Cut to the Chase

Af­ter months of tur­moil, this ac­tor is back on his feet, writes Colin Vick­ery

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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.

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