Cut to the Chase
After months of turmoil, this actor is back on his feet, writes Colin Vickery
THE past 15 months have been a personal and professional rollercoaster for Aussie actor Jesse Spencer.
In August last year, his relationship with fellow House actor Jennifer Morrison disintegrated. The pair had been engaged since the previous December (Spencer proposed to Morrison at the Eiffel Tower during a Paris holiday) and they were only months away from their wedding.
‘‘After much consideration, we have decided not to get married,’’ the couple said in a joint statement at the time. ‘‘We are still very close, and we look forward to continuing to work together on House.’’
It was embarrassing as well as heartbreaking for the 29-year-old Spencer. Morrison had featured on the cover of a leading US weddings magazine in a bride’s dress in the lead-up to the planned nuptials and the pair had to share kissing scenes on the Hugh Laurie medical drama.
Morrison admits the co-stars agreed not to lock lips during rehearsals.
‘‘Out of respect, I saved it for the take,’’ she said of the scenes.
‘‘There’s a different intensity now, but I think it really works,’’ Spencer agrees.
Changes to the House roster added to Spencer’s woes. A new team of recruits (Kal Penn as Dr Lawrence Kilmer, Olivia Wilde as Thirteen and Peter Jacobson as Dr Chris Taub) was introduced in season four and that meant less screen time for Spencer in his role as Dr Robert Chase.
But the actor has toughed it out and now he is back on top. He has a new lady in his life — British singer Louise Griffiths — and is signed to House for another three years.
Spencer sounds upbeat as he speaks from Los Angeles during a break in filming, but admits that the past 15 months took him to some very dark places.
‘‘I was engaged last year and that broke off and for a while I didn’t know where I was. But I’ve moved on now, found a new girl, and she’s great,’’ he says.
Griffiths, a former contestant of BBC television series Fame Academy 2, had experienced her own relationship heartbreak. She got engaged to Formula One driver Jenson Button in 2003, but Button broke off the engagement in 2005, less than three months before their wedding day.
She was rumoured to be dating singer Craig David and was seen in St Tropez with veteran actor Bruce Willis before dating Spencer.
The pair met through mutual friends at Los Angeles bar The Green Door and made their relationship public by appearing together at last month’s 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (Morrison is said to be dating Prison Break actor Amaury Nolasco).
‘‘It’s young and it’s going well,’’ Spencer says of the relationship with Griffiths. ‘‘She’s doing a film up in Michigan with Christina Ricci right now and I visited her last weekend.’’
The House situation has also stabilised. Early reports had it that Spencer’s role had been cut because he had fallen out of favour with the show’s creator, David Shore.
Instead, it was all part of a plan to revitalise the show by moving Spencer’s Chase, Morrison’s Dr Alison Cameron and Omar Epps’s Dr Eric Foreman into more senior positions answerable to hospital administrator Dr Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein).
‘‘ Filming House takes nine months of the year which doesn’t leave room for much else, though I’m not working as much,’’ Spencer says.
‘‘I’m trying to score some other work in between (filming House episodes), but it’s pretty hard to fit in so I’m trying to find jobs that only last for two weeks or so.
‘‘Watching Hugh has been great and it has improved me as an actor. I don’t know why the guy hasn’t won an Emmy yet. I think it’s ridiculous. The idea of being charming and really nasty at the same time is a really difficult thing to do. To see someone pull that off every day is amazing.’’
Coincidentally, Spencer says he was heading for a life in medicine before he decided to pursue acting. His father, Rodney, is a GP, brother Tarney is an oculo-plastic surgeon, brother Luke an orthopaedic surgeon and sister Polly an intern in medicine.
‘‘I was thinking about doing medicine at (Melbourne’s) Monash University, but when I got out of high school I put that on hold,’’ he says. ‘‘I knew how lucrative it (medicine) was and how difficult it was to build a career (in acting), but I thought I’d give acting a shot because I’d put eight years into it. House, PG Channel 10, Wednesday, 8.30pm Medical drama Duration: 1 hour
‘‘I think my family think it’s funny (that I play a doctor on House). They do like it because out of all the medical shows, we try to keep as much reality in the medicine even though it is still set in a fantasy world.’’
Spencer says that the US will be his base for the foreseeable future but that, much like actor Eric Bana, he would love to return to Australia for any prime acting roles. A move to the UK (he spent over four years there after leaving Neighbours) is also a possibility.
‘‘It wasn’t until House came along that I went ‘I’m going to stick to this (acting)’,’’ he says. ‘‘I did some good stuff over in the UK, but I wasn’t consistently working. For a while there I was going ‘Do I really want to do this — should I go back to university?’ but I think I’m on the train now. I can’t get off.
‘‘ House has opened a lot of doors for me, I’ve met a whole bunch of people and got a whole new bunch of contacts. I’ve got the golden ticket.’’
Mending hearts: Jesse Spencer is in a new relationship after the cancellation of his wedding to (inset) fellow House actor Jennifer Morrison.