There are people who think John Stamos hasn’t really ”made it” in Hollywood. Never mind that his 1981 acting debut at 18, as street tough Blackie Parrish on General Hospital, lasted a memorable two years. Or that his eight seasons as the Olsen twins’ fun-loving uncle Jesse on Full House gave him enough TV clout to go from exec-producing such miniseries as The Beach Boys: An American Family to headlining his own series (albeit failed ones like ABC’s Thieves and Jake in Progress, both of which were short-lived). Stamos says folks still ask why he hasn’t been more successful — and frankly, he can’t blame them.
”People look at other actors my age and with my fame and go, ‘Why are all those others big stars and you’re not?”’ says the 43-year-old, who’s had trouble shaking his squeaky-clean Full House image (those Nick at Nite reruns, in which he sports a feathery mullet, can’t help). ”You have a 1-in-5,000 chance to get a show on the air and have people like it. I’ve tried it. Magic has to happen. Stars have to line up. It didn’t happen for me.”
It happened for George Clooney, despite his own mullet and sitcom beginnings on The Facts of Life. So Stamos certainly could do worse than a stint on ER, the show that made Clooney a star. For Stamos, what started as a two-episode arc on the NBC drama last season is now a full-fledged comeback. What’s more, his appealing work as Tony Gates, a smug paramedic-turned-med student who’s looking to play doctor with Neela the brainy intern (Parminder Nagra), is credited with administering a much-needed booster shot to the hospital series, now in its 13th season.
With viewership up slightly over last year, to 13.9 million (ER easily wins its time slot over CBS’ second-place Shark), the drama earned a new lease on life when Stamos donned the scrubs. There’s even speculation that the series could run beyond next season — when it’s contracted to end — for an incredible 15th year.” ER doesn’t feel like a vestige of the show like it once was,” says NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who’s signed Stamos through next season. ”John is definitely a draw. After Noah [Wyle] left we were down a man, so there was room for another male character. John has the right amount of chemistry and charisma.”
Not to mention boundless enthusiasm. ”I’m really proud of the fact I added some energy to the show,” says a gushing Stamos, sitting outside the ER set in Burbank. ”I’ve never gotten this kind of writing.” Nor, he says, this kind of attention and respect. ”It does feel like now people are rooting for me, which is so great.” It’s easy: The genial Cypress, Calif., actor — who flashes his sparkly smile often — makes people he’s just met feel at ease by touching them warmly and offering unsolicited praise (”You’re cool!” he says earnestly).
Stamos had his share of headlines when his seven-year marriage with actress Rebecca Romijn, 34, ended in a high-profile divorce in 2005. ”We were both very civil. We both took the high road,” says Stamos, who is unattached (Romijn is engaged to actor Jerry O’Connell). ER came knocking soon after, but he can’t help but feel cynical about the timing. ”It’s like I can’t have it all at one time,” says Stamos, shrugging. ”Like your career and whatever can be good, but then you have no relationship. Or your relationship is good, but you have no career.”
Right now, he’s reveling in option A: work, and lots of it. Stamos is in the early stages of producing a feature film of TV’s The Jeffersons, and he’s developing the Western movie Dillinger for TNT. He was just cast in next year’s TV version of A Raisin in the Sun (starring Sean Combs, reprising his Broadway role) as the local man who tries to buy out the Younger family. And he continues to tour with the Beach Boys — he just spent the summer playing drums and guitar. ”It’s an open invitation,” he explains of his 20-year relationship with the group (you might recall him from the band’s 1988 ”Kokomo” video). ”I can be a fake rock star!”
Next he stars as a gay party planner who takes a stand for gay marriage in the A&E movie Wedding Wars (Dec. 11). ”I’m not George Clooney, but I do feel like I have something to say, and I do feel like that’s a responsibility at least, so that was my way of saying I support that issue.”
He’s yet to feel Clooney-esque on ER, either. One can imagine the two-time Sexiest Man Alive having no problem playing the bed-hopping Doug Ross, but Stamos squirms at the idea of getting naked for sex scenes with Nagra. “Oh God, I’m not McSteamy,” he laments, referencing the nickname given to Grey’s Anatomy‘s Eric Dane, who plays Stamos’ straight brother in Wedding Wars. ”These guys take off their shirts all the time and pump weights and crap in between scenes. I tried to hide behind the set to do push-ups before a shower scene with Parminder but ended up banging my head on a pipe. I felt so stupid!” Hey, wearing nothing has got to be better than having a mullet!
My Brilliant Career John Stamos
Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since that mullet
General Hospital 1981-1983
He was cast as Blackie soon after finishing high school.
Full House 1987-1995
”I’m glad that’s not the only thing I’ve ever done,” Stamos says of his teen-idol years.
He once guested with the Beach Boys.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 1995-1996
His Broadway debut
His character, Johnny, was an FBI informant.
Jake in Progress 2005-2006
”I was disappointed because we made about 10 or 12 episodes last year and they didn’t air. But I was very proud of it.”
He’s intern Gates.
Wedding Wars 2006
Farce of the Penguins 2007
He’s one of the voices in this animated mockumentary directed by FH costar Bob Saget. ”Movies have eluded me, but if they don’t happen, fine.”