What You Don't Know About Jesse Spencer

Jesse Spencer is no stranger to American TV viewers, thanks to an uninterrupted 18-year run as part of not one, but two hit series. As Spencer's IMDb credits demonstrate, he wrapped up a 10-season stint on NBC's "Chicago Fire" in 2021, while prior to that he spent eight seasons on Fox's hit medical drama, "House" — an impressive run for any actor. Speaking with "Stage Right Secrets," Spencer reflected on the former series' milestone 200th episode — which also marked his swan-song appearance on the show. "To have a decade on network TV is, well, it's unusual," he admitted. "There's just not that many shows that get there."

Born in the Australian city of Melbourne, Spencer got his start onstage in Australian theatrical productions, before branching into Aussie television when he was just a teenager, according to his NBC bio. Eventually making his way to Britain, he appeared in several British TV shows, including BBC's "Death in Holy Orders," "Lorna Doone," and others, as well as stage productions in plays like "The Modernists" and "Peter Pan," before heading to the U.S. and the eventual success that awaited.

While fans may think they know the handsome Aussie actor pretty well after all those years on the tube, they might not know as much as they think. To find out more, read on to discover what you don't know about Jesse Spencer.

He was a member of the Australian Boys Choir

Long before launching a career as an actor, young Jesse Spencer was known for his vocal abilities as a member of the Australian Boys Choir. According to Spencer's bio on the choir's website, he joined the group in 1986 at the behest of his family, who presumably recognized his singing talent and encouraged him to nurture that gift.

Describing himself as "a rebellious sort of choirboy," Spencer spent seven years with the chorus, ultimately becoming a chorister and touring the U.S. According to Spencer, he grew to develop a "love of music through the choir," which led him on a path toward musical theatre that included auditioning for a production of "The King and I" starring one-time Disney star Hayley Mills. Singing isn't Spencer's only foray into the realm of music, though. As IMDb pointed out, Spencer apparently also plays guitar, bass, and piano, although his specialty is violin, an instrument he's played since age 10. As Spencer wrote in an update for Scotch College Melbourne, which he attended before becoming a full-time working actor, he planned to continue "further studies in violin, acting and singing."

While Spencer's singing hasn't been featured much in his onscreen roles, he did have the opportunity to showcase his vocal skills in the 2003 feature film, "Uptown Girls," starring Dakota Fanning and the late Brittany Murphy. Spencer contributed lead vocals to a song on the soundtrack, "Molly Smiles."

Jesse Spencer got his start on an Australian soap

While North American television viewers are familiar with Jesse Spencer from his roles in "House" and "Chicago Fire," in Australia he'll always be best remembered for the role that made him a sensation in his native land: teen heartthrob Billy Kennedy in the long-running Aussie soap, "Neighbours." That shouldn't be surprising given the show's popularity and the fact that Spencer spent five years on it. As he wrote in a note to the alumni magazine for Scotch College Melbourne, when he was cast as Billy in 1994, the college "allowed me to take the job and attend school simultaneously, which proved difficult," ultimately leading him to defer his education. 

While Billy became a fan favorite with viewers, Spencer admitted his decision to exit the show in 2000 came about because he'd grown bored by the role. "I'd been in 'Neighbours' for five years and I'd had enough," Spencer told the Sunday Mercury. "The storylines were boring and I wasn't enjoying it any more," he added, pointing to some specific plots that he'd found "disappointing." 

At the time, Spencer wasn't ruling out an eventual return — but conceded it would depend on how his future prospects played out. "The door has been left open for me to return but I won't — though I suppose I might if I haven't had any work for six months," he quipped. Spencer did, however, make a one-off return appearance on the show in 2005.

His parents founded a controversial Australian political party

While many of Jesse Spencer's fans may not even be aware that he hails from Australia, they probably have no idea that his parents formed a wildly controversial political party Down Under, Australians Against Further Immigration (AAFI). In 2003, The Sydney Morning Herald described the party's mission as being "as clear as mud," and the party itself as either "a coterie of patriotic greenies or a battalion of anti-immigrant provocateurs." According to the outlet, the AAFI originated from a 1989 "manifesto" co-written by the actor's parents, Dr. Rodney Spencer and wife Robyn Spencer, blaming "Australia's social ills" on immigrants.

