Behind the scenes of "ER" -- EW talks to George Cloony, Anthony Edwards and Juliana Marguiles about the show

By Kate Meyers
December 09, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
  • TV Show

Bang! The emergency room doors swing open. Crash! An unattended patient wreaks havoc with the receptionist’s chair. Ding! Med student John Carter makes a call in search of an apartment as ER pediatrician Douglas Ross hunts down something to eat. Boom! Surgical resident Peter Benton helps EMT guys wheel a 20-year-old victim of a stabbing into Trauma Room 2. ”Suction!” Benton yells as he tries unsuccessfully to intubate. A few tense seconds later he surgically opens an airway, announcing to his team: ”All right, ladies and gentleman, I believe we have ourselves a breather.” Pow! Opening credits roll. And that’s just your typical first three minutes! ER is not only the quickest-pulsed series on TV, but with an average of 25 million viewers, it’s the season’s rookie of the year and No. 1-rated drama.

Sure, the adrenaline-pumped energy of the NBC smash barely allows viewers time to catch their breath, let alone change the channel. Sure, the competition has flatlined, with ABC’s PrimeTime Live and CBS’ Chicago Hope moving to different time periods, and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung possibly disappearing. Still, it takes a lot more than fast action and true-to-life- and-death dialogue to keep people coming back. What really brings the blood, sweat, and sutures to life are the six actors that work ER‘s corridors. ”They make it someplace you want to show up every week,” says the show’s executive producer John Wells. ”You want to spend time with these people.”

So who exactly is on this ersatz medical staff? They’re TV veterans (George Clooney, Anthony Edwards). They’re relative newcomers (Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle). They’re intense (Sherry Stringfield, Eriq La Salle). They’re smart (”We have a level of intelligence here that might add up to a whole person, considering we’re actors,” quips Edwards). And much like the people you’d find in a real E.R., they’re a diverse group brought together by fate, at a critical time in their lives. ”The truth is, we’re a lot like these characters. There’s a lot of us in them,” says Edwards. Spend a whirlwind 24 hours with this team and you’d see what he means. Here, in brief, their case histories.