After eight seasons, the hit Fox drama House comes to an end with its series finale on May 21st. Following a one-hour retrospective special that will look back at this groundbreaking series and feature interviews with the series’ stars and producers, the emotional series finale, directed by series creator/executive producer David Shore, with find the team treating a drug addict patient (guest star James LeGros) that results in Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) examining his life, his future and his own personal demons.
During this recent interview to reflect on the end of the popular TV show, David Shore talked about what he’d most like the show to be remembered for, how fans of the series can expect a bittersweet ending, why the House/Wilson friendship has endured, the biggest surprises of the show’s success, how proud he is of what they accomplished over eight seasons, what it was like to direct the final episode, and that he never had an endgame planned out from the beginning, but that things never veered too far off of his original vision. He also talked about his plan to continue in television and develop something new, and that he is looking forward to exploring new characters, new ideas and a new setting. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: When people look back on this show, what do you want them to most remember about it, years from now?
DAVID SHORE: It’s really about the character and what the character stands for, which is really the pursuit of truth, not just blindly following things, and really asking yourself what is reality and what is the right thing to do. That search for an objective truth is the thing that I fundamentally found the most interesting, throughout the life of the show.
Why do you think Wilson has remained friends with House, despite all those sometimes malicious mind-games that he’s played on him, over the years?
SHORE: I think there’s something clearly wrong with Wilson, as well. When we were casting Wilson, Robert Sean Leonard was reading for the network, and he came in and did a great job, but the network wanted him to be a little kinder and a little nicer. They wanted him to be the nice guy, opposite House. There was a bit of an edge to the way he was reading it. Bryan Singer, who was directing it, went off to give him the note outside the room, and I was sitting there in the room, thinking about it and going, “I think that’s a bad idea. He can’t be too soft. There has to be something about this guy that would make him be friends with House. There has to be a bit of an edge to him.” And, I ran out of the room to tell Bryan that I didn’t agree with that note, and to tell Robert. As soon as I get it out of my mouth, Bryan said, “Oh it’s a terrible note. We’ll have him read it that way, we’ll get him the part, and then we’ll do it our way later.” So, we’ve always been aware of the fact that there has to be something about this character that’s a little broken, and I think there is.
What led to the decision to have Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) get sick?
SHORE: It’s one of those things where, every year, a couple times a year, we sit down and go, “What do we do to these people? What situations do we throw them into?” It’s all about which type of situation can give rise to opportunities to explore the character of House, and to explore the characters around him. So, a lot of ideas are bandied about, every year, and one of the ideas that was bandied about, as we were pretty sure we were heading towards the end of the show, was this idea, and it all fell into the category of challenging and exploring the House/Wilson friendship. One of the things that I think we’ve done very well on this show, if I do say so, is the House/Wilson relationship. There are a lot of explorations on TV of romantic relationships, and some are good and some are bad. I think there are very few explorations of male friendship that’ s not just a wingman type friendship and not just an opportunity for humor, but that really explores two friends and their relationship. I think it’s something we’ve done well, that isn’t done that often. I’m proud of it. It felt like the right idea to explore, as we headed towards the end of the series.
With a finale entitled “Everybody Dies,” are you implying that not everyone will get a happy ending? What kind of closure can viewers expect for the series?
SHORE: It’s definitely an ending. I don’t want to say more than that. We never do happy endings, but we also try not to simply do miserable endings. Bittersweet is the most you can hope for, from us.
When this show became an expected success, how did you decide where to go with it, to keep it going, year after year?
SHORE: It was unexpected success. We’ve always been driven by the idea of what interests us, and maybe the fact that it was unexpected success and that we succeeded beyond what we hoped for, freed us up to just go, “You know what? This is what I want to do now. If it fails miserably, that’s okay.” I think that’s the right way to do a show. I think you have to do the stories that interest you and hope an audience likes it, rather than doing stories that you think the audience will like, whether you like them or not. I think there has to be something that you find compelling and interesting, and then hopefully an audience will agree with you. So, I was never looking 80 episodes down the road. At most, I was looking 10 to 15 episodes down the road. You just put your head down and try and find new situations and new stories.
Now that you’ve had a chance to do the retrospective and to have House do some thinking in the last episode, when you look back at the show now, what surprises you about what the show has become and about what House has become?
SHORE: The most fundamental surprise to me is that it has wound up being more than a niche audience, although in this day and age, you can have very large niche audiences. Right from the beginning, from the time we cast Hugh [Laurie], I knew it was going to be a show that I would like. I thought maybe some people, who were a little like me, would like it. I never imagined it would get the following it has gotten, and the international following. That’s reassuring, on many levels.
