Dr. Gregory House checked out of Princeton-Plainsboro last May for the very last time after an hour that explored the man fans had come to know over eight seasons. As the good doctor rode into the sunset with Wilson, EW spoke with executive producer and creator David Shore, who broke down all the twists. If you missed the finale, there’s always our recap and Ken Tucker’s review. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012: Behind the Scenes coverage.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, true to form, the finale had me guessing to the very end. Tell me how you decided to end the series where you did, with House and Wilson riding into the sunset.
DAVID SHORE: There was a lot of discussion. The writers sat down and bandied around a bunch of ideas, and the more I thought about this idea, the more it seemed right. Ultimately, it’s House making a sacrifice — and yet not making a sacrifice. It’s House being with the person he should be with, in some ways. It’s not too sweet because it’s Wilson dying and House screwing everything up — and yet it’s Wilson and House riding into the sunset. And it’s House accessing his whole life for 40 minutes before that, which also allowed us to bring back guest cast. It just felt like the right tone and the right story.
How did you break that final story? I think one of the lines people are favoring today is that the final puzzle we solved with Dr. House was Dr. House.
Yeah, that seems right, doesn’t it? His life and what he should be doing, and assessing all the types of choices and the way he’s made choices. Isn’t that what a final episode should be.
I certainly think so, which is why I thought he was going to die. Was there ever a point where you thought you might kill House?
Everything was on the table and that seemed like a natural [choice] in some ways — that is an ending. And this [episode] is a nice ending for the series, but it’s not en ending to House, and that’s part of it. House as a human being — a fictional human being but still a human being — won’t be over until he dies. So there was some talk about that, but this felt better for many reasons.
Did you mean for it to be ambiguous in any way? I watched it, felt at peace with what I saw, and then our commenters took my peace away with their crazy-but-plausible theories. Did you purposely leave room for that discussion and theories that House did die?
Yes, it did occur to me people might see that. And I welcome multiple interpretations. Well, I don’t welcome multiple interpretations usually. I get that, and I find it interesting. But I want people to feel differently about things, but I don’t want people to disagree about what the show is and what the story is. I was aware of that and I was okay with that.
So, was it meant to be taken at face value?
Yeah. It was.
Well, now I feel better.
Yes, it was meant to be taken at face value. House is riding off into the sunset.
Let’s talk returns. How hard or easy was it to get everyone on board?
It was easy in the sense that I called the people you saw in [the episode], gave them a description — barely that — and they all jumped at the opportunity. That was really gratifying. Scheduling was a bit of a nightmare because they all have busy careers, and so I would have loved to shoot that stuff in order and that wasn’t possible. There were some scenes that were shot where part of one scene was shot one day and the other part of the scene was shot another day. So my hat goes off to the AD (assistant directors) department and the production department generally for wrangling everybody. But in terms of people coming back, it was great.
Why was it important to you to bring everyone back?
It was a natural thing to do in the finale, which isn’t enough of a reason for me. What I liked was that the story we were telling lent itself to doing that, and doing it in a different way. And it was nice for me on a human level to see those people again. Mostly it made sense for the story – he’s had different people in his life who have touched him and affected him in different ways. They are a part of who he is, so we were portraying that in a literal way. We had those four characters come back, but in terms of the four people who came back, they weren’t there. They were part of his subconscious. So, literally portraying them as being part of him, I liked that.
That’s especially sweet in terms of Kutner, because he left so suddenly. It was nice closure, I think.
It was a whole notion that he lives on, in a way, through the people he’s touched. Unfortunately, he doesn’t literally live on — that would have been nicer for him. But for his legacy, it exists.
I have to ask about Lisa Edelstein. Did you approach her about a return?
I wanted her to come back, but we weren’t able to make that happen.
One of my favorite parts of the finale were the song choices at the end.
That was all Hugh Laurie. It was completely Hugh. He came to me one day while we were shooting the finale and it seemed right. Again, it was that tone – opposite of what you expect and yet it worked.
Now, if I may get a little nerdy. Foreman, he knew at the end that House had done something, right?
Yeah, that was intended to be a clue that House left for Foreman to tell him, ‘Don’t worry.’