Known for his work in Mask, Pulp Fiction, and Little Women, Eric Stoltz talks about playing a Buddhist doctor on “Chicago Hope.”


Tell us about your current role on “Chicago Hope.”

I play Dr. Robert Yeats, educated at Harvard and apparently one of the few professionals on television who isn’t a type-A personality. I dress very well, and—with the exception of my hair—am fairly well put together.

Whose idea was it for you to be engaged in Tibetan Buddhism?

I’m not sure. John Tinker, the executive producer, had the idea that I was a bit of a wanderlust-surfer-dropout type. The producers were more interested in my being a “slacker, ” one of those annoying Gen-Xers who doesn’t care about much; but I was interested in being a little older, someone who has given up a bit on life—not so driven, dissatisfied with work, has all he could ever want materially but is still not fulfilled—an annoying searcher rather than an annoying complainer.

Why?

I’ve always wanted to study Buddhism, but I’ve never been able to justify taking the time to study something unless it was work-related. So when I’m presented with an opportunity to help create a role, I tend to lean toward things that have captured my attention in some way.

How did you get interested in Buddhism?

An old girlfriend of mine—what a thing!—did a film called Little Buddha, and suddenly there were all these books lying around the house like Meditation in Action, by Chogyam Trungpa, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. They made sense to me. I’m incorporating a lot of wonderful new elements into my life as result of this—detachment and meditation and yoga, for example. This is one of the benefits of being an actor—investigating other lives, and bringing the good into your own life.

What particularizes the way you approach your patients?

Well, as opposed to the other doctors on television, I’m more interested in listening to the patients, in using treatments other than surgery and/or drugs—investigating other available therapies such as diet, nutrition, herbs, massage, yoga, acupuncture, that sort of thing.

What would you like to contribute to the show?

I’d like to try to bring a lightness and sense of play. A lot of television dramas take themselves quite seriously, which is not surprising considering the nature of these shows. I’d like to find some fun.

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