‘House’ calls on boorish behavior

Worthy of attention: Hugh Laurie

Best part about working in TV? “As opposed to in the theater or in a coal mine? I tried coal mining but kept banging my head. So the best part of working in TV is high ceilings.”

Hardest part about working in TV? “The volume of work. Keeping one’s concentration over a long period of time. It’s like a game of poker: You can play well for a few hours, but if your head drops, there was no point in showing up in the first place.”

Favorite scene from this past season? “I honestly don’t have one, because I don’t watch the show. But I could describe some great scenes from ‘Arrested Development’ if you like.”

What are your favorite shows? ” ‘Arrested Development’ is genius. There’s also ‘American Chopper,’ which is on Discovery. It’s absolutely brilliant, and I’m completely addicted to it.”

Hugh Laurie might not be the Man of a Thousand Faces exactly, but just check out three of his roles, and you’ll gain a sense of his range.

American auds probably still know him best as the terminally dim but eminently endearing Bertie Wooster opposite Stephen Fry on “Jeeves and Wooster” for four seasons in the early 1990s, now rerun in syndication. But in 2001, the Oxford-born Laurie was cast very much against type as Chicago-born helmer Vincente Minnelli in the Judy Davis starrer “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.”

Then last year, in an even bigger leap, Laurie signed to play an irascible doctor on the Fox series “House.” For Laurie, perennially cast as a nice (and often dim) guy, playing a brilliant but downright callous physician seemed like a reinvention.

But the actor, who turns 46 Saturday, dismisses the notion that his casting was a cunning counterintuitive move.

“I think most Americans hadn’t the first idea who I was,” he says on the phone from London. “Certainly Bryan Singer didn’t know me, and it’s to Universal’s credit that they put someone on in a drama who isn’t known.”

Laurie remains modest about his work despite accruing steady TV gigs for over two decades. Perhaps it’s because he never studied to be an actor. “I’m going to come clean,” he says with mock sincerity. “I never trained as an actor. Maybe I’ll check into a course or something. But I’m not sure I can face it. There are times when I wish I had a diploma on the wall.”

Yet he’s not exactly starved for higher learning. He went to Eton and then Cambridge, where he met Emma Thompson. Both were members of the Footlights, the school’s famed comedy troupe.

“We were in a show together. We dated for a while. Then she introduced me to Stephen Fry,” Laurie recalls.

“It was a fortuitous series of events. I really went to university to row,” says the actor, whose father won an Olympic gold medal in the sport. “But then I got mono, so I took up something less strenuous, acting. A couple of lucky breaks and you get from A to B, and you can’t quite figure out how it happened.

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