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  • Last Updated: 11:24 PM, February 14, 2009
  • Posted: 12:00 AM, February 15, 2009

For the first eight years of "ER," the ensemble show's main character - if there was one - was Mark Greene. When Edwards wanted to depart the show, Greene spent all of season eight dying of a brain tumor. Other characters have been crushed by a helicopter (Paul McCrane's Dr. Robert Romano), hit by a train (Omar Epps' Dr. Dennis Gant), blown up in an ambulance explosion (Mekhi Phifer's Dr. Gregory Pratt), and killed in Iraq (Sharif Atkins' Dr. