David Strathairn and Hugh Laurie – Two Great Actors Together in “Lockdown”

I want to wax prosaic about David Strathairn (pronounced Struh-THAIRN), who plays the POTW (Patient Of The Week), Nash, in the sixth season, seventeenth episode of House called “Lockdown” which will be aired again on Wednesday, December 21 at 8:00 am on the USA channel.

He comes on the scene in this episode when a lockdown of the hospital is imposed pending a search for a missing infant, and, by chance, House decides to hide away in a room, which happens to be occupied by a dying patient whose case he refused to consider. Because of his weak condition, what we see mostly of Nash is him laying there, confined to his bed, and his face and voice created the despairing yet resigned feelings of this retired college professor whose life was slipping away as he laid there alone in the dark. And he had some unfinished business in his life, which House helped him to resolve.

David Strathairn was born in San Francisco on January 26, 1949, which makes him about 10 1/2 years older than Hugh Laurie. He is of Scottish (like HL) and native Hawaiian ancestry, both on his father’s side. Also, his father was a doctor, again like HL. He attended and graduated from Williams College, a high ranking college in western Massachusetts, where he began to be interested in theater, and there he met and befriended John Sayles, a now famous director and producer with whom he worked on many projects afterward (like Hugh and Stephen Fry?).

David married Logan Goodman in 1980, who was part of the production crew of David’s first movie (and Sayles’ first writing/producing/acting effort), “Return of the Secaucus 7″(1980). They are still married (like Hugh!) and they have two sons, Ty, who is a jazz pianist, and Ebbe, who works in architecture.

Here are a few other similarities and differences between the two actors’ careers. David has extensive experience in local theaters, and he has done Shakespeare in a recent filming of “The Tempest” (2010), in which he plays King Alonso. On the other hand, Hugh has been in one play, a Ben Elton production called “Gasping” (1990), and has never played Shakespeare (not according to online records) – Hugh’s career direction has been mostly in British television and movies, until House.

In his youth, out of necessity, David attended Ringing Brothers clown college, and spent six months working as a clown, traveling with a circus (seriously, I would love to have seen that!!). Hugh’s young manhood was dominated by comedic roles, mostly improvisation. Because of their distinctive voices, they have both done a lot of narration. David narrated three “American Masters” episodes, and was the resident narrator for the 2007 TV series “The Supreme Court”. Hugh narrated a great many audiobooks and other programs, including a special TV documentary called “Discovering The Real World of Harry Potter” (2001), and David played a central role in a similarly themed movie called “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2008).

I have seen three movies that feature David Strathairn: “A League of Their Own” (1992), which is a Tom Hanks movie about women’s baseball – DS played one of the managers (I don’t remember his role, which is a reason to netflix it again); “Temple Grandin” (2010), an award winning HBO biography featuring Claire Danes about an autistic woman who made great contributions to the fields of animal care and autism – he played an insightful and caring doctor who helped her along; and “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005), another award winning biographical work surrounding the life and times of the early TV newscaster Edward R. Murrow – he very authentically played the central role.

Suffice it to say that I think that David Strathairn is a GREAT ACTOR, one of the best. Currently, he is in a science fiction TV series on SyFy called “Alphas”, where he plays the major character Dr. Lee Rosen, whose task is to identify and train Alphas, that is, humans with unusual mental abilities, and to stop the Alphas who commit crimes. His compelling presence and incredible face, which I did not recognize at first, was what made me stop my channel surfing and watch the entire episode for the first time, and now I try to catch it when I can. He definitely has that elusive quality that people call “gravitas”, not unlike Ben Kingsley, who can also maintain that quality while immersing himself into his roles.

He is going to be in a Stephen Spielberg movie next year, called “Lincoln”. He will be playing William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state who worked to greatly expand the boundaries of the United States. Daniel Day Lewis (who will play Lincoln) will be in it, along with Tommie Lee Jones, James Spader, and Sally Field. Unless they turn this into a sleaze fest or a violent mess (and I don’t think they will), I fully intend to go and see it.

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