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Interview of the week: Noah Wyle

By KAREN BUTLER   |   June 6, 2002 at 1:57 PM
NEW YORK, June 6 (UPI) -- Many film and television actors gauge their success by the quality of the roles they are offered, the size of their paychecks and whether they get mobbed by fans and paparazzi when they stop by the corner grocery. But, "ER" star Noah Wyle says he knew he was a Hollywood heavyweight when he was asked to appear as a guest on the classic children's TV show, "Sesame Street."

"When I got to sit in Big Bird's nest with Big Bird and sing the song: 'Sing. Sing a song. Sing out loud,' that was my crowning achievement," recalled the 31-year-old Los Angeles native. Admitting that he's not much of a singer, Wyle said "Sesame Street's" music director sat off-camera and helped him along by singing the instructions, "Sing, listen to Big Bird, sing."

"I even got to say those great lines at the end of the show: 'Sesame Street' is a product of the Children's Television Workshop and today was brought to you by the letters "E" and "R,"'" he said.

A happily married father-to-be, Wyle possesses an impressive resume that includes performances in the critically acclaimed "The Myth of the Fingerprints," the commercial success, "Enough," in theaters now, and the eagerly awaited family drama, "White Oleander," due out this fall. But it is for playing Dr. John Carter on TV's top-rated hospital drama for the past eight years that Wyle is most famous, and Wyle insists that is just fine with him.

"I have no complaints on that show," Wyle stated. "They've been so considerate about letting me off to do other projects, which I think is the only frustration an actor in a long-running series can have -- the need to do some variety -- and they've been very smart with me, about letting me do the things I want because it's ensured my longevity."

Noting that many "ER" stars have left the show to act in feature films, Wyle said he is quite content to juggle films and TV for at least another two years, when his contract runs out.

"I like the balance of both (TV and filmmaking,)" he said. "I love the character I play. I love the way the ensemble on the show keeps changing and evolving, and I'm extremely gratified that the numbers have been so consistent, even in this last season, that I have no complaints. I'm really actually excited and curious to see what it'll be like without (my recently departed, long-time co-stars Anthony Edwards and Eriq La Salle) around next year to see whether this new ensemble can keep churning out good shows -- which I think it can."

Wyle hinted that fans can look forward to Dr. Carter getting romantically involved with a co-worker next season, revealing that it will probably be with the nurse played by Maura Tierney, not Susan, the doctor played by Sherry Stringfield.

Wyle says he thinks it is about time his nice-guy character was rewarded, griping good-naturedly that every time something good or exciting is written into the show, his handsome Croatian co-star, Goran Visnjic, benefits from it.

"Every time I read a script, it's like he pulls in his new car -- a Viper -- and then they give him this loft apartment with this great fish tank, and he's wearing these great suits, and I'm slugging around in my white coat and my Jeep!" he complained playfully.

That's okay, though. Whatever his alter-ego lacks, Wyle says he enjoys in real life. He is married to a "beautiful, incredible woman" he adores and the couple is now awaiting the arrival of their first child.

"This is a much-wanted, much-prayed for baby," the actor said. "We were both there with every little urine stick test, every single time, so we were in there together when we found out."

Although the prospect of fatherhood is a joy he relishes, Wyle admitted he has some reservations about the actual delivery.

"Any time I go to a hospital, the doctors treat me like an equal and I'm terrified I'll be in the delivery room and the doctor will say: 'Noah. Noah, why don't you get a hand in here?' and I'll pass out or throw up and be horribly embarrassed," he explained.

When Wyle isn't filming or preparing for the role of a lifetime -- daddy, he can be found working on his ranch, which is located about two hours outside of Los Angeles. Boasting that he has 25 chickens and a variety of dogs, cats, pigs, goats, emus and horses, Wyle joked, "When your name is Noah, it's sort of a responsibility."

The actor credits his close-knit family for his down-to-earth demeanor and ability to avoid the trappings of success.

"I can't go too far off the handle because my mother lives five minutes away," he said.

It's precisely this nice-guy image that makes Wyle such a delicious, unexpected villain in the Jennifer Lopez thriller, "Enough," one of the films the actor made while on hiatus from "ER."

"When (co-star) Billy Campbell and I started rehearsing, we were talking about how we wanted these guys to come across, and the thing we both agreed on is that the most potent bad guys are the ones you don't see coming. They're the wolves in sheep's clothing," he said.

Asked how hard it was to act in a scene where he had to chase a little girl, Wyle dismissed that part as nothing more than movie magic.

"When I saw it cut together, I couldn't believe how well it worked because she was 200 miles away when we shot my half of it. I was out there with a second unit stunt coordinator, and he was on a walkie talkie saying: 'Okay. She's just made an invasive maneuver to the left, and it really makes you mad,' and I go, 'Arrrgh!'"

"Enough" is in theaters now. Wyle can next be seen in the drama "White Oleander," opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellweger.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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