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October 9, 2015

Did James Earl Jones seem like an evil dictator in House?

by Jane Boursaw, posted Oct 8th 2009 8:41AM
James Earl Jones on HouseIn this week's episode of House, James Earl Jones played an African dictator. Much of the plot centered on whether he should live or die, and whether the doctors should make that decision in order to save innocent Africans that he would kill if he survived.

Ok, here's the thing about this. Jones is undoubtedly a great actor, but he didn't seem like an evil dictator ready to wipe out half the population of his country. He seemed more like his character Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, a kindly old guy who needed to be shown the way.

President Dibala may have been talking, but I heard Terence Mann. I've had this same problem with James Gandolfini and wondered if he'll ever be anything but Tony Soprano.

It's not like Jones has been pigeonholed into a certain type of character -- he's the voice of Darth Vader, after all. I wonder if it's because he's done so much narration and voiceover work that no matter what role he's playing, I tend to think of him as a smarter-than-average guy who'd be nice to have dinner with.

Did he seem like a bad guy to you in this week's House?

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"It's not like Jones has been pigeonholed into a certain type of character"

I don't know about that... It seems like he always dies at some point... Lion King, Star Wars, Field of Dreams, Conan, Clear and Present Danger... And now House.

Does he ever make it out alive?

October 15 2009 at 9:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely. Jones played the part brilliantly.

Short of cartoon villians, no monster looks in the mirror and sees a monster. What a monster like Dibala sees in the mirror, and what their followers see when they watch the news, is a person doing what's needed to achieve what they think is a noble goal.

October 09 2009 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Anne

I felt the character was in keeping with the premise of the show. I am able to look beyond an actors past work, and
allow them to flower, and I do agree, that EVIL does not look you in the face and say" here I am ready to kill you".Let's not nit pick a great actor and a show that took us somewhere we were surprised to be.

October 08 2009 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This sounds very similar to a "The Unit" episode - protect an African dictator in the US for surgery so he can go back and let his people die, or let him die and save his people. Maybe it wasn't "The Unit," but I know I've seen a similar story line before.

October 08 2009 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alicia R.

I could see it. Like the other posters have said... it's all about shades of grey.

I did jump though when he told Cameron to kill him.

October 08 2009 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Have you ever seen interviews with dictators? Most seem down right normal and easy going. I don't think that Hitler in his films he seems more like a evangelical, don't even go there, preacher. Until we link in our minds actions with people, unless they are truly unhinged, they are just people neither good nor evil. Chase didn't see him as anything other than a kindly old man until he admitted his intent to wipe a ethnic group off the face of the planet.

That's the point. I think JEJ did an excellent job. He had to have what old footage of Sedot, Mugabe, or Melosovich. They came off very much the same in their interviews.

October 08 2009 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well he was sick the whole time, literally on his deathbed. Plus he was in America, in front of Americans and American doctors from whom he wanted to receive good healthcare.

I think it would have been utterly phony for his character to be an evil, cruel, abusive dictator given this situation. He very well may have been cruel and threatened that one nurse into giving him her blood, but we didn't get to see that. And even then I bet his men did most of the coercing.

The problem with "House" that everyone is ignoring is that the DEA bitched and whined about House's vicodin use and finally Fox caved in and wrote out all painkiller use by Dr. House from the show. The DEA has been given final script approval of all episodes of "House."

October 08 2009 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bruce's comment

I am curious about this whole DEA thing you bring up in every House discussion, Bruce. A quick google search and all i can find is a post on a cannibas culture forum that links back to your weblogs profile and comments.
Can we get a link to some backup regarding this?

October 08 2009 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan Buckley

I'm curious if you have any sources to back these claims up. It seems plausible but I couldn't find anything on Google, except other sites referencing your previous post on the episode review page. Thanks.

October 08 2009 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

He'll always be King of Zamunda in Coming to America to me.

October 08 2009 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brian's comment

In the limo at the start of House I thought the other guy was John Amos (Mr McDowell) and I almost pee'd a little..

October 08 2009 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Evil dictators ususally don't seem evil because if they did they would never become dictators.

Didn't you notice how he tried to bond with each doctor that he came in contact with and at least for a time it worked with each.

October 08 2009 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gig's comment

Agree. Evil dictators (as opposed to the kindly ones?), if they didn't achieve power in a coup, usually rose to power the same way politicians in America do: by being a compelling speaker with whom people feel a connection.

It's what he does once he's got the power that makes it chilling. The calm, matter-of-fact way he talked about the necessity of genocide was creepier than if he had been ranting and screaming like a Mussolini character.

October 08 2009 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think that we could see him in those shades of gray was part of the point. He doesn't think he's evil. He thinks he's doing what is absolutely right for his country and people, even if it means killing half of them.

October 08 2009 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ryan's comment

This was going to be my comment. I think it was probably intentional. If he was a completely evil character, it would be much harder to justify Chase changing his mind I think.

October 08 2009 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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