast Resort,Ē which Katie Jacobs also directed, airing on November 25th, the show has an extended airtime for that episode - from 8:00 to 9:08 p.m. on that night. 

Monsters and Critics talked to Katie to talk all things "House."

Katie, how did the writers and you prep the hostage episode?

K. Jacobs I talked to several SWAT guys.  One had a really interesting story about how the hostage taker was moving outside the hospital, from one area to the other, and they were all poised to get him.  When he came out, he and the hostages that were surrounding him all had on surgical scrubs and masks so they could not figure out who the hostage taker was and who the victims were.  Yes, we researched this. 

Heís worked on several situations like this.  What we were really interested in tapping into Ė because obviously guys pulling guns is not all that original, but what we were interested in tapping into is the frustration that many of us feel when we go in to see a doctor or a hospital, and weíre not diagnosed, when they simply donít know whatís wrong. 

This patient had been to 16 hospitals and has been through every imaginable test and he feels that there is a certain indignity, and heís not being seen, and yet, at the same time, heís lost everything because, also, people with illnesses know, you miss a certain amount of work because youíre not feeling well, or youíre not able to carry on even the closest of relationships, so you can lose your life to this illness.  Thatís what weíre more interested in is patientsí frustration and their need to be seen.

Talk about House and Cuddy for a moment. Unorthodox love affair?

K. Jacobs: Itís funny because youíre right to say ďunorthodox,Ē and at the same time, I think itís probably more real than any other love relationship on TV insofar as relationships are complicated. 

House and Cuddy work together.  Thereís obvious chemistry; thereís obvious respect, but thereís barbs, and thereís jousting.  It is unorthodox and, at the very same time, incredibly real.  So, yes.

How big a part of this is this going to be of the show from here on out?  Have you thought about how risky their potential love affair is for you?

K. Jacobs: Well, how big a part in terms of how much screen time?
Itís pretty much going to fold in the way that all of our stories fold in, in terms of character and the narrative plot procedural aspect. 

Hopefully, we do the best job we can to have the patient-of-the-week, as it were, tie in and reveal in some way something thematically about our characters and give them the opportunity to reveal a character. 

So, itís going to play very much in the way that weíve done that in the past. 
Then, risky: risky how?  You tell me more.

Well, I took a poll in my office about people Ė do they like it?  Donít they like it?  Iíve heard from some people who really donít like it, donít think that theyíre right for each other.

K. Jacobs They may not be right for each other.  First of all, I love the fact that you took a poll.  Believe it or not, I love the fact that some people like it and some people donít because I think thatís whatís so interesting to us about the relationship is that I could, right now, make a case for it and make a case against it.  Thatís interesting to me.  Thatís actually real.  That feels real to me, the fact that there are two sides.

I donít think that it will go on in a predictable, ďOkay, now everything is shifting, and this is the storyĒ kind of way.  Hopefully, we explore it in a very House-ian way, which is, itís there, and now, what do we do?  But, donít expect to see dates and they go to the movies.  Itís not going to unfold like that.  Itís going to unfold in a House-ian way.  Is that okay?

House-ian.  Define that.

K. Jacobs: I like to think that we take our own slant on the world.  Itís usually a bit harsher or rough around the edges or spicier than most shows, but at the very same time, I think that gives us an opportunity to hit real sweetness and comedy. 

One of the things that Iím most proud of about the show is that, if you look at our one-hour drama in comparison to many other of the popular one-hour dramas, both on cable and on network TV, our actors are so completely gifted as dramatic actors and gifted as comedic actors, whether itís Hugh or Robert or Lisa, theyíre all seriously gifted comedic actors, so House-ian meaning hit it hard, but hit it funny at the same time and hit it sweet.

The Christmas episode really has a very satisfying surprise for Cuddy and House in a personal kind of way.  I do not mean that they wind up embracing each other.  Itís House-ian.  Itís left of center. 

Iím going to pick at this House-Cuddy subject some more.  Because Iím a girl Iím seeing this whole triangle of love for Hugh Laurie's House.  So, letís talk.  If there was ever a character in televised history that needed to get bedded properly, itís Dr. Gregory House. 

K. Jacobs Iím with you.

So, youíve got Dr. Cameron whoís totally pining for him.  Youíve got Cuddy.  It seems that the chemistry is there between him and Cuddy, not him and Cameron.  Elaborate.