Over the years, House has done some pretty reprehensible things. Was there anything that gave you pause, even as you or your writing staff was coming up with it, that you thought might have gone a little too far?
SHORE: No, not really. The saying within the writer’s room, which were my words of wisdom, if you will, was, “The punishment doesn’t have to fit the crime, but there has to be a crime.” As long as there was a House-like motivation, which means not just self-aggrandizement or self-enrichment, but as long as it was ultimately about solving that puzzle, which in turn meant getting somebody better, pretty much anything went. I know there was a real outcry when he drove his car through Cuddy’s (Lisa Edelstein) wall, which was never intended to cause her harm, it was meant to cause her home harm. That was an irrational act. I thought it was a logical and motivated irrational act, but it was still an irrational act from a rational man, which was what we intended and why we had to pay a price the next year. That may have been why that act got more of a reaction than any of the other reprehensible things he did. There was no upside to driving that car, except for the satisfaction of lashing out.
What do you think the highlights of the series are, and what do you think the mistakes were?
SHORE: I’m not going to answer the second part of that question. We made no mistakes. No, I’m sure we made mistakes. I know we made mistakes. It’s one of those things, though, where you keep going and you can’t really assess it because there’s no point in that. You can’t do it over again. You make decisions and choices, and you’re never going to know if they’re the ideal choices, but you make them and you make the most of them. There are things we did that I’m quite proud of. Most of the episodes we did, I’m extremely proud of. I think the House/Wilson relationship, from day one, has been a great one. Constantly refreshing the show was a risky move, but I’m proud of it because it worked more often than it didn’t. It’s the type of show that is basically a procedural show, but it has enough serialized elements that it could get tiresome, and I’m sure some people believe it did. It didn’t, for me. I think we kept it fresh enough, in giving new situations, which is against the instincts of a network show. I’m grateful to them for letting us do it.
Is there a particular character that’s been especially gratifying to see evolve, over the past eight seasons?
SHORE: I’m glad you asked that, because I think the character of Dr. House has gotten a lot of attention, and Hugh has gotten a lot of attention, rightfully so because he’s fantastic. I do think that that character doesn’t work unless you surround him with interesting, smart and complicated characters, and perhaps among the award shows, they’ve gotten lost, but they deserve a huge amount of the credit, every single one of them. It’s been interesting to watch all of our actors, particularly the younger ones, grow up, as actors and as human beings. They’ve all been a pleasure to watch, since the beginning, but Jesse [Spencer] and Jennifer [Morrison] were particularly young. Olivia [Wilde] was young, as well. It’s been interesting, watching them mature. It sounds like they were immature before, but we’ve been very lucky, in that regard. We had a very grown up set of actors, on our show.
What can you say about the decision to take Chase (Jesse Spencer) out of the equation a little bit, for the last couple of episodes?
SHORE: He was asked to go do a pilot, and it happened right at a time when we were considering this storyline that happened in the last episode, where he decides to move on, so it worked nicely. We weren’t sure what we were going to do. We were on the fence about that storyline. And then, we went, “Oh, that storyline seems really good now.” So, we let him out to go do a pilot, which I understand has now been picked up, so you’ll see him on TV in the Fall, I believe. Not with me. I’ll have nothing to do with it. But, you’ll still see Jesse. So, to a great extent, we were moving towards the ending, looking for ways to wrap up our stories. The House/Wilson thing was the primary focus, but we were aware that the supporting characters also needed some element of closure, in the broadest sense. We didn’t want to throw it all into the final episode because it felt a little convenient to have everything happen in the final episode. And, Jesse has been with us since the beginning, so we decided to give him his own little ending story, and I thought he was great.
Do you have any regrets about pairing up House with Cuddy?
SHORE: No, because I’m not big on regrets. That’s not to say it was perfect. I do, fundamentally, believe that we had to do it, and I know a lot of people think we could have done it better, or that we shouldn’t have done it, or that once we did do it, we should have kept them together. It’s been a bit of a lightening rod. I think it was going to be a lightening rod, no matter what we did. I’m not saying we did everything perfect, but I’m not saying we did things horribly either. I think we did a lot of stuff really well. I think it was a difficult thing to do, at all. It’s an impossible thing to do without getting that sort of response. But, fundamentally, we had to do it. You can’t have people just go on. You can’t have sexual tension go on and on and on. It was there from the beginning, and I enjoyed working with it from the beginning, but at a certain point, we had to put them together.
