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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

She's ready to operate

September 21, 2008|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

Olivia WILDE plays mysterious doctor Thirteen on "House," which is just now back for its fifth season. She used to be on "The Black Donnellys" and "The O.C." We caught up with her on a day off -- she was getting organized.

Can you enumerate your side projects in order of priority?

That's what I'm trying to do -- write a list! Well, I'm hosting this ACLU fundraiser on the 27th here in L.A. It's something that has been organized completely, I won't take credit for the event. And because it's the ACLU, I want to be prepared for anyone who wants to ask me about the ACLU, including the history in Southern California. And figuring out what my response is going to be to the devastation in Haiti. I love working any way I can for organizations like Doctors Without Borders -- when I'm working, it's hard, I'm on set, I see an e-mail that says an orphanage in Haiti lost 50 kids that drowned in one room, what can we do? And I can't react in that moment when I'm sitting there on the stage pretending to be a sick doctor.

That's insane.

When you're a working actor and you're happy to be one, you can't focus all your energy on acting because you will go crazy. You have to focus as much energy as you can away from yourself. . . . Well, that's difficult in Emmy week.

Are you going to end up being the next Barbra Streisand?

Barbra's so fabulous! I met her recently at this gathering for this Haitian orphanage. We were there to meet this wonderful priest. Father Rick, this amazing saint of a man. She was there, in our mutual friend's backyard, and so kind and gracious and present.

Everyone mocked her for being liberal Hollywood, but she really was just the first in a lot of ways.

There's this general consensus that Hollywood is this liberal town. It's become easier in the past year, but when I first came here, as a sprightly young 18-year-old with a lot of ideas, I was told to keep them to myself.

Are there things within the industry that you grapple with, or kick against -- whether cosmetic or intellectual?

With my particular experience on "House," I'm playing a bisexual character. It's the second time in my career, the first being on "The O.C." I've played a dozen straight characters, but no one cares about that. . . . I don't think the problem is the attention it attracts but instead the unfairness for how different it is for a woman to play a bisexual than for a man. It's seen as racy and sort of sexy -- but I'm forgiven and I'm seen as a straight actress who can play a leading lady.

But you know actors who are in the closet in Hollywood.

I'm sure -- I don't know if I do!

The world could be like anything in January.

It's amazing the possibility of this country going back to a state of peace and prosperity and calm and pride. Imagine actually being able to be proud of being an American when you travel. I feel more comfortable using my Irish passport abroad because I don't like the attitudes I get. I'm ashamed to be an American a lot of the time -- but what Obama has done is make me proud to be an American again.

It's too soon to make plans for a McCain victory, I suppose?

And I'm awfully optimistic! I really believe that this hysteria about Sarah Palin is short-lived. She's a decoy. . . . We're all done shooting our arrows at the decoy, and now she will fall to the wayside. And we can focus on McCain. And they can consider the possibility for their children -- and consider the possibility that he's going to drop dead! I don't think we're a country of morons. . . . We'll see what happens!

We will, my optimist.

I'm trying! I'm trying not to be cynical. I'm an East Coaster, I'm cynical by nature. Maybe it's all these palm trees.

Venice will do that to you.

I love it! What a great town.

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