Noah Wyle grew up with Carter

`ER' doctor, actor matured at same pace

August 12, 2002|By Greg Baerg | Greg Baerg,ZAP2IT.COM

LOS ANGELES - When it comes to staying power in primetime television, there are few people who rival ER's Noah Wyle.

The series enters its ninth season on NBC this September, and Wyle is now the only cast member to appear in all seasons of the show). Currently, only NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz and Frasier's Kelsey Grammer (thanks to his time on Cheers) have longer runs. The Friends cast equals Wyle since the show premiered the same season.

Now, as he begins filming what he says will be his second-to-last season on ER, Wyle feels extremely comfortable - as an actor and as his character, Dr. John Carter.

"I know every corner of that set, and it's gotten to the point now where, theoretically, I understand just about everything I'm doing procedure-wise," Wyle says. "It's actually fairly gratifying after you've played the character long enough that you no longer have to worry about the physical business of playing a doctor. That's sort of ingrained in you. I mean I actually could have gone to medical school and gotten a degree by now."

It wasn't always that way, he acknowledges.

"When we both started," he says of his character and himself, "we were both very green and sort of had to learn on the job and find role models that we could look to for guidance and appeal to people for advice."

"There's been a nice parallel in his and my maturation - he as a doctor and me as an actor."

Because of the constantly changing cast over the last few seasons, Wyle has considered leaving before. It was a lunch last season with John Wells, the show's executive producer, that convinced him to stay through the 2003-2004 TV season.

"We sat down and we started talking about where the show started and where he wanted it to finish. He looks at the show as a novel and specifically the ninth and 10th seasons, for my character, being the last two chapters of that novel.

"There's a certain symmetry to that that I really liked a lot. There's a certain ring to 10 years that I thought sounded like a nice legacy," Wyle says. "There is no greater challenge than trying to keep your character entertaining and realistic for a decade."

Though Wyle doesn't have much to say about what will happen this year, he does predict the relationship between his character and Maura Tierney's Abby Lockhart will be further explored and probably run the duration of the season.

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