Freethinker: Hugh Laurie



On this date in 1959, James Hugh Calum Laurie was born in Oxford, England. Laurie attended Eton College, where he competed in rowing, and later attended Cambridge University, where he studied anthropology. At Cambridge, Laurie joined the Footlights, Cambridge’s student comedy society, where he met future collaborators Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry. He graduated in 1981 from Selwyn College, with a degree in anthropology and archaeology.

After graduation, he worked on a variety of comic television projects in Britain. He had a recurring role in the third and fourth seasons of the popular UK sitcom “Blackadder” (1983-1989), and with Stephen Fry wrote and starred in the sketch comedy series “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” (1987-1995). During that time, Laurie also starred opposite Fry in the series “Jeeves and Wooster” (1990-1993), adapted from P.G. Wodehouse‘s novels. (Laurie played the bumbling Bertie Wooster and Fry played the butler, Jeeves.)

Notable screen roles have included “Sense and Sensibility,” screenplay by Emma Thompson (who also starred in it), paired opposite Imogen Stubbs, a frequent co-star (1995). Laurie, whose father was a medical doctor, is perhaps best known for his starring role on the U.S. drama series “House, M.D.” (2004-2012). On “House,” Laurie plays an infectious disease specialist and brilliant diagnostician. In a significant departure from the upper-class British characters Laurie has played throughout most of his career, Dr. House has an American accent.

Laurie and his wife, theater administrator Jo Green, have been married since 1989. They have three children. Laurie lived in Los Angeles for much of the year filming “House,” but his family has remained in London. In 2011, Laurie released an album of Blues music recorded in New Orleans, entitled “Let Them Talk.” Laurie does vocals and piano for the album, collaborating with many famous Blues musicians. Laurie was raised Scottish Presbyterian, and continues to express an affinity for this background, despite now identifying as an atheist. He once told The Times [U.K.], “I admire the music, buildings and ethics of religion, but I come unstuck on the God thing” (March 29, 2008).

James Lipton: Do you share House’s skepticism?

Hugh Laurie: [laughing] I do. Big chunks of it, yes. I’m not a religious man. Again, I think this is connected to my father. My father was religious oddly enough, but I nonetheless I suppose was impressed by [and] enamored of his devotion to medical science. I find I am a fan of science. I believe in science. A humility before the facts. I find that a moving and beautiful thing. And belief in the unknown I find less interesting. I find the known and the knowable interesting enough.

—Hugh Laurie in an interview on “Inside the Actors Studio,” July 31, 2006