In the fall of 1994, NBC premiered two programs that changed history. One was a small show about six 20-somethings who hung out at a coffee shop, and the other was the medical drama ER. The latter was something viewers hadn’t seen before. It was gritty, bloody, and fast-paced. The emergency room staff wasn’t plain. Their personalities were fleshed out from the first moments. It’s why the show lasted for 15 seasons.
Many actors came and went during ER’s long run. To the point, none of the original cast was left at the end. Some of these professionals appeared as doctors and were quickly forgotten by viewers.
10 William H. Macy
This actor, known for his long run as Frank Gallagher, the drunken and drug-addicted patriarch of Shameless, had a higher-prestige job while he was on ER. From 1994 to 1998 he was Dr. David Morgenstern, Chief of Surgery and the emergency room.
Morgenstern is known for a piece of advice that was carried on as the main characters left. In the pilot episode, after Carol Hathaway is treated for a suicide attempt, he tells Mark Greene he has to “set the tone” for the rest of the staff. In turn, Greene says this to Dr. John Carter when he leaves. Carter mentions this to Dr. Archie Morris during his own departure from the series.
This actress, known lately for her appearances in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Mandalorian, was introduced to the ER audience as Jing-Mei “Deb” Chen during the first season. A medical student who was always trying to one-up Dr. Carter, Deb decided to leave emergency medicine after nearly killing a patient with an incorrect central line into his chest.
She returned to the emergency room midway through season six and became a regular on the series. During that time, she helped Carter recover from his stabbing, had a baby and gave it up for adoption, and became Chief Resident. Deb left in season 10 to take care of her elderly father.
8 Jorja Fox
Jorja had many television careers before her long-running stint on the original CSI. Prior to that show, she had a brief role as Secret Service Agent Gina Toscano on The West Wing. Before her position there, she was Dr. Maggie Doyle on ER.
She appeared first as an intern in season three. She became a resident in seasons four and five. Her character left the show after a scathing performance review from Dr. Romano. In real life, her roles were getting too big for her to continue on the program.
7 Omar Epps
Before his stint as one of Dr. House’s team members, Omar Epps played Dr. Dennis Gant in season three of ER. Unlike his confident portrayal of Eric Foreman on House, Gant was downright overwhelmed as one of Dr. Benton’s surgical interns.
Even his friendship with John Carter didn’t help Gant. No matter how many times he tried to tell both doctors how he felt, he was brushed off. In the end, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a CTA train.
6 Alan Alda
For eleven seasons, Alan Alda portrayed Dr. Hawkeye Pierce on the famed sitcom M*A*S*H. After a 16-year break, he returned to the role of a doctor at the start of ER’s sixth season. There, he was Gabe Lawrence, an attending physician who was Kerry Weaver’s mentor.
During his rotation, other staff members sensed Dr. Lawrence was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Using a fake ER patient to confirm the diagnosis, Dr. Greene gets the older man to admit his issues. Alda would later work with the show’s executive producer, John Wells, on The West Wing.
5 Don Cheadle
Between his roles in the Ocean’s Trilogy and as James Rhodey/War Machine in Iron Man and other MCU films, Cheadle stopped by County General. He played Paul Nathan for four episodes during ER’s ninth season.
Cheadle’s character was a medical student who decided to leave the business world after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. During his ER stint, his characters struggled to cope with the daily routines on the floor as well as the requests from Dr. Carter and the rest of the staff.
4 John Leguizamo
The post-Carter years at ER were interesting ones. No longer the main figure, producers brought in other folks to both stabilize and cause trouble at Cook County. One of them was actor and comedian John Leguizamo.
He played Dr. Victor Clemente, a brash individual who came to Chicago as a new attending who wanted the role of Chief of Emergency Medicine. Disliked by the rest of the staff from the start, Clemente ran into personal problems through season 12. This included the return of his old girlfriend and vengeful stalking by her obsessive ex. Eventually, Clemente succumbed to his issues and was diagnosed with PTSD as the season ended.
3 Stanley Tucci
The award-winning actor started his rounds at the end of season 13 as Dr. Kevin Moretti. Brought in as the Chief of Emergency Medicine, he looked to maximize efficiency in an ER that was now minus Kerry Weaver and Luka Kovac.
Things seemed to work well until he got news his son was in trouble. Then, he had a drunken one-night stand with Abby Lockhart, who was Luka’s wife at the time. He eventually tried to apologize to both of them for the marital issues. As a result, Luka punched him in the face.
2 John Stamos
Yes, Uncle Jesse of Full House was a doctor at Cook County General Hospital. In fact, he was a regular cast member from season 12 until the end of the show’s run. It was a change of pace for viewers who only remembered him as a comedic actor and cool uncle to the Tanner family.
On the show, Stamos played Tony Gates, an EMT who becomes an ER intern and eventually a resident. Not willing to be a team player at the start, Gates constantly ran into problems with Greg Pratt, one of the ER’s attending physicians. He eventually settled down and began a long start-stop relationship with nurse Sam Taggart.
1 Alexis Bledel
Rory Gilmore came to County General as Dr. Julia Wise in the show’s final episode. In a way, she was placed in the role John Carter held for the first season of ER. Like him, she was an unsure intern who had to deal with triumph and tragedy.
As Dr. Wise, she helped Carter and other staff members with a patient giving birth to twins. Unfortunately, due to complications, the patient eventually died in surgery. This caused the character to second-guess herself and why she was in medicine in the first place.
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