Hugh Laurie: From Prince of Wales to Blackbeard

Blackbeard lives! At least in the mind of Neil Cross, the creator of Luther (2011- ), who has agreed to deliver a TV series to NBC titled Crossbones, which is set in 1715 and will portray the famed British pirate who robbed people on the eastern coast of the American colonies. It has now been announced that Hugh Laurie is in talks to play the pirate. Let’s hope that it works out better than it did when Laurie was announced as a cast member of the RoboCop (1987) remake.


In the early years (that’s the late 1970s), Laurie attended Eton and Cambridge, rowing like his Olympic gold-winning father, dating Emma Thompson and finding a friend for life in Stephen Fry. His interest in acting and comedy was obvious already in Alfresco, an early comedy sketch show featuring the above and Robbie Coltrane.


Another talented buddy Laurie and Fry found while studying was Rowan Atkinson. Together they made the Black Adder series. It was in the third and fourth seasons of the show that Laurie was handed more significant work, appearing as the thoroughly dim-witted Prince of Wales and Lieutenant George Colthurst St Barleigh. This sort of defined Laurie to international audiences, making his darker American breakthrough all the more surprising.


In the years 1989–1995, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry delivered four seasons of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, a comedy sketch show in the vein of Monty Python (although not quite as freaky as that). Especially valid as a weapon against the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, the show is interesting as a comparison to Jeeves and Wooster, the 1990-1993 adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s 1930s stories, also featuring Fry and Laurie (in a somewhat more conservative mood).


And then came House in 2004, the show that not only introduced Laurie to American audiences but also showed the world that this was an actor who could do a lot more than play moronic royals on TV. This was irresistible to him; his early experiences lead him toward darkness, such as the realization that his mother didn’t really like him (which is something he told James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio). Besides, what actor would resist such a tempting opportunity to research one’s most miserable corners? The clip above shows Laurie auditioning for House.

Perhaps Blackbeard offers Laurie another chance to dig deeper inside his past/mind?

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