James Wilson (House)

James Wilson (House)
Dr. James Wilson
House character
First appearance "Pilot"
Portrayed by Robert Sean Leonard
Occupation Head of the Department of Oncology
Family Danny Wilson (brother)
Spouse(s) Dr. Sam Carr (ex-wife)
Bonnie (ex-wife)
Julie (ex-wife)

James Evan Wilson,[1] M.D., is a fictional character on the Fox medical drama House. He is played by Robert Sean Leonard.[2] The character first appears in the show's pilot episode when he introduces a medical case to Dr. Gregory House, the protagonist of the show.[3] Wilson is Dr. House's only true friend,[4] and frequently provides him with consultations and aid.[5] Wilson is the head of the Department of Oncology at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.[6]

During the show's run, the characters of Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson have been compared to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.[7] Wilson's portrayer, Robert Sean Leonard, has stated that his character and Dr. House were originally supposed to play these roles, but Dr. House's diagnostic team has taken over Dr. Wilson's part since the show's premiere.[7] Leonard also read the script of the pilot episode of CBS' Numb3rs and was planning to audition for the part, but auditioned for House because he felt he would more enjoy playing the character that House went to for help and because he liked the "Odd Couple" dynamic of the relationship.[8]

The character was positively received.[9][10] Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger described Wilson as "the only irreplaceable supporting character" of the show,[11] as well as Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, who stated that Wilson can "never, never, never, never" leave the show.[12]


Character biography

Wilson is one of three brothers from a Jewish household [3]. He has an undergraduate degree from McGill University,[13] and graduate degrees from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.[14]

Shortly after a medical convention in New Orleans that he attended after graduating medical school, Wilson accidentally broke an antique mirror and started a bar fight when a random man repeatedly played "Leave A Tender Moment Alone" by Billy Joel to the frustration of Wilson, who was going through a divorce with his first wife at the time.[15] Out of interest, House bailed him out and hired an attorney to clear his name, thus starting their professional relationship.[15] In the season 1 episode "Histories", it is revealed that one of his brothers is homeless and that Wilson is unaware if he is still alive as he has not seen him in nine years.[16] Wilson has a history of failed marriages:[17] he is married to his third wife during the show's first season and, with the discovery of his wife's infidelity, separates from her during the second season.[18] After the failure of his third marriage, Wilson lives in various temporary accommodations (including a stint at House's own apartment) until he meets Amber Volakis, who is a female subsitute for House.[19] He is described as "nearly 40" in Don't Ever Change. Wilson and House's relationship has been sorely tested on many occasions.


House describes Wilson as "a buddy of mine people say 'Thank you' to, when he tells them they are dying."[20] House also describes Wilson as an "emotional vampire".[21] On a date with Lisa Cuddy, Wilson evades a question as to whether or not he wants children.[20]

However, Wilson defends House when House's career is in jeopardy, after billionaire entrepreneur and then chairman of the hospital board Edward Vogler (Chi McBride) proposes a motion for House's dismissal.[6] Wilson is the only one to vote against the motion. In response, Vogler proposes and succeeds in obtaining Wilson's dismissal from the board, but Wilson is soon reinstated thanks to Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) after she convinces the board that Vogler is the real threat to the hospital and his money is not worth the business-obsessed mindset with which he tries to rule the hospital.[6] In a late season three episode it is revealed that Wilson suffers from clinical depression and uses a prescription for his illness.[22] Wilson is also seen to be left-handed, a trait he shares with Cuddy and Foreman. [23]

Wilson attempts to change House's drug habits, with little success. After Cuddy makes a bet to prove House's addiction to Vicodin, House concedes to Wilson that he has an addiction, but says that the addiction is not a problem.[24] It is, in fact, Wilson who usually writes House's Vicodin prescriptions (with Dr. Cuddy writing a few merely for leverage in her dealings with House). In Season 3, when Detective Michael Tritter (David Morse) threatens to jail House for his Vicodin addiction after finding a huge stash in his apartment, Wilson attempts to convince House to attend rehab as the situation worsens.[25] After Tritter pressures Wilson to testify several times, Wilson reluctantly agrees, unknown to House. Before this, Wilson watches House punch Dr. Robert Chase in a reaction to his detoxing, insult Cuddy, and incorrectly diagnose a child with a condition that would have required an amputation of one of her arms and legs.[26]