Spencer rarely addresses his parents' politics, but was confronted with a question about the AAFI in a 2012 interview with Time Out Chicago. "No, I'm not gonna talk about that," he said, adding diplomatically, "It's actually not as bad as it sounds."

To be fair, just how "bad" the AAFI actually appears is reflective of one's comfort level with racism and white supremacism. As the Herald pointed out, Spencer's parents "donated to and endorsed" a political newspaper "that ran a stream of white supremacist propaganda," while the Australian Press Council, in two distinct rulings, determined the Australian Jewish News was within its rights to categorize AAFI as "racist" and "extremist." In addition, leftist Australian political organization Green Left recalled that journalist Jonathan Silberberg had identified a "disturbing association between key leaders of AAFI and racist, anti-Semitic groups and publications."

How buying an airline ticket won him his role on House

After exiting "Neighbours," Jesse Spencer landed his big break stateside when he was cast in the 2003 film comedy, "Uptown Girls." That led him to an audition for a new Fox medical drama called "House," starring Brit Hugh Laurie as pill-popping, ultra-cranky but ultimately brilliant physician Dr. Greg House, who possesses the uncanny ability to diagnose mysterious maladies that other doctors miss. Spencer was ultimately cast as Dr. Robert Chase, one of the members of House's beleaguered medical team. 

During a "House" cast Q&A at Los Angeles' Paley Center for Media, Spencer discussed his audition for the role, wryly joking that he "murdered the American accent." As Spencer recalled, he was living in England when he received the script pages, and noticed that the character was 35 years old — more than a decade older than Spencer was at the time. "You know what, I'm really sick of going in for stuff that I'm just not right for," he recalled griping to his agent. 

After reading the script, however, Spencer was impressed enough with the writing to give it a shot, taping an audition that he sent to producers. A few weeks later, he heard back: the producers "loved the test," but didn't want to pay to fly him to Los Angeles. So, Spencer said, "Being the ... enigmatic young person that I am," he paid for his own airline ticket so he could audition in person, "and the rest was history."

Jesse Spencer's on-and-off engagement with his House co-star

Starring alongside Jesse Spencer in "House" was Jennifer Morrison, who played Dr. Allison Cameron, another member of Dr. House's crack medical team. In fact, as People reported, the two began clandestinely dating shortly after meeting while filming the "House" pilot in 2004. After dating in secret for a few months, they eventually told their "suspicious castmates" the truth. During the 2006 Christmas season, Spencer popped the question while the two vacationed in Paris — proposing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, no less — and they officially announced their engagement soon after.

However, wedded bliss was not in the cards for the co-star couple. Less than a year later, they called off the engagement. "After much consideration, we have decided not to get married," the actors declared in a joint statement to People. "We are still very close, and we look forward to continuing to work together on 'House.'"

That was precisely what they did, the exes continuing to act opposite each as art imitated life when their onscreen characters married and eventually divorced; Morrison left the show in 2010. Speaking with Time Out Chicago in 2012, Spencer seemed to have soured on dating fellow actors. "All of my girlfriends have been actors, and I've realized that maybe it's not for me — and find something else outside of the industry," he admitted.

The reason his siblings refused to watch him on House

Playing a doctor on a television medical drama was a bit of a minefield for Jesse Spencer, considering that his father and all three of his siblings are doctors — with Spencer merely playing one on TV. Speaking with Time Out Chicago, Spencer explained why his family tended to avoid seeing him on "House." "They couldn't watch it," he revealed. "They were very nice about it. It's frustrating to watch if it's in your field 'cause, as medically accurate as 'House' was, we take creative license." 

