Katie Jacobs, executive producer of the popular FOX series “House M.D.,” shared tidbits about the show’s early days and offered advice about breaking into the TV business at a question-and-answer session at the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater yesterday.
When the show was first pitched to FOX, the network was worried about the edginess of the show’s title character, Jacobs said. “They were scared of the [painkiller] pills” that House is addicted to, as well as “the curmudgeonly, miserly part” of his persona, she explained.
House’s character makes the series stand out in the crowded field of medical shows, Jacobs said. Though it was difficult to find an actor to fit the Sherlock Holmes aura, she praised the once-unknown Englishman Hugh Laurie as “the only answer” to the dilemma she faced.
When Laurie appeared for his audition, Jacobs said, he sported an umbrella instead of a cane and a button on his lapel with the word “sexy.”
Laurie can never wear the pin again, she said. “Now, his sex appeal is international,” she added.
When asked if Laurie is anything like his character, Jacobs replied that though Laurie is as sharp and funny as Dr. House, he is “a real gentleman, very British” and never says anything to offend — the polar opposite of his character.
Jacobs answered a range of questions from audience members, who tried to extract secrets about future episodes.
In response to a fan’s question about House’s mysterious past, Jacobs replied that in Season Five, “there will be a road trip with House and [fellow doctor] Wilson that will reach into House’s past.”
Regarding the hinted-at relationship between House and Cuddy, a hospital administrator, Jacobs said that fans can expect new developments. “You have to wait a little bit,” Jacobs told the audience. “But what would happen if they did end up in bed together one night? That’s kinda interesting,” she added.
Jacobs also spoke about how to begin a career in the TV industry. She told the students in the audience, “There’s always the question about how you get from where you are to Hollywood ... It’s a real clear path, believe it or not.”
The best way to become a producer or to enter any other part of the TV business is to work as an assistant, Jacobs said. Before she became a producer, Jacobs answered phones and worked her way up from there.
“I really do think it seems like a hard business to penetrate,” Jacobs acknowledged. “But there’s a great community of young people, so when you do answer phones as I did, people help you. ... You become friends with people who grow as you hope to grow in the business.”
Much of the conversation also centered on the recent Writers Guild strike, which halted production of the show after only 12 episodes had been filmed for the current season. Jacobs said the strike was a “failure of leadership” on the part of the guild’s negotiating committee, which “focused on how to hurt the networks instead of negotiating an agreement.”
The strike was “heartbreaking for new series just starting out,” as well as a blow to “House,” “which had just started to hit its stride” as it began its fourth season, she said.
“We will absolutely not be able to do what we were going to do with 24 episodes in 16,” Jacobs explained, referring to the original plans for Season Four. “But we will finish the story arcs we started,” she added.