Interview with Olivia Wilde from House

A few days after my interview with Mira Sorvino, I had the opportunity to speak with Olivia Wilde, who plays the character nicknamed Thirteen on House. She had some great answers about upcoming episodes and about her character, as well as the “contest” that took place on the show. To check out the interview, jump with me.
When the group of doctors came into the hospital to interview for the job on House’s team, no one, not even the final 3 actors themselves, knew yet who would be the ones hired. What did that mean for the long-term outlook?

Well it meant that we never took it for granted, which was great. We never knew if our characters were a short-term arc or if we would be there for awhile. And so it sort of made it more of mystery and kind of kept us on our toes, which I think is a really good thing. And I think it’s why the performances turned out as well as we all feel they did is because there was no chance to get lazy, no time for laziness. It was all finding out each week, whether we’d be there the next week. And it was pretty exciting and pretty stressful and what it did was just make us really enjoy every minute of it.

Ironically, the second that we, that Kal and Peter and I, became series regulars, the strike happened. So we still haven’t had a moment to take it for granted, but that’s good. I think that’s a healthy outlook.

With such a huge group for awhile, it would seem obvious that there would be horrible competitiveness, tension and jealousy, but according to Olivia,

We decided very early on that the only way to deal with the competitiveness that was obviously in the air was to joke about it constantly.

The great thing is that everyone had a very kind of relaxed and secure personality, and so there wasn’t any cattiness. I’m being completely honest when I say that. We were shocked ourselves. We were sure that there would be some sort of disappointment and kind of jealousy, but there wasn’t because everyone just had a great sense of humor about it. And we all understood that being on one episode of House is a huge break for any actor. So once we had done one, it was like, no one can complain, really. This is all good for all of us.

And we trusted the creative producers of the show to pick the people that worked best for the show. And with so much respect for the show, that seemed wise, and we trusted them. So amazingly, there was no competitiveness. There was no jealousy and we all became really, really good friends, which we still are.

Olivia’s character, Thirteen, is very private and keeps much about herself secret. The producers even apparently kept most of it secret from Olivia as well.

[That] she may or may not have Huntington’s, that was something I found out a little earlier than everyone else, because I needed to know why she was so guarded.

I went to David Shore and said, “I know you guys keep everything secret. You’re so tight-lipped and I respect that. But I need to know early on, what she’s comfortable with and what strikes a cord with her.” And he trusted me and told me and I didn’t tell a soul, even though it was difficult. But that was good; it was getting me in character. And once I knew, it really shaped her for me and it made me have a lot of empathy and respect for her. And as I continue to learn about her, the same thing is happening. I’m growing to love her more and more. But they’re very good about keeping things very secret on House, even from us. But they respect us and if we need to know something, they’re cool about letting us know.

When I asked her about the nickname her character has and about the characters real name, she said that she did indeed know the name and loves it, but is not sure we’ll find out anytime soon.

I thought they were going to reveal it awhile ago, and I think it’s great that the producers made this dramatic choice not to reveal it when they had planned to. And they actually tried to hide it, it disappeared from the call sheets. It disappeared from around the set. I think they’re not putting too much value on the secrecy of a name, but they like the fact that it is established this sort of inside joke between House and Thirteen. He could easily look at her file and see her name, but he chooses to keep it up.

I think they have an informal relationship. She has almost from the beginning called him just House, as they all do. And it’s almost like the formality of Dr. This and Dr. That has been taken away. And so using her number still at this point when he knows her pretty intimately at this point is a way of acknowledging the joke of her attempt to keep everything tightly held to her chest. And I think that it’s a sort of tongue-in-cheek way of saying, “Okay, you can try to keep it in. I won’t use your name, but I’m going to find out everything else.”

And the rest of the team uses it, I think, as kind of a joke. They could also find out her name if they really wanted to. But at this point, it’s kind of remembering the beginning when she was so tough and still tries to be, but she’s breaking down a little bit.

