Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Hugh Laurie is starring in a dark series about a doctor, titled with the last name of his character.
No, House is not returning for another season. This time, Laurie will executive producer and star in Chance, Hulu’s provocative new psychological thriller adaptation of Kem Nunn’s novel about Eldon Chance, a forensic neuropsychiatrist who reluctantly gets sucked into a dangerous world of police corruption, sexual obsession, fractured identities, and violence. And when Laurie was asked about the similarities to House, he was shocked to realize just how similar the two shows sounded.
“It’s a monosyllable. That only just occurred to me as you said that,” Laurie said at the 2016 TCA Summer press tour. “It should be called Chancefordburry.”
But, for Laurie, the similarities stop at the title and logline coincidences.
“I honestly don’t see any similarities,” Laurie said. “Maybe that’s because I’ve artificially … sort of, ‘built a wall,’ between the two things. Maybe I’m incorrect. Maybe it will be a terrible distraction for the audience but I hope not because to me, the characters are massively different. Their practices are different, their attitudes about life are different, the story that unfolds is infinitely removed from that other world you mentioned.”
Looking back on his long-running drama House, Laurie recalled how the series was both a comedy and drama. But unlike House—who dealt with physical injuries and diseases and disorders—Chance deals with the much more nebulous field of the mind, which can lead to feelings of being worthless when you can’t “cure” a patient.
“I feel inconsequential and impotent every day. That is my natural state,” Laurie said with a laugh. “My father was a doctor, a general practitioner. And very clearly, I remember at Christmas and various times of the year, he would get gifts from grateful patients. A pair of socks, a bottle of wine. ‘Dear doctor, thank you for lancing my boil.’ He did things and made people’s lives better and people expressed gratitude for that.”
He continued, “In preparation for Chance, I spent some time with a neuropsychiatrist in London, and I asked him whether he kept in touch with patients, whether he got Christmas cards. He said, ‘absolutely not, because the truth is, I don’t heal anybody. The best I can do is manage incredibly damaged people. My job is about trying to find the least bad option. That’s the best I can hope for. Nobody leaves my office saying, ‘Thank god, I’m cured.’ It doesn’t happen.'”
According to Laurie, “the toll this takes on therapists and practitioners of mental health is unimaginable to me.”
“I don’t think I would last a week having to confront this kind of pain and suffering and know that actually, the best you can do is hold someone’s hand and just guide them through something that is almost unsurvivable,” Laurie said. “That takes an enormous toll and when we join him in the story, Chance has paid about as much as he can pay of that toll. He’s reached a point where it has become intolerable to simply carry on, knowing that he’s not making a difference. After all, what we’d all like to have on our gravestones is they ‘made a difference.’ It’s a modest ambition but a pretty important one, I think.”
And that’s why this role and series appealed so much to Laurie, because it dealt with something that is still so wildly misunderstood and is generally still a mystery.
“Neuroscience is absolutely fascinating,” Laurie said. “And yet, psychiatry and neuroscience, we can’t know everything. We don’t. We’re coloring bits of the brain. I don’t mean to disrespect, but it’s got a ways to go and I think it will become more and more valued as time goes by.”
Are you looking forward to Chance? Let us know in the comments below.
Chance premieres Wednesday, Oct. 19 on Hulu.