In the spring of 2009 while homebound with flu, I surfed channels and an evocative image of Hugh Laurie as House appeared.. Hugh’s mesmerizing interpretation quickly captivated me. I became a faithful fan, catching up on earlier seasons and learning all I could about the show and the actor. House’s alienation was mine. House’s rejections were mine. House’s quiet despair was mine. House’s loneliness was mine. Learning about Hugh’s life revealed parallels to my own experience as well.
The experiences of both actor and character brought healing to me, first by House’s confrontation with authority after I had resigned from a toxic work environment, and second by Hugh Laurie’s embodiment of intellect, English iconoclastic humor, creative range, and debonair charm that reminded me of men in my family, long departed but still powerfully heroic. The dazzling force in the character as well as the actor contributed to my feeling more at home in the world and inspired me to pursue a renewed career in the visual arts, taking the plunge to learn new skills, leaving all former work-related negativity behind in a blast of Houseisms.
After anticipating a possible Season 9, I read Hugh Laurie’s characteristically articulate statement that House would end this spring. Although I was not surprised, I realized that the end of “House” is more of a loss than the end of another great show or series with a provocative character and interesting, if uneven, scripts. The loss is greater than disappointment that thus far Hugh is not scheduling concerts in the Northeastern US, although videos of last summer’s concerts brought comfort after my devastated reactions to Season 7. Hugh’s intense investment in music and performance showed the strength with which he imbued House’s personality, but without the misery and hopelessness of the show’s perspective. He was standing strong with humor and passion, and with the support of his wife, Jo, and family, he offered the fulfillment of his dream of playing Blues beyond his living room - his risky creative pursuit provided healing for me beyond the screen.
A friend who has just discovered “House” and loves Hugh’s and Stephen’s other work, commented on Hugh’s statement of House’s concluding season, that the hours to provide such work must be so tiring and that Hugh looked exhausted. I imagine that is the toll of eight years of 5 day a week, 16 hour work days. I began to see such signs in DVD’s starting around 2007, and thought perhaps Jo saw it too, and decided to alter their decision for her to remain in London with the children, to be with him more often in LA to ease the stress. With others, I am grateful to Hugh’s family for caring for him and sharing him with us. Although I imagine he would have pushed himself for Season 9, ending with Season 8 may be best for him. The renewal of his spirit in his concerts suggests there is much joy yet to come for him and for all of his adoring fans.
My sadness of loss as the series ends is deeply about the reality that Hugh’s accessibility as a presence as he has been on the show, in interviews and photos, is about to conclude.
After I left my work in a spiritually-oriented activist institution, again and again when I meet people, they say they miss my “presence.” This comes from those who may not be inclined to rational analysis based on Western European ideas, but have a kind of intuitive wisdom of life, coming from diverse New York City cultures where they know what sustains people through public “works,” whether worship, theater, music, or visual art. My own Celtic roots are attuned to that way of “knowing.”
So my sadness is an anticipated loss of that “presence.” It’s more than fan rush, it’s more than the complex puzzles. It’s a kind of unique combination of his whole being, and it has inspired my own creativity, makes me laugh in these frustrating and unsettling times, and goes deeply into unconscious processes and remains there. Hugh as House conveys the human being fully alive.
I recognize that over these intense seasons, Hugh has brought a particular embodiment of Gregory House that has taken over a large imaginative life of its own for me. His presence cannot pervade the media without House being a hot weekly item, and with the end of House the show, his presence and visibility has to diminish. That may be why he is planning many concerts in late spring and summer, for although his performances get better and enjoyable to many people, the underlying force is the power of his interpretation of House, as he has acknowledged. With that awareness, , I now see that Hugh’s pervasive “presence” is about to take another direction that has to be.
Hugh could not have gone on as the House who galvanized people, partly because he is no longer the Hugh of 2004, partly because of the choice of the showrunners thus far not to explore redemptive directions for the character. Hugh maintains the original enthusiasm, supported by memory of the iconic Gregory House, early stunning scripts and stable cast, and is in transition to what will be his next project.
I should expect that with his many talents, he will look for interesting opportunities in addition to music, and because he is so savvy, knows that as the years pass, he cannot ride on his anti-hero matinee idol appeal that he brought us in House, surprising him and delighting many of us around the world. Hugh gives 200% to whatever he does, and I dearly hope he will choose work appropriate to who he is now. There surely will be scripts worthy of his complex talents, but never again can there be the same amazing, incredibly liminal thrill of witnessing his creating the forever iconic House week after week, year after year.
My list of what I will remember continues to morph and seems to be limitless, but as a visual artist, I will remember most of all, Hugh/House in diagnostic sessions, standing at the white board, writing in his exquisitely expressive hand. That is Hugh, that is House, and I will profoundly miss him.
So this IS a time of bereavement, at least for me, and no amount of excitement over a concert schedule, even if one were down the street, can compensate for the stark reality that new weekly Hugh interpretations of House are about to end.
His transfiguring “presence” will be more distant and less frequent. That is a form of death, and must be acknowledged.
~2 Lightworker, NYC