In the first episode, back this Tuesday, January 29th, it is Christmas time in House-land. (Due to the writers’ strike, this episode was pushed back with the other two.) To everyone’s surprise, House tells them they are going to participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange. When I asked Olivia to tell us more about that, she said,

I think it’s a shock to everyone that House would want to partake in a Secret Santa, but of course, he proceeds in a very House-like way, and of course, he’s going to change the rules of the game. And he really is — this Christmas episode I love so much, because Christmas — you know House is the Grinch. So to imagine him partaking in a Christmas game is just all too delicious. I really laughed my way through the script. I think it’s one of the most brilliant ones, and also quite heartbreaking as they always are in a way.

But it’s a really interesting episode as well, because the competition is now over and he doesn’t have the same power over the characters as he has had up until this point. So now that we aren’t trying to compete against each other and get rid of each other and get a one-up on each other, the dynamic has changed and House is reacting to that. That has something to do with how he proceeds in the game, the Secret Santa game. He doesn’t like giving up games. He likes to always be playing one game or another, so that’s sort of what we find out in this one.

Speaking of playing games, the contest is now over. Obviously Olivia’s character was one of the final 3 chosen. But House had originally fired her and we viewers thought she was gone until Cuddy told House to hire her. Olivia wasn’t worried when she read about House firing her.

We were reading the scripts backwards every week, so I knew I was okay. But there was a moment when my entire family thought I was fired, because I don’t tell them anything in advance. So I got this call from my father, who hadn’t even finished watching the episode and he was like, “What? What happened?” So I had to assure everyone that they had to watch it through. And I had a few friends whose Tivos cut out before the end. And so people were saying, “I’m so sorry to hear you got fired.” And I was like, “No, no, you’ve got to finish it.” So I think that was a great little twist.

House is obviously a well liked and well respected show from the outside part of the viewers. Olivia believes the cast and their work ethic is a large part of that. Such as, when Mira Sorvino was there shooting her episode, all of her work was done in a room by herself. Mira and Olivia both mentioned how Hugh Laurie would go and sit just off-stage while she was filming her part to help support her. Olivia had great things to say about the House cast work ethic and about Mira’s time on set.

That’s sort of the rule of thumb for House. You would never make someone do a phone call or any scene like that without being off camera for them. I think everyone takes rehearsal very seriously and really is there for each other to work through the scene as many times as anybody wants before shooting, even though that can be time consuming.

We’re known as having one of the hardest work schedules of any TV show. And we don’t do a lot of location shoots; we’re often inside the hospital. But the reason we take so long is because people are willing to work really hard for each other. And even if you have one line in a scene and you feel totally comfortable with just winging it and going back to your trailer, but someone else really wants to work through it for a few hours and get it rehearsed properly. So that it’s up to par for the shooting of the show, then you do that for them, because they’d do it for you.

Hugh is constantly like that and I was really pleased to see that Mira Sorvino was like that as well. She at one point, missed a flight home to New York, I believe, because she was willing to stay and do off camera for us. And I thought that that was unbelievable.

She’s an Oscar-winning actress and she has a family at home and a young kid wanting to see his mom and she really had enough respect for everybody that she waited. And I just remember being so blown away by that. She was fabulous and that’s the rule of thumb on House.

Olivia is taking advantage of the writers’ strike and is beginning this week filming The Year One with Jack Black and Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno & Superbad). She said,

It’s a Monty Pythonesque journey through biblical times. And it’s ridiculously hilarious. I mean I died; I read the script and just fell over on my floor laughing. So I’m really excited to be a part of it. And the character couldn’t be more different from Thirteen, so that will be fun to shake it up a little bit.

Catch Olivia, who was absolutely vivacious and enthusiastic and as nice as can be during the interview, and the rest of the cast, along with guest star Janel Moloney (Brotherhood & The West Wing), this week on Tuesday, January 29th at 9/8c.

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