Noah Wyle, known for his role as Dr. John Carter on ER, never expected the gig he took for the money, for a show he presumed would get canceled, would turn into an eleven-season stint for his character.
In an interview with Illeana Douglas’ The Film Scene on Popcorn Talk Network, Wyle discussed signing with a new manager in the early nineties and his first impressions after receiving the ER pilot.
“I thought it was a movie script cause it was a two-hour pilot written by Michael Crichton,” Wyle said. “Then they said, well, it’s a TV show. And I remember thinking they just canceled a show called Brooklyn Bridge, which was really good.”
Wyle just thought ER would be next in line to get cut. But, he admits, he went ahead because of the money.
“I thought, this is never gonna make it on the air. I just will go, I’ll shoot the pilot, I’ll make some money, and then I’ll get on with my film career,” said Wyle.
Unlike Wyle’s predictions, ER would go on to run for fifteen seasons, wrapping for the final episode in April of 2009. Over its course, ER ended up winning 116 of 375 awards for which it was nominated. These wins include People’s Choice Award for “Favorite Television Dramatic Series” every year from 1995 until 2002.
Wyle believes that two things made ER a success. The first was breaking the storytelling mold of Marcus Welby, the practice of dumbing things down for the viewer. Instead, Crichton, a technical writer in general, wrote the show in a hyper-realistic way. He created characters who spoke as doctors normally would.
“That suddenly allowed viewers to be almost voyeurs instead,” Wyle said, “and created a verisimilitude that was really potent.”
Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
The second reason for ER’s success according to Wyle? Their usage of the Steadicam.
“Guy Bee, came in episode seven, I think, of our first season for an episode called Blizzard which has in it an unbelievable Steadicam shot,” Wyle shared, “that was the episode when we found our style. Where we realized if you don’t cut and you go through the whole set and you just keep bringing in patient and patient and patient, and lines and lines and lines, you create a sense of chaos.”
Wyle added, “You put a, that sort of thumping soundtrack underneath that and people won’t catch their breath until the commercial break, and we just found it.”
While ER may be off the air now, people can still find it on Hulu as part of their streaming service or can purchase the show through Amazon. You can also find Wyle in shows such as The Librarians, The Romanoffs, and (most recently) The Red Line.