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Interview With House Executive Producer, Katie Jacobs

by Lynn DeVries on November 16, 2008 · 0 comments

in House MD,Interviews

Katie JacobsThis week, I was able to take part in a conference call interview with House Executive Producer, Katie Jacobs. She gave some insight into the Huddy relationship and tells us more of what we can expect to see with the characters this season. We also get a bit of information about the possible Private Investigator spinoff… Here’s what was discussed:

Q: I have to wonder, when you were preparing for the hostage episode, did you come across any real instances where anything remotely like this happened where someone went a little crazy in the hospital just to get treatment?

K. Jacobs: Yes. In fact, 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.

Q: That’s straight out of that Denzel Washington movie, I think.

K. Jacobs: Oh, is it? Inside Man?

Q: It’s similar, yes.

K. Jacobs: Yes, so he’s worked on several situations like this. What we were really interested in tapping into – 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 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.

Q: I’d like to talk about whatever we’re on the brink of with House and Cuddy. Would you say that viewers should brace themselves for one of the most unorthodox love affairs in TV history?

K. Jacobs: It’s funny because you’re right to say “unorthodox,” and at the same time, 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. So, yes.

Q: It seems like scheduling and rescheduling have become a fun game for the Fox network lately. What are your thoughts on the move to Mondays?

K. Jacobs: Well, this is the deal, 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.

Q: I understand that obviously you want to make the best show you can, you want to make it as creatively rewarding as possible, but it feels like a lot of people are genuinely concerned about the ratings this year. Your show is obviously still doing very well, but in light of the strike and this splintering audience, are you happy with the numbers so far this year?

K. Jacobs: It’s so funny because I so try to be unaffected by the numbers because I’m not sure how it helps me do my job. I am discouraged by the fact that 8 o’clock offers fewer viewers.

Certainly, we make the shows as good as we can to be seen by as large an audience as possible. I’m proud of how we’re doing given the fact that we’re on at 8 o’clock when there are so few viewers, the fact that we’re still incredibly competitive and one of the top shows given the fact that there are fewer viewers at 8:00. I’m always reassured by our number between the 9:00 and 9:01 time slot that we’re on. They always air us to 9:01. Then, Fringe takes over the last 29 minutes. So, check that number out. It’s kind of impressive.

Q: I want to go back to House and Cuddy. How big a part of this is this going to be of the show from here on out? Have you thought about how risky this story is for you?

K. Jacobs: Well, how big a part in terms of how much screen time?

Q: Right.

K. Jacobs: It’s 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, it’s going to play very much in the way that we’ve done that in the past.

Then, risky: risky how? You tell me more.

Q: Well, I took a poll in my office about people – do they like it? Don’t they like it? I’ve heard from some people who really don’t like it, don’t think that they’re 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 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. That’s actually real. That feels real to me, the fact that there are two sides.

Q: But this is going to go on for weeks, right?

K. Jacobs: 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 that okay?

Q: House-ian. Define that.

K. Jacobs: I like to think that we take our own slant on the world. It’s 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 I’m 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 it’s Hugh or Robert or Lisa, they’re 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. It’s House-ian. It’s left of center.

Q: I’m going to pick up where Hal left off and Matt. Because I’m a girl I’m seeing this whole triangle of love for Hugh Laurie. So, let’s talk. If there was ever a character in televised history that needed to get bedded properly, it’s Dr. Gregory House.

K. Jacobs: I’m with you.

Q: So, you’ve got Dr. Cameron who’s totally pining for him. You’ve got Cuddy. It seems that the chemistry is there regardless of what Hal’s co-workers say. The chemistry is there between him and Cuddy, not him and Cameron. Elaborate.

K. Jacobs: I hope that there’s 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 there’s a lot of pain and if they can somehow be the one to make House smooth out those rough edges, wouldn’t it be sweet? It’s mostly going to be up to House. 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. Tell me what more you want.

Q: 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, medical…

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. It’s a scene between House and Wilson. What we try to do – she does it, I do it and when we’re at our best, everybody tries to do it, it’s 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 Laurie’s brilliant mind. So, for example, we don’t 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. It’s amazing. So, if we put a sculpture of a brain, or if we put lollipops – do you know what I’m 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.

Q: The cast of the show seems like it’s gotten bigger and bigger. Is it a constant challenge to give everybody a little chance to be in each episode?

K. Jacobs: Yes, it is a challenge. It’s 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 you’re right. It is hard, and yet, I always find it satisfying when we’re 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 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 that’s 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.

Q: I know you’re directing that episode. How do you approach directing? Do you ever get surprised at what you see from the director’s eye as opposed to the writer and producer eye?

K. Jacobs: For me, it’s a total dream insofar as, 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.

Q: You were just talking about incorporating all of the characters that you have. Cameron and Chase were sort of really heavy in last night’s 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 that’s kind of weird. I think it’s weird and great in a way because they want more of them. I want more of them. We are currently shooting episode – last night was #7. We are currently working on Episode #13. I don’t know the way the entire season is going to unfold or how much you’re going to see of anyone. They’re going to be woven in the way they are. I’m always happy, as is David Shore, when we get to focus on them because I’m really interested in their point of view. It’s 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, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

Q: Exactly. When we talked right before the season started, you were saying that, this year, maybe it would be more of incorporating everyone. Last year, because of the strike, you guys had a limited amount of episodes. You didn’t get to the point where Cameron and Chase were folded back in. I’m asking -

K. Jacobs: I hope we’re doing a better job of that this season.

Q: I think you are, but will we see more of the same as the episodes go on?

