By Mark Stolyar
For the first time in his life Hugh Laurie came to Ukraine. The visit of the world famous British actor, also known as Dr. House, visited this country in the middle of Euro-2012. The Voice of Russia discussed with Laurie his life after the TV-show, his music and football, of course.
In the light of Euro 2012 would you call yourself an active football supporter?
I love football very much. I cannot play 90 minutes; I cannot even do 9 minutes. But I love it very much and I watched the game last night. I must say that England was a little bit lucky, but Ukraine played terrifically well. It was very exciting stuff. There is almost nothing better than a big sporting championship like this. It makes me happy like nothing else except may be music. But it is close between football and music.
What would happen if Dr House had a football ball instead of a small ball?
It could do, although not for Americans, as they don’t understand this game at all. It is getting a little bit more popular in US, but very slowly. They are more about basketball and American football. But one day they will understand.
We know Hugh Laurie as an artist, who is he as a musician?
I feel in my heart that I have been a musician longer than anything else. When I was young boy music had been my passion. It was always what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I never gave it enough time; I should have been doing more scales. Music is closer to the “real” me than any acting I have done. It is much closer to my heart.
You received musical education when you were six years old, is that correct?
Yes, but for a very short time. One month, that was all. And I hated it. It was very unsuccessful.
What made you start again?
I started listening to records. I think the first blues record I heard was a Willy Dixson song, that I heard on the radio. It was like an electric shock and I was glued to the radio. I started buying records and like every young boy I wanted to be a guitarist. But slowly I started listening more to the piano players. I used to listen to Muddy Waters who I love. I love his guitar playing and his singing, but I found myself listing to his piano player Otis Spann on his records. Back then it was very difficult, but I tried to do the same on the piano. Nowadays with Itunes and Youtube it is much easier to work out what is going on. Listening to records brought me back to music.
Why did it take you so long to start your professional career in music?
Cowardness. I suppose I was thinking: “I am not ready. I need to practice more, I need to work more and commit more”. And I kept putting it off for later. But then I turned 50, now I am 53, and you reach a point in your life when you think: “I cannot wait, I have to do this now”. I don’t want to be an old man saying that I could have done that. This is something I have to do now, but I probably should have done it before. I am just a coward for not doing it before.
What does “blues” mean to you?
I have loved this music since I was very young. Ever since I was a young boy I was always the only one who listened to this music, everyone else was buying pop music. I never bought it. And I could never understand why other people could not hear what was so beautiful in music. I always tried to get people to listen to Muddy Waters, and Willy Dixon, and Howlin Wolf. And I still have that passion for getting people to hear this music and hear how beautiful it is. I love the idea that some people will hear this and say: “Wow, I never heard any Lead Belly songs, or J.B. Lenoir, or The Mississippi Sheiks, so I am going to go and buy those records now.” I feel like it is a great honor if I manage to do that even for just one person.
Can you give any examples of “clinical condition” in modern music?
I think the music that we are playing in the show is a cure for many things. I do believe that it answers many needs in human condition. I think it expresses many things and I think all human life is in this music. I don’t know if that is true for modern music, as I don’t listen too much of it. If you ask me about dubstep I know nothing, neither do I of house music, ironically. But I do believe there is a great cure in the music we are playing in the show. I think people will come and be healed by this music.
Are there any Ukrainian or Russian musicians you like to play with?
Not yet but I would love to do that. We played some shows in Argentina, that is the home of the tango, and we played tango there. That was risky as you don’t know how the people will react, but it actually went very well. We want to be careful as we want it to be respectful, but I would love to try and do a Ukrainian song.
This summer in the UK there is a Queens Diamond Jubilee celebration and the Olympic Games. Do you believe that this is the best opportunity for British artists to show their best?
I hope so. I was away for the Jubilee and I haven’t seen much of the preparation for the Olympics yet, but I do hope we show our best. It’s a funny thing: a lot of British people are very pessimistic and they are always expecting the worst, they are expecting it to be a disaster. May be it is the same in Ukraine. How did people feel about the Euro 2012?
They thought that nothing was ready.
That was exactly the same! So everyone in London is saying that the transport will not work, there will be too many people and there are not enough hotel rooms, and that it is going to rain. But I hope it will surprise British people and people around the world, that we can put on a really good show and people can have fun. I am very excited about it and I am looking forward for this. Because I love sport, and I think it is a very beautiful thing. It is a bit like music, it has its own language. Football is a language and it doesn’t matter where you from if you play football you speak a language. And that brings people together and I think it is a beautiful thing.
Do you have any expectation of the cultural aspects of London, meaning that could it surprise its guests in a cultural way?
I hope so. I missed all the preparations for this and I understand that the show they had for the Jubilee was very spectacular. I hope we can continue to do that and I hope we can surprise people. But I’m British, so I’m expecting it will rain and it will be cold and wet and trains won’t run. But I hope that I’m wrong.
Everyone knows you first as an actor and you have probably heard this question a million times, but when you are playing Dr. House do you understand the medical terms or do you improvise?
I don’t improvise, but I try to understand as much as I can. This is what happens: I get a doctor to explain it to me and I understand it for an exactly one hour. If you ask me an hour later – it is gone. But in that one hour I think: “Yes, I sort of understand the principal of it.” But my memory is hopeless. So don’t ask me now, because I cannot tell you anything.
So for you playing House is a short period of life?
Well, it was a long period of my life but each individual case and disease was short. I would be a terrible doctor because I have no memory. I would have to keep looking things up. But it lasted for 8 years and that is a long period of my life.
What feelings did you have when shooting the last episode?
The actress that played with us was Polish but I think she spoke some Ukrainian. I thought that it was rather a beautiful relationship between two people who didn’t realize what they felt about each other. And they begin being together for practical reasons. And then they realize that they actually like each other and they like spending time together. I found it a very lovely relationship.
You are a writer, musician and actor. What is the next step for you?
I will be painting. Actually I don’t know. I am so excited about the music, right now that is all I want to do and I’m so happy doing it. It may change in a year from now. But right now it is just wonderful. And the musicians I’m playing with are so brilliant. They might be some of the best musicians in the world. And I am so excited to playing on stage with them, it is such a thrill.
You have started your career on television and in film with Stephen Fry, you have been working together for 30 years. Do you plan any joint projects in the future?
Stephen and I are always thinking that we will do something. We never know what it is, but we will do something next month or next year. We actually have one project – a story by Oscar Wilde called The Canterville Ghost. This will be an animated film where we will do the voices.
Did you and Stephen write a script for it?
Not yet but we will write something together. But I do see him when I can. He is a godfather to my children, and a very good one and we are always talking about the thing we are going to do next year.