Despite the recent slew of reboots including Will & Grace, The Twilight Zone and the upcoming Party of Five, ER fans should not to expect a return of the iconic 90s medical drama.
"Never going to happen," Noah Wyle, who played Dr. John Carter in the series, tells news.com.au, shaking his head.
The award-winning TV series spanned 15 years beginning in 1994 and ending in 2009. Wyle knows many viewers would be keen to check in with the staff of County General Hospital, 10 years on.
"As tempting as it is to go for that low-hanging fruit and say, 'What would Dr. Carter be doing now? Did Dr. Ross (George Clooney) and Nurse Hathaway (Julianna Marguiles) stay together?' There's something sort of cheap about it, too."
The popularity of the show meant there were many opportunities for the individual doctors to helm their own spin-off. "Definitely," he nods. "You could have taken a couple of our characters and started another hospital, but [showrunner] John Wells, to his credit, didn't want to franchise it out. He could have done ER New York, ER Los Angeles, ER San Francisco, and our show would have been the perfect launching pad for it, but he didn't want to dilute the impact of the show we'd made. I know he's been approached in subsequent years to reboot ER and he's resisted the temptation for reunion shows."
Wyle, 47, is now a father of three: son, Owen, 16, and daughter, Auden, 13, are from his first marriage, to makeup artist Tracy Warbin, with whom he was married from 2000 to 2009. Married to actress Sara Wells (Californication), since 2014, they are raising their 3-year-old daughter, Frances, on an 18 hectare ranch in California he bought from actress Bo Derek 20 years ago. What do his offspring know of his days as Dr. John Carter?
"I recently re-watched the pilot episode of ER with my thirteen-year-old daughter, who'd never seen it before. She only knows ER as 'that doctor show you did before I was born'." "And so, I'm watching it with her, and what I'm watching is Dr. Carter, who looks a lot more like her than he does look like me these days!" he laughs.
"I barely recognised him. He looked so carefree, he looked young, excited and ambitious."
Even so, Wyle says he doesn't miss the famed role that kickstarted his career.
"Well, no," he shrugs. "I may not look it but I still feel very much like I did back then. I've learned a lot since those days and I'm glad to have earned my scars and my grey hairs. I'm proud to have had those experiences. It's funny, as much time as I spent with Eric La Salle in ER [as Dr. Benton] we spent more time this last year together than we've spent probably in the last ten years. Neither one of us look backward. We don't spend a lot of time going, 'Remember when we did that?' He's invested in the things that he's doing now and I'm invested in the things I'm doing now. And the same for George Clooney, who I saw recently. Again, it was more fun to talk about what we're doing now and what we're going to do next."
Was Wyle surprised about the return to television by Clooney, who stars, directs and also serves as executive producer in the upcoming series Catch 22, premiering in May. "Yes, I was surprised — until I heard what they paid him," he laughs. "Not that he needs the money. But he's got twins at home." A three-time parent himself, Wyle adds with a wink: "He probably wants to get out of the house."
Actors who play doctors will tell you of the many occasions they are expected to have actual medical knowledge. Wyle is no different.
"Ironically, I was the first person on site to two different car accidents. Both times I knew enough to not do anything I shouldn't do, but I knew enough to explain to the paramedics when they arrived what was happening. Both times the paramedics were like, "Great. Thanks, doc! Wait, what, aren't you… …'" he laughs, demonstrating the paramedics doing a double take.
Wyle shares his favourite anecdote. "My proudest moment was after my last daughter was born, who was delivered via C-section. I was part of the delivery, I was wearing surgical scrubs, we'd been up all night, and I finally went home to get some sleep. So, I had these bloody scrubs on, and I'm walking through the hospital, and this nurse looks at me, and says, 'Don't I know you from some place?' And I said, 'No.' She goes, 'Don't you work at Martin Luther King hospital?' And I said straight-faced, 'No. County General,' spouting the name of the fictitious hospital on ER. "And she goes, 'Oh, that's right!' And I just watched her walking off saying to herself, 'County General, County General. County General?!!!!'" He cracks up. "It was good!"
Wyle's next starring project, The Red Line, is the timely tale of a cop who mistakenly shoots and kills a black doctor. "When I read the script I cried for three days. The show is about the wrongful killing of an African American man. It's something that politically I wanted to be involved in, and this show allows me an opportunity to make a statement in a far more elegant and artful way than I could ever make a statement about how I feel about this subject."
Back to lighter fare, the onscreen doctor admits he's not the world's best patient off-screen. "Oh, I'm not good at all. Maybe it's because I know too much. Maybe it's because my favourite joke is, 'You know what you call the guy who graduates last in his class in medical school?" he laughs. "A doctor!"