When you recast a number of the actors, and you did it twice, were you worried about how that would affect the fans and the ratings?
SHORE: Yes, but not overly. I was aware that people would be disappointed with some things. You have to make changes before people are clamoring for changes. If people are asking for changes, it’s too late. You have to have people a little bit upset. How you calculate that, I don’t know. I just think it’s the death of a show to be driven by those considerations. If your audience doesn’t like something, you should think to yourself, “Well, why don’t they like something? Is there something wrong here?” And, if they like something, you should think to yourself, “Why do they like it? What am I doing right here?,” and deal with those issues. But, you have to be driven by the stories that you want to tell. You can’t simply be responding, or there won’t be any real heart to those stories anymore.
What was it like for you to direct the final episode of this series that you created and worked on, for such a long time?
SHORE: It’s very weird. It’s one of those things where my answer isn’t as satisfying as I’d like it to be because directing is a very all-consuming job. What you want to do there, as you’re coming down the final road, is to just sit back and enjoy and let the wind flow through your hair. When you’re directing, you’re sitting there going, “I need to make this shot. How many hours do we have left in the day? How many hours behind are we?” You’re just constantly worried about doing the job. So, 98% of the time was just doing the job, and then 2% of the time was our first A.D. saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a series wrap on Mr. Jesse Spencer!,” and you would go, “Oh my God, where am I?!” You would react and take that moment, and then somebody would say, “We have to get back to work! We’re an hour behind.”
When the series first started, did you have any sort of endgame in mind?
SHORE: No. In my mind, that would have been incredibly pompous. The idea that this was going to last more than 12 episodes, and that I could plan an ending, is just way too arrogant. It’s American network TV. I fully expected it would just stay on the air, and I would tell individual stories about this individual, until they told me I couldn’t do that anymore.
Did the direction of House change from the vision you conceptualized, when the players starting performing?
SHORE: Not really. The great thing about Hugh Laurie, from my point-of-view, is that he and I have shared the same vision of this character, from day one. We read a lot of people and we met with a lot of people and nobody seemed to get it. And then, he came in and he was House. If you watch his audition tape, which you can from the Season 1 DVD, he was doing the same thing then that’s doing now, and it was without any direction or coaching. He put himself on tape, over in Africa, and sent it in to us, and he obviously was thinking the exact same things that we were. It’s been a wonderful collaboration for me. There have been some other characters where you think, “That works,” or “That doesn’t work,” but it’s difficult, in TV, to do too much of that because you need to have your scripts ready and planned out, well in advance of when you’re shooting.
What three components do you believe were the most effective in endearing House to the viewers?
SHORE: Well, there’s an alchemy to these things, and I’m not sure you can single out any component. He is who he is, and people responded. I don’t know, if you took away anything, what it would be. It’s Hugh Laurie’s eyes, it’s the character’s sense of humor, and the fact that he’s a bit of a 15-year-old boy, along with a hundred other things.
Are the returning characters all being introduced into the storyline organically, or did you guys have to shuffle the storyline around, once you got confirmation that they were able to return?
SHORE: We developed the idea for this finale episode, months and months ago. When you see it, it will start to become clear. There were many things that I liked about this idea. It allowed us to explore who he was and the nature of his character, and take a look at who he is, as a human being. It also allowed us to naturally bring back other people, so I started making phone calls.
After working on this show for so long, what’s the thing that you’ve learned about yourself from the experience?
SHORE: I should have learned a lot of stuff, right? Nobody learns anything. You reach your emotional peak at age 18. I do know there are some things that I’m better at than other things, and that they have become quite focused. I feel like, if I were to say a positive thing about me that I learned, it would sound nasty. And I just don’t want to say a negative thing about myself, but there are probably negative things that I’ve learned more than anything else.
Looking forward, what’s next for you? Are you planning on diving back into TV, or are you going to take some time off?
SHORE: I will take the time to develop something new, so you won’t see something from me in the Fall. I will take a breath. But, yes, I am planning on getting back into the TV business.
What kind of show would you like to do, in the future?
SHORE: Well, I don’t want to just repeat myself. One of the great things about this business, and one of the tragic things about this business, is that you have to start over again. So, I’m looking forward to exploring new characters, new ideas and a new setting. But, I am who I am. There are going to be elements of me, in whatever I do. One of the great things about this show was channeling some of my own subconscious. I suspect that will sneak into everything I do.