By Sara A. Bibel
Omar Epps plays Dr. Foreman, the level-headed foil to the brilliant, erratic Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) on the series House. Epps previewed the upcoming season and discussed life behind the scenes of the hit show. Watch the last episode of last season on Fancast.
Season Four ended with House learning he’d set in motion the chain of events that led to his best friend’s girlfriend’s death. How will that plot twist impact his attitude towards the other doctors in season Five?
Epps: It’s very traumatic, especially for Wilson and House. So, from the beginning of the season, there’s a focus on the rift in their relationship. The audience is going to be wondering if they’ll ever reconcile. There’s a ripple effect to that amongst the characters in the hospital. We all have to deal with it. I don’t want to give too much away, but House has to face up to the reality that he might have been partially responsible for that. It’s a very emotional beginning of the season.
Take me through the shooting process for an episode of House.
We’re supposed to shoot each episode in eight days, but it ends up being ten. We’ll do a table read a day or two before we start shooting an episode. We do fourteen or fifteen hour days for ten months out of the year. It’s a lot of hard work, but we’re having the times of our lives.
Do you have a dream storyline for Foreman?
I love being challenged by the writers. I love showing up to work every day and not knowing which way they’re going to take it. It’s been very gratifying. I think we have some of the best writers on television. As an actor I’m excited every day I come to work. I don’t think there would be one specific storyline I would pitch.
How have all the new cast members, including Kal Penn, changed the dynamics of the show?
I think it was time to spice it up a little bit by introducing new characters. In real life, you can only be a [medical] fellow for three years, maybe four. Our audience is not only smart but very intuitive. You don’t want them to get complacent and know what’s going to come: “Someone’s going to get sick at the beginning of the show and they’re going to figure it out by the end of the show.” I think it was a great time to introduce these new characters to the audience just when they were getting comfortable. It’s a lot of opportunity to open the world within the hospital. Now you can really dive into some of the characters’ personal lives beyond the medicine. Having these new characters gives us the platform to do that sort of thing. I think it was brilliant. As an actor it was very invigorating. We’d been sort of doing the same thing for three years. Now the dust is settling and they’re really concentrating on how these new teams relate to the old team and which relationships are being formed. I think it was a great thing to do.
When you were initially cast on House did you realize it was going to be such a big hit? I don’t think anyone know how big of a hit anything is going to be. I will say that I was an optimist. The script was incredible. The cast was great. I thought that there was nothing else on television like it. I thought people were going to respond to it. But never in my wildest dreams did I think it was going to be as big as it is now.
How did you keep yourself busy during House’s hiatus?
I’m producing a film called, Sundays In Fort Greene starring Meagan Good. We’re about to start shooting next month. I was prepping that.
What’s the difference between stepping behind the camera as a producer and being an actor?
As an actor, it’s pretty self-centered. You just worry about story, the creative aspect of it. But as a producer, you have to worry about the whole picture. It’s a lot of work. I get joy from both. To me, it’s all the same thing. This is the business I’m in and it’s what I love to do.
You attended LaGuardia, the high school from “Fame.” How did you know at such a young age that you wanted to be in the entertainment industry?
For me, it all came from writing. I’ve been writing since I was a kid – short stories, poems, music, whatever. The natural progression of that was to be an actor.
Any thoughts to writing an episode of House?
No. I’ve never thought about that. That would be a massive undertaking. But you never know.
On those rare occasions when you aren’t working, what do you like to do to relax?
Football season is here. I’m really happy about that. I like to hang out with my kids.
Do you let your kids watch you on TV?
They’re too young to watch the show, but they know that I’m on TV.
Other than House, what other television shows would you like to watch?
I like Heroes. Other than that, it’s mostly sports, news and documentaries.
Anything else you’d like fans of House to know?
Buckle up and strap in, because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.