[11/24/08 - 12:49 AM]
Interview: "House" Executive Producer Katie Jacobs
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

"House" is clearly on a roll. High ratings, solid storylines and more heat than ever due to a sweeps smooch between House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), which has fans in a frenzy over what is to come next. Katie Jacobs, executive producer, writer and director, dished to Jim Halterman about what "House" has in store for the potential lovers, why directing (Jacobs helmed this week's episode) is somewhat easier than her producer gig and whether or not she pays attention to what the fans are saying.

While a romantic pairing of House and Cuddy has fans lighting up the message boards on the Internet, one opinion is that the relationship would never work because the two characters, with their constant fights and battles in the workplace. Does Jacobs agree? Not exactly. "I think it's probably more real than any other love relationship on TV insofar as relationships are complicated. House and Cuddy work together. There's obvious chemistry; there's obvious respect, but there's barbs, and there's jousting. It is unorthodox and, at the very same time, incredibly real." The fact that there are differing opinions on the House/Cuddy pairing only makes Jacobs smile more. "Believe it or not, I love the fact that some people like it and some people don't because I think that's what's so interesting to us about the relationship is that I could, right now, make a case for it and make a case against it. That's interesting to me."

As far as the obvious question of when things between House and Cuddy might progress, if there is a time frame for this story, Jacobs didn't share it. "I don't think that it will go on in a predictable, 'Okay, now everything is shifting, and this is the story' kind of way. Hopefully, we explore it in a very "House"-ian way, which is, it's there, and now, what do we do? But, don't expect to see dates and they go to the movies. It's not going to unfold like that. It's going to unfold in a "House"-ian way."

Is what the fans are saying about the storyline or anything else with the show something she considers when deciding stories and direction of the series? "I will say that I used to because I care," she stated, "but I stopped because I found that - this could be just my own personal shortcoming, but it felt to me like it wasn't a productive part of the process for me that no matter how I tried to recognize what the issues that were important to them were, it didn't feel like I was doing a satisfactory job. So, I have retreated. I care immensely about the fans. I think we have the most amazing fans. I don't mind the controversy or the arguing between them, but at the same time, I think you could lose yourself in trying to make too many people happy all at the same time."

In breaking down the complicated Dr. Gregory House, Jacobs offered some insight into how she sees the popular character, who, she feels, could be paired with other characters besides Cuddy. "House, as a character, has a hole, has an emptiness... he could have a relationship with any one of them, but he's got to be in the mind space and be at a place where he's ready to make himself vulnerable. I don't see him as being at that place entirely at the moment. At times, we've seen glimpses of his getting closer.

While directing tonight's episode, "The Last Resort," Jacobs talked about what the producers and writers were going for by using a hostage situation to pull out a solid "House" story. "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 we're not diagnosed, when they simply don't know what's 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 he's not being seen, and yet, at the same time, he's lost everything because, also, people with illnesses know, you miss a certain amount of work because you're not feeling well, or you're not able to carry on even the closest of relationships, so you can lose your life to this illness. That's what we're more interested in is patients' frustration and their need to be seen."

The directing process is something that Jacobs relishes for taking off the several hats she must wear on any given day. She explained, "as a producer, we're always in a constant state of prepping, casting one episode, shooting at least one episode or picking up - we only shoot one at a time, but sometimes, we have to pick up other things and then we're 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, that's challenging with 24 episodes a year. As a director, it's kind of the dream part about it. It's an excuse. I'm forgiven for just focusing on one show. I really like the way that feels when I choose to do that."

Any Fox series knows to prepare for the annual return in January of "American Idol" and "House" is no different. While Tuesday nights have obviously worked very well for them, they'll be moving to Monday to make room for the competition phenomenon. While Jacobs may not have any say in the matter, she had no problem sharing her opinion about the move. "Well, this is the deal," she began, "it's not my job to schedule the show. In fact, I have very little, if any - practically no say - over where they put us. What I will say is that my job is to contribute to making the best show possible. So, that's what we try to focus on. I will say that I don't think they move us cavalierly although it may seem that way. I think what they're interested in, and we share that interest, is building the strongest network possible. If that means getting a foothold in other one-hour dramas, I think that's what they're interested in. We support that. I don't like moving; I don't like being on at 8 o'clock. I do want to be on a really strong network, so all of those things come into play."

"Yes, it is a challenge," Jacobs answered when asked about servicing the number of regular characters in each episode of the series, currently in its fifth season. "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 we're exploring that week. So, it's hard to do, but very satisfying when we get to hear the different voices and different opinions - Kutner, Taub, Cameron, Chase - they all have different slants. The hostage episode 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."

In this week's episode, for example, the current storyline of Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), who has been diagnosed with the terminal Huntington's Disease, gets a chance to progress. "She's kind of at a spirally place, kind of lost all hope... [and] the hostage-taker, played by Zeljko Ivanek (who recently won an Emmy for his supporting role on "Damages"), decides that every drug that Dr. House is going to try on him to see what's wrong with him, he's 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 there's no better candidate, since she's sick anyway, to take all of these drugs. By the end of the hostage episode, she's going to come to a very interesting, different place than we've seen her before, having gone to the very edge in this episode."

With so much attention on the will they/won't they possibilities with House and Cuddy, Jacobs also wanted to address another recent development involving Cuddy - her desire to have a child. Recently, Cuddy was close to adopting a child but the adoption fell through, much to Cuddy's disappointment. "I thought Lisa did such a beautiful job with her performance on that episode," Jacobs said. "That really is something that's on Cuddy's mind. So, you will hear more about it."

"House" airs Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c on FOX.

  [november 2008]  


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