4 actors who were almost cast as the lead on House M.D.

By: H&I Staff    Posted: October 17, 2019, 9:58AM Tags: Tags: Did you know?

Images: The Everett Collection

There was a good deal of confusion going around during the casting of House in 2004. The producers of the darkly comic medical drama were seeking a "quintessentially American" actor to play the Gregory House. Hugh Laurie, a distinctly British actor who was born and educated in Oxford, England, was filming a movie in Namibia at the time. He filmed an audition tape in his hotel bathroom, using an umbrella as a cane. Of course, he performed with an American accent. The creators of House thought he was American. They must have not been familiar with his BBC sketch comedy show A Bit of Fry & Laurie, or his work in Jeeves and Wooster, which is about as British as the cast of Downtown Abbey eating crumpets.

Laurie, meanwhile, was confused about the role. He figured House was a supporting character. In his mind, there was no way such a brash and sarcastic doctor could be the focus of a network TV series. He realized his mistake and the size of the role once he got the script.

Of course, Laurie was not the only actor considered for the part. Hollywood rarely locks in on one actor from the beginning.

The alternates are quite fascinating. Let's take a look.


Denis Leary

Leary certainly has a knack for playing the part of a caustic personality. In the early 1990s, the Boston comedian rose to fame in a series of cigarette-fueled rants against pop music on MTV. His tirades on R.E.M. selling out and Vanilla Ice popped up between commercials. As House was in preproduction, Leary landed another role as an abrasive man wrestling with demons on Rescue Me.

Image: The Everett Collection


David Cross

Perhaps best known for his self-deprecating role as Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development, stand-up comic Cross played a wide range of short-tempered men on his brilliant 1990s HBO sketch series Mr. Show with Bob and David. As much as we adore that cult comedy, we have a hard time taking him seriously as House. Cross poked fun at his audition on Arrested Development. There's a scene where Tobias (a struggling actor) has personalized license plates made of roles that he auditioned for. One of them reads DR HOUSE.

Image: The Everett Collection


Rob Morrow

In the early 1990s, Morrow played a doctor of a different sort on Northern Exposure, the fish-out-of-water dramedy about a New York physician working in rural Alaska. Not long after House started, Morrow landed on another H&I series, playing an FBI agent on Numb3rs. Coincidentally, Robert Sean Leonard, who you know as Dr. Wilson on House, heavily considered playing Charlie, Morrow's character's brother, on Numb3rs. He took the Wilson role instead for a surprising reason — he wanted fewer scenes. "The less I work, the happier I am," he remarked. 

Image: The Everett Collection


Patrick Dempsey

McDreamy as House? It could have happened. In fact, Dempsey, once a teen idol of the 1980s, tried out for two roles on House, the lead and the underling Dr. Robert Chase. (Australian Jesse Spencer landed that latter role.) But Dempsey ended up working in another fictional hospital, playing Derek Shepherd for 11 (!) seasons on Grey's Anatomy.

Image: The Everett Collection