Noah Wyle Recalls the Moment the Cast of “ER” Knew the Show Would Be a Hit — and How He Eluded George Clooney's Pranks

The 53-year-old actor starred as Dr. John Carter on the hit NBC show from 1994 to 2009

<p>Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank</p> Noah Wyle as John Carter on "ER" in 1994

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

Noah Wyle as John Carter on "ER" in 1994

It's hard to think of a world in which ER doesn't exist, but it seems public perception of the show wasn't exactly high ahead of its 1994 premiere.

While on the Still Here Hollywood podcast on June 24, Noah Wyle, who played John Carter on the hit NBC drama, revealed some of the fond memories he carries from the show's early beginnings — including the moment he felt opinions on the show finally changed for the better.

"You know, I remember my audition very well. I remember the finale very well. I remember one of my favorite memories when we'd shot the pilot, and it was very speculative about whether it was gonna be even on or successful," he told host Steve Kmetko.

<p>Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank</p> The cast of 'ER' in season 2 in 1995

Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank

The cast of 'ER' in season 2 in 1995

"Chicago Hope was debuting at the same time on CBS and had a much more established cast ... And our reputation was that [ER] was dark, [that] it was difficult to follow and highly technical," Wyle, 53, explained.

However, when the cast attended an upfronts screening of the pilot episode, they all realized they had a hit on their hands.

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"They had George [Clooney], Sherry [Stringfield], Tony [Anthony Edwards], Eriq [La Salle], and I — Julianna [Margulies] hadn't been cast as a main character yet because she died in the pilot originally — and we're in the wings of Avery Fisher Hall," he recalled. "And then [they] just started showing these clips from the pilot. Just boom."

"And then it stopped, and there was silence. And then the place went crazy, like clapping, cheering, stomping, we all got this rush. And I just remember Tony turned all of us into going, 'Here we go.' "

Related: 'ER' 's George Clooney, Julianna Margulies and More Spill On-Set Secrets: 9 Revelations from Reunion

Sven Arnstein/NBCU George Clooney and Noah Wyle on "ER" in 1997
Sven Arnstein/NBCU George Clooney and Noah Wyle on "ER" in 1997

ER, of course, turned out to be "astronomical from the very moment we came on the air," Wyle affirmed. Premiering in 1994, the show ran for 15 seasons until its finale in 2009.

And while it served as a launching pad for many of the cast members' careers, it turns out, it was also the grounds on which George Clooney sharpened his knack for pranking his costars and friends.

Wyle, however, picked up on a strategy so as to not end up on the receiving end of the trickery.

"I sort of pegged him early as one to watch and made sure that I was more of an accomplice than a victim," the Falling Skies actor joked. "And that's best served by not leaving the table first. Whoever leaves the table first, inevitably George will go, you know, 'What we should do?' "

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Though he was the ultimate prankster, Clooney is also credited as being the person who made sure everyone got along. During a virtual reunion on Stars in the House back in 2020, Wyle revealed that the Ocean's Eleven actor was the consummate professional while on the show.

<p>NBCU Photo Bank</p> The cast of "ER" during season 1 of the show in 1994

NBCU Photo Bank

The cast of "ER" during season 1 of the show in 1994

Related: George Clooney Says He's 'Still Close' with His 'ER' Costars: 'That Was a Job of a Lifetime'

"George, very early on, remember: you called us all to your trailer and you said, 'I've had the benefit of being on seven series that haven't bonded. Here's what we're going to do differently. We're all going to be nice to everybody and we're going to erase the line between foreground and background and cast and crew, and we're all going to take our work seriously, but we're not going to take ourselves seriously. We're going to do our homework and we're not going to waste rehearsal learning our lines,' " Wyle recalled.

"You kind of laid out, you know, the ABCs of professionalism and that just became the standard that we operated under," he continued. "It should be standard operating procedure, but in a way, it was something that we kept our own counsel and were harsher on each other as castmates than anybody else above us was ever going to be. And we kept each other honest."

The early camaraderie translated on- and off-screen as Clooney admitted he was "still close" to his former cast members while on the The Drew Barrymore Show in 2022, before calling his time on the show the "job of a lifetime."

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