Near the end of season 4, Wilson starts a romantic relationship with Amber Volakis, because she is House in female form, and[19] who competed for one of the open jobs on House's team in the wake of Foreman, Chase, and Cameron's departure.[27] In the season finale, she dies as a result of a bus crash sustained while picking up a drunken House from a bar.[28][29] Her death eventually leads Wilson to conclude that his relationship with House only serves to enable House's dysfunctions. To remove himself from House's influence, he resigns from Princeton-Plainsboro at the beginning of season 5.[30] The two reconcile when Wilson forces House to attend the funeral of House's father. Wilson realizes that he had been afraid of losing House, who is his true friend, and that Wilson's life didn't get any better when he resigned. He then returns to Princeton Plainsboro.[15]

During Season 5 it is revealed that Danny, one of Wilson's brothers (who had previously been mentioned as being homeless), suffered from schizophrenia since adolescence, which is what caused him to run away in the first place. Wilson blames himself for his brother's homelessness, having hung up on his brother right before he disappeared. Wilson also reveals to House that he took the position at Princeton-Plainsboro because it was near the place he had last seen Danny. When Wilson finds out that Danny is in the psych ward of New York Mercy, House offers to come with him to keep him company, noting that it could end badly. However, when Wilson is let in to see his brother, House is busy with a differential with his team.

In the season's 15th episode "Private Lives", House discovers that Wilson, in his youth, had been an actor in some scenes of a porn movie called "Feral Pleasures", and throughout the episode, after House hangs posters of the movie all over the hospital in a jealous rage, people start using a phrase that Wilson's character said in one of those scenes: "Be not afraid. The forest nymphs have taught me how to please a woman".[31] In addition, Wilson proposes a joke marriage to House in "The Down Low".

Gay references have been made to the relationship between the two characters of the show. House has made a comment about the relationship between them ("I'm gay!...Oh that's not what you meant. It would explain a lot, though: no girlfriend, always with Wilson, the obsession with sneakers...").[32] Barbara Barnett said that "House is the needy one in the relationship, and Wilson the doormat"[21] Verne Gay of Newsday described House's love for Wilson as "touching and genuine".[33] However, Robert Sean Leonard compared the relationship between the two characters to the relationship between Cesar Millan and his pitbull, while Hugh Laurie said that the relationship between the characters is "not just buddydom".[34] The two characters appeared on the cover of the October 13, 2008 issue of TV Guide.[35][36]

Concept and creation

"I like being on the side, I like kind of being the friend who pokes his head in and says, "How ya doin'? OK," and then goes home".

—Leonard in an interview with BuddyTV.[37]

Robert Sean Leonard was not initially interested in auditioning for the role of James Wilson.[38] He believes that he got the role because of his friendship with Bryan Singer, whom he had met in the past, shortly after he was paid for his role in Dead Poets' Society. Singer borrowed money from him to shoot Lion's Den starring his friend Ethan Hawke, who also attended high school with Singer.[38] In 2004, Leonard received the scripts for the pilot of both House and CBS' Numb3rs (in which he was asked to audition for the part of Charlie Eppes).[8] He thought the script for Numb3rs was "kinda cool". However, he decided to audition for the part of Wilson on House, because his character on Numb3rs was in almost every scene of the show.[8][38]

Within the scope of a popular comparison that draws parallels between House and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Wilson is equivalent to Doctor Watson.[7] In two-parts episodes such as Euphoria, Part 1 and Euphoria, Part 2, and House's Head and Wilson's Heart, Wilson's voice is heard narrating the story, while Dr. Watson is the character who narrates the stories in most of Sherlock Holmes novels. Leonard has said that his character and House were originally intended to play the role of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, respectively, in the series although he believes that House's team has assumed the role of Watson since the show has begun.[7] Producer Katie Jacobs believes that Wilson and House both hide from relationships with women, because they have to stay in the closet no matter how they love each other.[39] She has said that the difference between the two characters is that Wilson finds it hard to say no because he wants to please the other person.[39] The similarities between Dr. Wilson and Dr. Watson was also one of the reasons that made Leonard choose House over Numb3rs.[8]

Leonard has said that Wilson is one of the few characters to voluntarily maintain a relationship with House, because neither of them work for one another and thus his character has "nothing to lose" by telling him the truth.[7] His character is one of the few who can make House laugh.[39] Katie Jacobs has said that Wilson's moving into House's apartment after a failed relationship in "Sex Kills" symbolizes his taking "emotional refuge" in his friend.[32] Leonard said that he is content with the size of his role, and wants to continue playing the character.[40] He has also stated that he would "kill himself" if he had a role as big as the other cast members.[7]


Responses to Leonard's performance were mostly positive.[9][10] In a recap of the pilot episode, Tom Shales of The Washington Post quoted "Leonard has been playing upstanding young men for what seems like forever, but he's still one of the most outstanding upstanding young men in the acting racket".[41] However, Sherwin Nurland of Slate stated that Leonard often seems so detached that "he'd be better off in another show".[42] In a recap of the season four episode "Ugly" Nina Smith of TV Guide said that she thinks that the most convincing writing of the show has always been the scenes in which Cuddy and Wilson "spar" with House.[43] In a 2008 press conference, Katie Jacobs, who works as an executive producer for the show, praised Leonard for being equally adept at comedy and drama.[44] TV Gal, of Zap2it, stated that she "truly appreciates" what Leonard brings to the show, being the only character who "truly stands up to House" and "quietly and subtly" giving the show "some of its best moments".[45] In an article about whom to keep if the writers of House decided to minor down the cast, Maureen Ryan, of the Chicago Tribune said that Wilson can "never, never, never, never" leave the show.[12] Ryan also listed Wilson on her list of "5 Great Characters", saying that Leonard is the "underrated linchpin of the excellent “House” cast".[46]

After Wilson's temporary departure during House's fifth season, Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times immediately stated that she wanted the character to return to the show.[47] Linda Stasi of The New York Post said that Dr. House's relationship with Lucas Douglas (Michael Weston), who temporarily replaced Wilson, was far more natural than House's relationship with Wilson.[48] Critics from TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Blog Critics and USA Today, all found Leonard's performance in the season 4 finale worthy of an Emmy Award.[49][50][51][52][53]


