10:46am PT by Kate Stanhope
Hugh Laurie Returns to TV Full-Time "With Trepidation" on Hulu's 'Chance'
Hugh Laurie has been busy on the small screen in 2016, with the AMC limited series The Night Manager and a recurring role on HBO's political satire Veep. However, Hulu's psychological thriller Chance marks his first TV lead role since House came to a close in 2012.
So how does he approach stepping back into the role of leading man? "With great trepidation," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter Monday at the show's Los Angeles premiere. "I do it nervously, anguishly, partly out of a desire not to dishonor House, which I'm so proud of and which I love so much."
"I was so proud of doing it, and I didn’t want to jump into something that wouldn’t measure up. I have no way of knowing whether Chance does or will, but I can at least say that I was genuinely absorbed and intrigued by the story, by the character, by the world of neuropsychology."
The series Chance, debuting Oct. 19 on the streaming giant, is based on the novel of Ken Nunn and centers on Dr. Eldon Chance (Laurie), a San Francisco-based neuropsychiatrist who reluctantly gets pulled into a violent and dangerous world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness — all while navigating a contentious divorce and trying to raise a teenage daughter.
"This is going to be Hugh Laurie in a way that people haven’t seen him before," says Nunn, who also is an executive producer and writer on the Hulu series.
Although executive producer Michael London says Laurie was the first name suggested for the role, he believed Laurie would be hesitant about playing another doctor.
"We waited a long time not thinking that we were ever going to hear from him," London said. "In my mind, the fact that we were asking him to play another doctor meant that we'd been ridiculed and that the script had probably been thrown against the wall."
After first sending Laurie the book to gauge his interest, the producers then sent him the script a year and a half later. "You never know why people read things when they do but he went back and read the book after we had given him the script and the call that we got was, 'He loves this,' and then he was hooked," London said.
The drama, which received a two-season pickup when it was ordered to series in January, marks Laurie's first for a streaming platform.
"It is a very strange time in television. And honestly, I don't know yet know what I think about it. I worry, I suppose that there's kind of too much of everything and I don't mean to say other people should go away. I kind of feel like I should probably go away because there's so much of everything but there is a vast amount of great storytelling being done. Who knows whether we will make our way in that world? It's certainly a very competitive one," he said. "If we manage to connect with a few people — Hulu will be hoping more than a few people, but I'll be happy with a few people — then we will have done something."
Hulu is indeed banking on Chance drawing more than a few eyeballs. Chance is part of the company's big push into scripted originals that include the Stephen King-J.J. Abrams limited series 11.22.63, the religious drama The Path and the forthcoming Jeffrey Donovan psychic drama Shut Eye in December.
"Because they're young, they're still in that moment when they want want filmmakers and storytellers to be empowered with doing what they want to do so they were tremendously open and encouraging about us making exactly the show we wanted to make," London said. "Being at the birth of something is really exciting for us."
Showrunner Alexandra Cunningham echoed that sentiment. "They were just so open to everything we talked about and so ready for a challenge in the sense that they didn’t have anything else like this," she said. "They just wanted us to sort of spin and spin and spin this story."
Being on Hulu, however, also means that episodes will be released week to week beginning with the two-episode launch Oct. 19. Although that means viewers won't be able to binge-watch the series, London is hopeful that the waiting period between episodes will help grow viewer anticipation as the season goes along.
"It’s a real mystery story so there's a lot of room to talk about it and interpret things different ways," he said. "We're all of the feeling that there's something nice about people having to wait a little bit. Hopefully we don't make them wait too much."
Following the screening of the premiere at Harmony Gold, castmembers Laurie, Gretchen Mol, Paul Adelstein, LisaGay Hamilton and Stefania LaVie Owen, as well as guests including Adelstein's former Private Practice co-star (and Shut Eye leading lady) KaDee Strickland and Adelstein's Scandal co-star Jeff Perry headed to Sunset Tower for an afterparty highlighted by a jazz band — a nod to the show's California noir feel.
Chance premieres Oct. 19 on Hulu.