K. Jacobs:  I hope that thereís chemistry between House and Cuddy, House and Cameron, House and Wilson, House and Thirteen. 

I certainly hope we go for as much chemistry as possible.  I think what it is, is House, as a character, has a hole, has an emptiness.  What most of these women want to do is somehow see if they can ease his pain because everybody knows on the inside, or they think on the inside that thereís a lot of pain and if they can somehow be the one to make House smooth out those rough edges, wouldnít it be sweet? 

Itís mostly going to be up to House.  He could have a relationship with any one of them, but heís got to be in the mind space and be at a place where heís ready to make himself vulnerable.  I donít see him as being at that place entirely at the moment.  At times, weíve seen glimpses of his getting closer.  

Technical question.  I love the work that Danielle Berman does, your set decorator.  I was wondering if you could talk about the unusual props that she has to procure for your production?

K. Jacobs:  First of all, I love the fact that you notice her work because she really is a gem and works so hard and is so good at her job.  What we try to do, I remember in particular for some reason, this episode that we did where House goes into a second-hand store. 

Itís a scene between House and Wilson.  What we try to do Ė she does it, I do it and when weíre at our best, everybody tries to do it, itís sort of in the dressing of one of our sets if we know that House is going to be in that set, we try to give as many opportunities for House to do something that would come out of character and out of Hugh Laurieís brilliant mind. 

So, for example, we donít write in all of the toys that he may play with, right?  But we dress sets to give Hugh opportunities in the exploration of the character to reveal things about the story through the props we put around.  He always does.  Itís amazing. 

So, if we put a sculpture of a brain, or if we put lollipops Ė do you know what Iím saying?  The more we dress it, the more opportunities there are for Hugh to figure out a way, if he wants to, to incorporate them into his performance.

Is it a constant challenge to give everybody a little chance to be in each episode?

K. Jacobs Yes, it is a challenge.  Itís something we really wanted to expand for our own stories and broaden out and do things a little differently, just to keep it fresh for ourselves, but absolutely youíre right. 

It is hard, and yet, I always find it satisfying when weíre able to do it because what I love about what David Shore has created is, every character, I feel has their specific point of view on the topic of conversation that weíre exploring that week. 
So, itís hard to do, but very satisfying when we get to hear the different voices and different opinions Ė Kutner, Taub, Cameron, Chase Ė they all have different slants.  The hostage episode thatís coming up reveals that, how they all feel about what House is doing inside while trying to get the gun away from the guy and treating the guy.  So, yes, the answer is yes.

How do you approach directing?  Do you ever get surprised at what you see from the directorís eye as opposed to the writer and producer eye?

K. Jacobs:  For me, itís a total dream insofar as, as a producer, weíre always in a constant state of prepping, casting one episode, shooting at least one episode or picking up Ė we only shoot one at a time, but sometimes, we have to pick up other things and then weíre in post on at least three. 

So, that kind of juggling and having to split your mind in so many different directions and keep so much in your head is something, as a producer, thatís challenging with 24 episodes a year. 

As a director, itís kind of the dream part about it.  Itís an excuse.  Iím forgiven for just focusing on one show.  I really like the way that feels when I choose to do that.

Cameron and Chase were sort of really heavy in last nightís episode, which I know a lot of the fans are excited about.  How much more of them are we going to see?

K. Jacobs: Well, this is kind of a trick question because I know whatever I say that the fans are going to think that I made it up or am lying, so thatís kind of weird.  I think itís weird and great in a way because they want more of them. 

I want more of them.  We are currently shooting episode Ė last night was #7.  We are currently working on Episode #13.  I donít know the way the entire season is going to unfold or how much youíre going to see of anyone. 

Theyíre going to be woven in the way they are.  Iím always happy, as is David Shore, when we get to focus on them because Iím really interested in their point of view.  Itís kind of a hot topic because we want to see all of our characters.  We never can give enough time space to Hugh either because we want to see all of our characters and we want to see Hugh.  So, itís an embarrassment of riches. 

We see more of the same as the episodes go on?

K. Jacobs: I hope so.  Initially, last season Ė I remember we did talk about this when we were repopulating with the ďSurvivorĒ game and who was going to be on Houseís new team.  It was hard to weave everybody in.  I certainly hope weíre doing a better job of it now because that is our desire.

