Gretchen Mol Talks Starring in Chance with Hugh Laurie
It’s been more than four years since Hugh Laurie last portrayed a brilliant yet troubled doctor on TV—but much to our delight, the House actor is back to solving people puzzles onscreen. He stars as San Francisco-based neuropsychiatrist Eldon Chance in Hulu’s new thriller series Chance, with Gretchen Mol taking on the role of his dangerously seductive yet mentally unstable patient, Jaclyn Blackstone.
Mol stopped by InStyle’s New York City offices last week to dish on the drama—which has already been picked up for a second season—and she gave us the full scoop on what initially drew her to the “mysterious” part, how she and Laurie got “into the zone together” while filming crazy-long scenes, and why the show is different from House, as well as any other series airing right now. Scroll down for our full interview with the star, and stream the first episode of Chance on Hulu today.
InStyle: What first drew you to the role?
Gretchen Mol: I read the novel that it’s based on, which is written by Kem Nunn ($10; amazon.com). It's a psychological noir thriller that’s set in San Francisco, and I just couldn't put the book down. I was reading it while on vacation, and once I got to the character that I was to play, I was so fascinated by her. She's very mysterious, and she may or may not have a personality disorder. So as an actor, I was just totally intrigued.
Was it appealing to transform yourself into such a complex character?
I think that’s always the case with characters who aren't what they seem, or have more potential than just what's immediately on the page—and that's who she was. You really couldn't tell what she was thinking, and it was definitely a puzzle that I would have to take charge of. Even at the end of the book, you don't have all of the answers about this woman. And that’s what I liked about her—that I could sort of take it on my own and fill in all the blanks and spaces in between.
Tell us: What was it like working with Hugh?
Hugh’s such a great actor. He's got so much vulnerability and warmth and intelligence. The writing for the show is also very unique, so we'd have these six-page scenes that almost felt like a play in a television show—and that’s kind of rare, because usually they're about a page and a half. So we'd just get into the zone together for these really long scenes, and he was wonderful to play off of.
Do you think House fans will be surprised by his latest character—who also happens to be a doctor?
It's not a similar role at all. House always had the answers at the end. He always solved the case, and he was the brightest and smartest in the room—but this is the complete opposite. Chance is in a spiral where he is actually losing control of everything around him. He's lost his wife, and his daughter is a teenager who’s going through some issues. He's trying to manage all of these things, and he's getting himself pulled into a darker realm than he's ever lived in before. He's completely out of his element—and that’s not at all like his prior character.
Is there one scene you filmed that stands out in your mind as a favorite?
Yes. Everything starts to ramp up towards the end of the season, and around the eighth episode you finally get to see more of who my character is, and that’s the reason I really was excited about playing her. That’s all I can say without giving anything away! But it was fun.
Without revealing any spoilers … what can we look forward to as the season progresses?
Oh boy. Just twists and turns and unraveling and seeing sort of every man get pulled into a sort of darker side. Ethan Suplee plays a wonderful character. I think that Eldon Chance, Hugh's character, is really surrounded by some fascinating, intriguing, and dark people. And the city of San Francisco itself plays a really interesting role, too, because of the fog and the gloom and the sort of beauty of it but also the derelict quality that San Francisco also has.
Is there any other TV show that you would compare it to?
I think people who are fans of noir and movies such as Vertigo and The Maltese Falcon will love it. When I saw the trailer, I thought, ‘Wow there really isn't anything else on television like this.’ And that's what I think is cool about it. It's not at all a period piece—when I say that it’s going back to those movies, I mean that it has a lot of the similar tropes of a noir thriller. But I feel like it's very modern. It's kind of a bit of a mystery, too—there's lots of twists and turns.
Other than Chance, what shows are you binge-watching right now?
I'm the kind of person who watches everything later—I’m always a little bit behind the curve. I just started watching Vinyl, which I really enjoyed, and I recently watched Billions, which was fun. But my favorite of late was The Affair. I really got pulled into it—there aren’t a lot of shows with such a female perspective. The show just feels very feminine, and I enjoyed that.
Chance premieres on Hulu today, Oct. 19.