  1. ^ "Deception". House, M.D.. 2005-12-13. No. 9, season 2.
  2. ^ Michael Ausiello (2005-09-14). "Do you happen to have any ...". TV Guide. http://www.tvguide.com/news/happen-34506.aspx. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  3. ^ a b "Pilot". House, M.D.. 2004-11-16. No. 1, season 1.
  4. ^ Owen, Rob (2004-11-14). "TV Review: Hugh Laurie makes 'House' worth a visit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04319/410715-237.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
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  6. ^ a b c "Babies & Bathwater". House, M.D.. 2005-04-19. No. 18, season 1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Ryan, Maureen (2006-05-01). "'House'-a-palooza, part 2: Robert Sean Leonard". The Watcher, Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2006/05/houseapalooza_p.html. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  8. ^ a b c d Leonard, Robert (2006). "Robert Sean Leonard On His Audition". Hulu.com. The Paley Center for Media. http://www.hulu.com/watch/21682/house-house---robert-sean-leonard-on-his-audition#s-p1-st-i1. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  9. ^ a b McFadden, Kay (2004-11-15). "It's worth making a "House" call tomorrow". The Seattle Times. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20041115&slug=kay15. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  10. ^ a b Goodman, Tim (2004-11-15). "Network meddling by Fox execs starts the deathwatch for 'House'". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/c/a/2004/11/15/DDGSL9QOII1.DTL. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  11. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (2008-09-16). "Sepinwall on TV: 'House' season five review". The Star-Ledger. http://www.nj.com/entertainment/tv/index.ssf/2008/09/sepinwall_on_tv_house_season_f.html. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  12. ^ a b Ryan, Maureen (2008-04-25). "'House' cleaning: Who should stay and who should go?". The Watcher, Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2008/04/house-cleaning.html. Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
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  14. ^ "House Training". House, M.D.. 2007-04-24. No. 20, season 3.
  15. ^ a b c "Birthmarks". Egan, Doris; Foster, David. House, M.D.. 2008-10-14. No. 4, season 5.
  16. ^ "Need to Know". House, M.D.. 2006-02-07. No. 11, season 2.
  17. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (2007-03-06). "Q&A: House Producer Katie Jacobs Dishes on What Lies Ahead". E!. http://uk.eonline.com/uberblog/watch_with_kristin/b12712_qa_house_producer_katie_jacobs_dishes.html. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  18. ^ "Spin". House, M.D.. 2005-11-15. No. 6, season 2.
  19. ^ a b "Frozen". House, M.D.. 2008-02-03. No. 11, season 4.
  20. ^ a b "Three Stories". House, M.D.. 2005-03-17. No. 21, season 1.
  21. ^ a b Barnett, Barbara (2008-08-03). "House, MD's House and Wilson: A Fine Bromance". Blog Critics. http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/09/03/230742.php. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  22. ^ "Resignation". House, M.D.. 2007-05-08. No. 22, season 3.
  23. ^ "Top Secret". Moran, Thomas L.. House, M.D.. 2007-03-27. No. 16, season 3.
  24. ^ "Detox". House, M.D.. 2005-02-15. No. 11, season 1.
  25. ^ "Merry Little Christmas". Shore, David; Friedman, Liz. House, M.D.. Fox. 2006-12-12. No. 10, season 3.
  26. ^ "Finding Judas". House, M.D.. 2006-11-28. No. 9, season 3.
  27. ^ "The Right Stuff". Shore, David; Dick, Leonard; Egan, Doris. House, M.D.. 2007-10-02. No. 2, season 4. Retrieved on 2008-11-01.
  28. ^ "House's Head". Shore, David; Blake, Peter; Egan, Doris; Friend, Russel; Lerner, Garett; Foster, David. House, M.D.. 2008-05-12. No. 15, season 4. Retrieved on 2008-11-16.
  29. ^ "Wilson's Heart". House, M.D.. 2008-05-19. No. 16, season 4. Retrieved on 2008-11-16.
  30. ^ "Dying Changes Everything". Attie, Eli. House, M.D.. 2008-09-16. No. 1, season 5. Retrieved on 2008-11-16.
  31. ^ 'House': Be not afraid ... - It Happened Last Night
  32. ^ a b Ryan, Maureen (2006-05-01). "'House'-a-palooze, Part 3: Katie Jacobs". The Watcher, Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2006/05/houseapalooze_p.html. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  33. ^ Gay, Verne (2008-09-16). "Complexity is still this doctor's specialty on "House"". Newsday. http://www.newsday.com/services/newspaper/printedition/tuesday/partii/ny-ettel5843886sep16a,0,5266964.column. Retrieved 2008-11-21. [dead link]
  34. ^ Hochman, David (2008-10-13). "True Bromance". TV Guide. pp. 27–30. 
  35. ^ Juergens, Brian (2008-10-07). ""House" bromance makes the cover of TVGuide". After Elton. http://www.afterelton.com/blog/brianjuergens/hellooooo-nurse-house-bromance-makes-cover-of-tvguide. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  36. ^ Hernandez, Greg (2008-10-09). "The "House" docs talk bromance...". Out In Hollywood. http://www.insidesocal.com/outinhollywood/2008/10/the-house-docs-talk-bromance.html. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
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  38. ^ a b c Wolk, Josh (2007-07-03). "A Summer Away from the 'House'". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20044586,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  39. ^ a b c Ryan, Maureen (2006-05-01). "'House'-a-palooza: On Omar Epps' Emmy bid, Wilson's messed-up life and stupid cane tricks". The Watcher, Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2006/05/house_isnt_wait.html. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  40. ^ Topel, Fred (2007-10-03). "Robert Sean Leonard Talks House". The Can Magazine. http://www.canmag.com/nw/9152-house-robert-sean-leonard. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  41. ^ Shales, Tom (2004-11-16). "'House': Watching Is the Best Medicine". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53025-2004Nov15.html. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  42. ^ Nuland, Sherwin (2004-11-30). "Is There a Doctor in the House?". Slate Magazine. http://www.slate.com/id/2110251/. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  43. ^ Smith, Nina Hämmerling (2007-11-13). "Episode Recap: "Ugly"". TV Guide. http://community.tvguide.com/thread/House/Episode-Recap-Ugly/800027277. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  44. ^ Boedeker, Hal (2008-11-18). "Doctors, yes, but is there romance in 'House'?". Orlando Sentinel. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/tv/orl-house1808nov18,0,5041880.story. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  45. ^ TV Gal (2006-09-04). "TV Gal Goes "Hmmm ..."". Zap2it. http://www.zap2it.com/tv/news/zap-tvgal0904,0,7808789.story. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  46. ^ Ryan, Maureen (2006-02-02). "Five great characters". Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2006/02/five_great_char.html. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  47. ^ McNarma, Mary (2008-10-07). "'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Private Practice,' 'House' get healthy". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-medicalshows7-2008oct07,0,5806515.story. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
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  49. ^ Fretts, Bruce (2008-09-17). "Cheers: A House Divided". TV Guide. http://community.tvguide.com/blog-entry/TVGuide-Editors-Blog/Cheers-38-Jeers/Robert-Sean-Leonard/800046864. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  50. ^ Bianco, Robert (2008-03-07). "Who will make Emmy happy?". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/televisionawards/emmys/2008-06-12-emmy-ballot_N.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  51. ^ Ausiello, Michael (2008-06-15). "Spoilery Video: 'House' Cast on Thirteen's Bisexuality, Wilson's Grief and More!". Entertainment Weekly. http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2008/07/spoilery-video.html?cid=122486984. Retrieved 2008-11-16. [dead link]
  52. ^ Kristine, Diane (2008-09-21). "Rolling The Dice on the Emmys". Blog Critics. http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/09/21/012819.php. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  53. ^ Bianco, Robert (2008-01-07). "The finale word on the TV season". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2008-05-22-tv-finales_n.htm?loc=interstitialskip. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 

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