Will Cuddy still be thinking about the baby?

K. Jacobs Yes.
I thought Lisa did such a beautiful job with her performance on that episode.  That really is something thatís on Cuddyís mind.  So, you will hear more about it.

What was the decision behind using the walk-and-talk technique of filming in the show?  You guys call it pedi-conferencing?

K. Jacobs: Thatís so funny.  When we do walk-and-talkís on our series?
First of all, Iím phenomenally grateful for the fact that Hugh Laurie spans 6í2Ē and is taller than everybody else because it certainly makes those walk-and-talks pop in a way. 

Itís funny because one of the very first things before even the idea for the show House came about, my partner, Paul Attanasio, and I were meeting with the different heads of networks and seeing what they wanted. 

Gail Berman, at the time, was at this network.  She said, ďI want a medical show, but I donít want to see white coats going down the hallway.Ē  That was one of the many scenes that contributed to the idea of House. 

When you put a scene on the move, itís a different way of creating an urgency and an intensity.  I think that Hugh is so mesmerizing.  Here he is with a cane and a limp; yet, heís able to lead the charge.  It was never a conscious decision.  It was more of just a creative, ďOh, that seems rightĒ kind of decision. 

How do you guys pick and choose which medical conditions youíre going to use from all the research that you do?

K. Jacobs: Unfortunately, there are so many cases to choose from, more often than not, maybe not more often than not, a surprising number of times when something is wrong with you, and you go into the hospital, they donít know what is wrong with you. 

The way that they figure out, the only option that they have, is this high stakes trial and error, where they start to treat and see if you respond to that treatment.  It eliminates certain possibilities and puts other possibilities. 

So, very few, if any, doctors take it to the extent that Dr. House takes it to, but the way of thinking about how do you figure out whatís wrong with someone is all-around quite unfortunately. 

What I meant was, are there certain ones that are just tops, and youíll be like, ďOkay, we got to do this one,Ē or ďWeíll wait for that one.Ē

K. Jacobs I donít think so.  No because then you have to put in the twists and the turns to getting the diagnosis.  I suppose occasionally all of our writers bring their individual, medical mystery ideas to the table.  They all are responsible to come up with those medical mysteries and then bring them to us.  So maybe Iím not the best person to answer that question.

Can you talk a little bit about what is happening with Thirteen and her whole downward spiral?  How are we going to continue to see that play out?

K. Jacobs: Sheís kind of at a spirally place, kind of lost all hope, and feels like since sheís been diagnosed with Huntingtonís, and we know that to be a terminal illness, and she watched her mother die from Huntingtonís, sheís kind of given up.  Itís one of the stories that is in ďLast ResortĒ Ė the hostage-taker, played by Zeljko Ivanek, decides that every drug that Dr. House is going to try on him to see whatís wrong with him, heís going to make somebody else take it first. 

That person has to take all the drugs to see how they interact together.  Thirteen, as part of her spiral, volunteers for this.  She thinks thereís no better candidate, since sheís sick anyway, to take all of these drugs. 

By the end of the hostage episode, sheís going to come to a very interesting, different place than weíve seen her before, having gone to the very edge in this episode.  So, we are going to deal with it.  Then, it continues on, her Huntingtonís and how her new point of view or new ideas about how she wants to deal with it Ė thatís a story line that we will carry on into the New Year.

I think Thirteenís Ė the episode that started with her picking up a girl at a bar is Ė and you just see them having sex after, the episode ends with her being in the same place.  Sheís just trying to lose herself, lose whatís ever-present on her mind, which is how am I going to deal with the fact that I have a terminal illness? 

So, sheís just looking to sex to numb her pain, which ultimately is not going to be that satisfying for her.  Sheís going to have to figure it out. 
The fact that itís a woman in that episode Ė itís not about that at the moment.

Thatís not what weíre exploring or talking about.  Weíre dealing with the character who wants to figure out how to numb her pain, and how to not deal, and how to go as far away from the reality of whatís going on as possible.  So, she goes out at night.  She uses sex as a way of trying to avoid.  Itís not going to work ultimately.  Sheís going to have to deal with it.

Further Reading on M&C

Hugh Laurie Biography - - Hugh Laurie Movies -