The consistently cool Omar Epps certainly has warmed up to the opportunity to step it up as his Dr. Foreman takes charge on Fox's hit medical drama, House (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET). TV Guide spoke to the actor about his latest round of rounds.
TV Guide: You played intern Dennis Gant on ER, so this is your second role as a TV doctor. Does that make it easier to toss out terms like nesidioblastoma?
Omar Epps: Oh, it's still hard. [Laughs]
TV Guide: What would Dr. Foreman think of Dr. Gant?
Epps: That Gant was weak. He couldn't handle the pressure.
TV Guide: Unlike the unflappable Dr. Foreman. Does he ever have any doubts?
Epps: Every case is doubt; it's about trusting your instincts and your knowledge. All you can do is hope for the best. The guys who are confident and comfortable are the guys doing cosmetic surgery not to dis cosmetic surgeons! But 10 years ago in diagnostics, they said, "Don't do X, Y and Z." And now it's, "No, it's actually good for you." Ten years from now they'll change it again.
TV Guide: Of the entire medical staff, Foreman is the most like House a little arrogant, but principled.
Epps: It's a paradox in that sense. Foreman's the guy who speaks out against House and his ways, but he's also the guy who's most like him in terms of being unapologetic for his actions and how he deals with people. But I'd definitely say Foreman is more cordial than House. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Do you ever find yourself flinching at some of House's racist wisecracks?
Epps: I actually have fun, because the intent is to be so over-the-top. Foreman is, in my mind, used to being the "only black guy" in this crowd, so the way that he interprets it is that the coach is harder on his best player. Sooner or later, House isn't gonna be his boss, so he has to be able to take all this stuff to handle that situation when it happens.
TV Guide: In fact, Foreman handled a similar situation in [the Nov. 29] episode. How many muffin baskets did you send to the writers to get that story line going?
Epps: [Laughs] Now that the audience is sort of vested in the interaction of these characters, the writers are ready to delve into each one's life and see what they're about outside of the workplace. So Foreman's thing is starting in the workplace, but sooner or later it's gonna work itself out of there.
TV Guide: That's good, because the only thing we really know about Foreman is that he has a juve record. Did you get into any trouble as a teenager, running around with your high-school pal Marlon Wayans?
Epps: I got caught doing the shoplifting thing. Matter of fact, I was with Marlon one time when I was doing it. He didn't know, and the guy caught me. I was trying to play the race card. [Laughs] My friends were defending me "Aw, you think all black people [steal]!" and it made me feel so bad, because I was sittin' there with candy in my pocket!
TV Guide: You had your second daughter last year with your fiancée, R&B singer Keisha Spivey. Do you get to spend much time with your kids?
Epps: This is the most stable my life has been in the last decade! When you're doing films, you're all over the place, whereas doing a television show, you've got somewhere you gotta be every single day. I live in L.A. and I film in L.A. I get to wake up to the kids and go home to the kids. So it's great for me.
TV Guide: Do you feel as stable in your career now that House is a bona fide hit?
Epps: The studio is lovin' everything, and they seem to be invested in getting us to syndication, which is about 100 episodes. [NBC Universal last week agreed to pay a hefty sum to air syndicated House episodes on USA Network and Bravo.] At the end of our third season, we'll really know where we stand. I don't know if we'll ever feel relaxed. Television is such a strange world. You're always on eggshells.
TV Guide: Ever find yourself doing your own diagnoses at home?
Epps: When the kids get sick, sometimes I have little recommendations, but it's a little freaky for me. I don't do needles, and I'm kinda squeamish when it comes to blood.