Noah Wyle: ‘ER’ reboot is ‘never gonna happen’
LOS ANGELES—“It’s never going to happen,” Noah Wyle declared with seeming certainty when he was asked in our recent interview if a reboot of “ER” will ever happen.
Noah, only 23 when he got his biggest break as medical student John Carter in “ER,” stayed for a record 11 seasons.
The hit medical TV drama series also launched the careers of George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies and Eriq La Salle, among others.
Noah’s sweetly earnest character went from internship to emergency medicine residency in the show, set in the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago.
“I give a lot of credit to John Wells (producer),” said Noah, now 45, still looking boyish but with “gray hair,” as he admitted. “When ‘ER’ left the air, it was just as shows were beginning to franchise into city shows. John could have been the first to do it. He could have franchised ‘ER New York,’ ‘ER LA,’ ‘ER San Francisco.’
“John just didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to dilute the impact of the show we’d made.
“He has resisted the temptation for reunion shows. ‘ER’ has been rebooted in many different forms on different networks, so it’s not like people are missing that format. It’s just those characters.”
These days, Noah is pumped up about his new series, “The Red Line,” a crime-drama debuting on CBS on April 28.
The actor, who went on to star in another series, “Falling Skies,” and played iconic Apple cofounder Steve Jobs in TNT’s “The Pirates of Silicon Valley,” volunteered that he cried when he first read the script of the series cocreated by Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss.
The father of three kids—two with ex-wife Tracy Warbin and one with current wife Sara Wells—also got emotional and paused several times during our chat when he talked about “The Red Line’s” story.
Set in Chicago, which has been in the news as it grapples with racial divisions, hate crimes and dirty politics, the series tells the story of a white cop mistakenly shooting a black doctor.
The subsequent journey of three families reeling from the impact of the resulting death is told in the show’s Season 1 episodes.
Excerpts from our chat:
Do you miss the young actor that you were on “ER”? (Sighs) I recently re-watched the pilot episode of “ER,” which I had not seen in a long time, with my 13-year-old daughter, who had never seen it before.
I was watching Dr. Carter, who looks a lot more like her than me. I barely recognized him. He looked so carefree. He looked young, excited and ambitious.
Do you miss him? No, because I may not look it, but I still feel that very much. I still feel excited when I go to work like on the first day of school. I still get nervous. I want to impress and please people and do a good job.
All those things that were so John Carter, that made him such an endearing character, were traits that I still bring into new environments.
There was naiveté that I don’t miss. There was a lot of learning he had to do about the way the world works that I’m glad I’ve now gone through. So, no, I don’t miss that guy very much.
Have you ever been mistaken for a real doctor? Oh, yes. I’ve been, ironically, the first person on site in two different car accidents. Both times … 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? Hey! (laughs)”
What made you say yes to this new show, “The Red Line”? There was something about the script and this particular character that just moved me.
After talking it over with my wife, I thought that just doing the part, because it scared me on a lot of creative levels—it was out of my comfort zone—it would be worthwhile.
What about the character that moved you? This show is about the wrongful killing of an African-American man in the city of Chicago, which is a very timely thing.
The issue behind this show is extremely important. That is something that, politically, I wanted to be involved in.
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.
But why I cried for three days was because I looked at this man’s grief, and I thought, oh, God, I would not want to be this man. His grief has to be subjugated to the grief of a nation.
Would you say this was the most emotional reaction you’ve ever had to a script? Yeah, probably. There have been moments and scenes in literature that I’ve been affected by. The original name of this character was Noah (laughs). But it was pure coincidence.
The killing comes very early on in the show. The rest of the experience is climbing out of that hole.
How did your wife react to you crying for three days about the script? My wife is always very supportive whenever I take the riskier choice, which is why I’m so grateful to her.
So, if we’re going to make it work, we need to be together.
How did having kids also move you about “The Red Line’s” script? That was an interesting theme to explore with this young actress (Aliyah Royale, who plays his adopted teen daughter). I have a 16-year-old son, a 13-year-old daughter (and a 3-year-old daughter).
Parenting them is different than it ever has been, because when you have adolescents, you have to put all the old parenting tools that you used and put them on a shelf.
Aliyah shows up and challenges me in every way possible. I want to focus on our acting, and she’s just beating me up. Very quickly, I realized that we had the dynamic going. It was perfect—all we had to do was show up and play it.
When are you directing again? There is an opportunity that has come my way to direct a small film. We’re casting it now.
You live on a ranch near Santa Barbara (California). Have you started making your own wine? I bought this ranch 20-some-odd years ago from Bo Derek, in Santa Ynez, California, when I started making money on “ER.” I love this place. I hope to be buried on it (laughs). But what would kill me sooner is if I attempted to plant grapes and start a vineyard.
Emotionally, where are you right now? Watching your kids grow up, there’s a little bit of a death to those kids no longer being those kids anymore.
So, I would say thoughtful more than sad. And curious and anticipatory more than confident (laughs).
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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