When his siblings did deign to watch the show, there were occasionally some unexpected consequences. "My brother rang me up once," Spencer said. "He'd been watching 'House,' something had come up, and he didn't know what it was. He went and studied it, and it was on his exam the next day. It helped him pass his exam." The actor added with a laugh, "I was like, Yes! Saving the world."

However, Spencer had also come to learn that, by and large, people in professions often portrayed in television dramas don't necessarily want to watch fictionalized stories about their actual jobs. "Cops don't like cop shows, doctors don't like doctor shows, lawyers hate lawyer shows, and I'm sure firemen will probably hate this show," he said, referencing his post-"House" series "Chicago Fire," in which he played a Windy City firefighter.

He wasn't planning on jumping from one long-running show to another

If it seems as if Jesse Spencer has been a constant presence on television for nearly two decades, it's kind of because he has. When he completed his eight-season run on "House" in 2012, Spencer didn't take a breather; instead, he jumped right into another long-running series, "Chicago Fire," which premiered later that same year.

As Spencer told the Sioux City Journal, signing on with one show immediately after completing another wasn't his plan — it just worked out that way when he received the offer for the drama about Chicago firefighters from exec producer Dick Wolf, creator of the "Law & Order" franchise, and simply couldn't turn it down. "I was filming the pilot of 'Chicago Fire' on the weekend while we were still doing 'House,'" Spencer explained. "When I look back on it, it was probably the right thing." 

In fact, Spencer admitted, the positive experience during his eight seasons on "House" actually gave him the impetus to sign on for a new show that would likely have an equally lengthy run. "When we started 'House,' we took it month by month," Spencer said. "As the show progressed, it took different directions. Things changed all the time. And that's why I signed up for 'Chicago Fire.' I loved the exploration of character and relationships over the course of time."

Jesse Spencer's best-known TV gigs had steep learning curves

Jesse Spencer split the better part of two decades playing a doctor, then a firefighter — two very specific vocations. To present an accurate portrayal required significant research in both cases, he told Entertainment Weekly. "By the end of ['House'], we got that down to a fine art in terms of learning all that stuff," he said of the show's dense medical jargon. "But when I think back to the first days of 'House,' that was really tough, too. We had extremely long days. It was tough in the first couple of years of the show — it was all new."

According to Spencer, he underwent a similar situation at the start of "Chicago Fire," which required both a new knowledge base, as well as the "physical demands" of carrying around 60 pounds of gear that he likened to a "free workout."

In fact, Spencer admitted it was the physicality of "Chicago Fire" that he found particularly attractive after the end of "House." "['House'] was a very cerebral show and it was a really, really, really, good show. 'Chicago Fire' was just something different. It's not cerebral," he explained. "It's more of a character-based show with a lot of action. After eight years of being an intellectual and spewing out medical terms, it was time to do something in the opposite direction. And running around in [firefighter's] gear for 14 hours seemed like the right thing to do."

He said goodbye to Chicago Fire by writing an original song

The 10th season of "Chicago Fire" proved to be Jesse Spencer's last, with his character taking a job in a different city while Spencer confirmed he was exiting the series. "I realized I've been doing TV for a long time. I added it up, and I think this year is my 18th year of network television," Spencer explained to reporters during a Zoom press conference, reported TV Line. "It was a difficult decision because I've loved the show from the start, but there are other things that I would like to do in the future, and there's some family that I need to take care of, and 18 years is a long time." As he told Variety, "I hate to leave the show because I do love this show, but when the time comes, the time comes."

When it came time to finally say goodbye to "Chicago Fire," Spencer drew from his musical side by creating a special song in honor of the show. Following his final episode, Spencer shared the video for a song he wrote, titled "FireBug (si ça te fait plaisir)," which translates to "If it pleases you."

The lyrics are emotional, with Spencer seemingly addressing both his co-stars and the show's viewers by singing, "Well that flame forever burns in my heart ... just would not have been the same without you all right here."