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

Q: The whole arc with Cuddy and the baby was great. I want to know if we’re going to hear more about that as the season goes on. Will she 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 that’s on Cuddy’s mind. So, you will hear more about it.

Q: She’ll think of other options perhaps?

K. Jacobs: You will hear more about it.

Q: What was the decision behind using the walk-and-talk technique of filming in the show? You guys call it pedi-conferencing, I guess.

K. Jacobs: That’s so funny. When we do walk-and-talk’s on our series?

Q: Yes.

K. Jacobs: First of all, I’m phenomenally grateful for the fact that Hugh Laurie spans 6’2″ and is taller than everybody else because it certainly makes those walk-and-talks pop in a way. It’s 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, “I want a medical show, but I don’t want to see white coats going down the hallway.” That was one of the many scenes that contributed to the idea of House. When you put a scene on the move, it’s 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, he’s able to lead the charge. It was never a conscious decision. It was more of just a creative, “Oh, that seems right” kind of decision.

Q: Since most of his cases involve very weird or strange medical conditions, how do you guys pick and choose which ones you’re going to use from all the research that you do?

K. Jacobs: That’s also a good question. 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 don’t 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 what’s wrong with someone is all-around quite unfortunately.

Q: What I meant was, are there certain ones that are just tops, and you’ll be like, “Okay, we got to do this one,” or “We’ll wait for that one.”

K. Jacobs: I don’t 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 I’m not the best person to answer that question.

Q: We kind of talked a little bit already about the back and forth over the Cuddy/House kiss. How much do you take into consideration what fans are saying online? Do you read them? Do you follow them?

K. Jacobs: I will say that I used to because I care, 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.

Q: Also, just really quickly, can you talk a little bit about the storyline right now, happening with Thirteen and her whole downward spiral? How are we going to continue to see that play out?

K. Jacobs: She’s kind of at a spirally place, kind of lost all hope, and feels like since she’s been diagnosed with Huntington’s, and we know that to be a terminal illness, and she watched her mother die from Huntington’s, she’s kind of given up. It’s one of the stories that is in “Last Resort” – the hostage-taker, played by Zeljko Ivanek, 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. So, we are going to deal with it. Then, it continues on, her Huntington’s and how her new point of view or new ideas about how she wants to deal with it – that’s a story line that we will carry on into the New Year.

Q: Kind of following up on Thirteen, the whole bisexual situation – and there have been some fairly graphic scenes. I wanted to find out how you’ve been following the Grey’s Anatomy situation, and if you’ve taken into account the fan reaction to seeing that kind of stuff, especially now that you guys are on …

K. Jacobs: Oh, you can fill me in because I don’t know what’s going on, on Grey’s Anatomy. I have no idea.

Q: They ended very abruptly, a lesbian storyline, and got rid of the actress who was playing the part of one of the women in it.

K. Jacobs: Oh. That was their response to…?

Q: Well, it’s gone very much back-and-forth. There was something that Shonda Rhimes said she was excited to pursue coming into this season, and five episodes in, it was just sort of snuffed out completely.

K. Jacobs: Oh, so I didn’t know about that. I think Thirteen’s – the episode that started with her picking up a girl at a bar is – and you just see them having sex after, the episode ends with her being in the same place. She’s just trying to lose herself, lose what’s ever-present on her mind, which is how am I going to deal with the fact that I have a terminal illness? So, she’s just looking to sex to numb her pain, which ultimately is not going to be that satisfying for her. She’s going to have to figure it out. The fact that it’s a woman in that episode – it’s not about that at the moment. That’s not what we’re exploring or talking about. We’re 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 what’s going on as possible. So, she goes out at night. She uses sex as a way of trying to avoid. It’s not going to work ultimately. She’s going to have to deal with it.

Q: Are you satisfied at this point, right now, with how, particularly Cameron and Chase have been worked back into the fold?

K. Jacobs: Am I satisfied? I’m never satisfied. We work really hard. I think we do a lot of really good work. I’m the kind of person who always thinks, “Oh, maybe a little better, we could do a better job.” So, you’re talking to the wrong person to get a satisfied answer.

Q: I just want to say I did like, very much, this week’s episode, the love episode, and seeing Cameron and Chase again, but will the detective come back or was that just…will we see him again in another show?

K. Jacobs: don’t know the answer to that. We really liked having him. He fits in well, I think, in our show. We really liked playing to him, but right now, he’s not in any more episodes, but I wouldn’t rule out completely him coming back. I liked it. Did you like it?

Q: I wanted to see more of how he would be integrated, to be honest. I kind of liked…whether I liked it for one moment or more. I mean, what happened to the talk of the spin-off with him?

K. Jacobs: We are so in the middle of it. It’s funny. We came back from the strike, and we did four episodes to end Season Four and went right into Season Five without a break, so 28 episodes we’re shooting back-to-back. So, it’s all I can do to keep things straight in my head. That’s a poor answer, but it’s unfortunately true. So, I don’t know right now about this spin-off. David Shore and I are just getting through. It’s up in the air.

K. Jacobs: I love the fact that you guys are interested. I hope I’ve given you sufficient answers. Please keep watching and please keep giving me feedback on the polls you take in your office and what you like and what you don’t like.

[Photo: © FOX Broadcasting Co.]

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