NEW YORK — “ER’s” Noah Wyle has signed a deal to extend his run for two seasons, which will establish his character as the linchpin of the Warner Bros. ensemble drama and ensure the medical series’ run through at least its 10th season on NBC.
Wyle will earn a substantial raise that will kick in this fall, the show’s eighth season, for which he was already under contract. Wyle will join the rarefied salary stratosphere occupied by Anthony Edwards, who reupped for more than $400,000 an episode three years ago, after George Clooney exited the drama. Edwards has publicly declared he will depart the series when that pact expires at the end of the 2001-02 season.
While neither WB nor Wyle’s reps would talk numbers, it is understood that Wyle will become one of the highest-paid actors in history for a television drama.
That was a small concern for Warner Bros. Television prexy Peter Roth and “ER” exec producer John Wells, who have insured that they will have an original core cast member for the duration of the precedent-setting $13 million-per-episode licensing fee deal that the studio signed with NBC in January 1998.
The drama has continued as the No. 1 rated series since then, and Wells said that keeping Wyle’s Dr. John Carter preserves creative continuity.
“Keeping Noah with us through the 10th season was a big priority for us,” said Wells. “When Noah’s character started on the series, he was a wide-eyed student getting an education. It seems only natural that when Anthony Edwards’ Dr. Greene character leaves, Carter would take over running the ER. Noah has been a main part of the show’s fabric, and we couldn’t be happier that that will continue.”
La Salle a question mark
Wells said he wasn’t sure if the drama’s other remaining original star, Eriq La Salle, would remain in scrubs beyond a contract extension he signed that runs through next season. Wells acknowledged that La Salle’s priority is directing, and Wells said he’s been unable to gauge La Salle’s plans as yet.
Wyle’s decision to reup came after his feature career began to take off. He’s currently starring with Jennifer Lopez and Billy Campbell in the Michael Apted-directed Columbia drama “Enough.” He’s also starring with Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellweger in the WB/Pandora drama “White Oleander,” produced by Hunt Lowry and Wells.
“I always had a romantic notion that my character would come full circle and run the ER,” said Wyle. “It was hard when Sherry Stringfield left and especially when George did the same. What helped is that I’ve been able to book some good movie jobs. Maybe you lose momentum when you do a series, but the best male roles seem to be for guys who are 35. When I finish my 10th season, I will be 33.”
Wyle hopes the show will have a gracefully scripted ending to close season 10, but Wells was unwilling to commit to such a scenario.
Wyle’s deal was made by CAA, Brillstein-Grey and attorney Geoffrey Oblath.