He's played in a band alongside other TV stars

Jesse Spencer was able to meld his musical abilities with his status as a television star when he joined the Band From TV, a loosely-knit group of television actors who formed a band during the mid-2000s. As the Band From TV website pointed out, the group was the brainchild of "Alias" actor Greg Grunberg. In addition to Spencer, core members over the years have included James Denton ("Desperate Housewives"), former "Bachelor" star Bob Guiney, Adrian Pasdar ("Heroes"), and Scott Grimes ("ER"), while Spencer's "House" co-star, Hugh Laurie, was a founding member. As a video clip of the band in concert demonstrates, Spencer contributed both vocals and violin duties. 

"When they asked me to join the band ... they had like two guitars or something, and, you know, we don't need a third guitar, so I busted out the fiddle," Spencer explained in an interview with Look to the Stars.

Meanwhile, there was more going on that just making music and having fun; as Spencer told Look to the Stars, proceeds from the band's gigs were donated to the members' favorite charities. "We don't earn any money from it whatsoever," he insisted. In fact, Spencer told Us Weekly, by 2010, Band From TV had "raised more than $2 million for various charities, including the Indiana University Kenya Partnership, which fights HIV/AIDS."

His American accent is 'still a work in progress'

As Jesse Spencer explained when he exited "Chicago Fire," he'd been a fixture on American network television for 18 consecutive years, playing two different American characters sporting distinctly American accents.

While the Australian native's American accent may have been able to convince millions of viewers he actually was American for nearly two decades, Spencer apparently takes a dimmer view of his skill with accents. "It's still a work in progress," Spencer told Glamour of his accent. "We never stop working on it because you can always improve upon it. I have a dialect coach who is fantastic, and she helps flatten it out and get it in that Midwest area. Obviously being surrounded by the dialect is the best thing there is, and we are. It's like being a musician though ... you're always working on it."

In an interview with Hollywood Outbreak, Spencer revealed that he'd developed a tendency to shift in and out of his Australian and American accents at various points, depending on what he's doing. "On the phone, I'll normally go American," he explained. "Because if I'm saying numbers or letters [in an Australian accent] ... it just doesn't work. I need to be subtitled. Yeah, I'll drop into American just for clarity, I think, sometimes."

He met his wife at a Chicago music festival

While his brief engagement to "House" co-star Jennifer Morrison may not have resulted in matrimony, Jesse Spencer finally did tie the knot, more than a decade later after that relationship ended. In 2020, reported the Daily Mail, Spencer married research scientist Kali Woodruff Carr during a "secret" ceremony in Florida. 

Speaking with Australia's Daily Telegraph (via the Daily Mail), Spencer described the nuptials as their "silver lining to 2020," joking, "Despite a spike in COVID, a venue change, a Saharan dust plume, not to mention a torrential thunderstorm, we made it across the line on our wedding day, and I'm a very lucky man." 

According to Hollywood Life, Spencer and Carr met at a music festival in 2014, and had been dating during the years since. "We're very happy," Spencer said of his new bride during his chat with the Telegraph. "She is my port in every storm, and we're already excited to be moving on to the next phase of our lives."

Jesse Spencer has built up an impressive net worth

With nearly two decades of being a series regular on two hit network television series under his belt, Jesse Spencer has managed to stash away a few bucks from all that steady work. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the actor is worth an estimated $8 million. 

It's likely that Spencer's biggest payday came during his final two seasons on "Chicago Fire," given that Deadline reported in 2019 that he and co-star Taylor Kinney had each received salary bumps when they negotiated new two-year contracts, extending their original six-year deals put in place when they joined the show in 2012. 

Meanwhile, when Spencer left "Chicago Fire" after 10 seasons in 2021, he indicated he might actually be taking some well-deserved time off. Having lived in Chicago since the series' inception, Spencer said he had no plans to move back to Los Angeles anytime soon, and might even return to the show at some point. "There is the potential for me to come back," Spencer told the press via Zoom that October, per TV Line. "I still am in Chicago right now. I'm not running off to Los Angeles or anything, although I might escape for a little bit of the winter. My home here with my wife is in Chicago, and so I'm still going to be here."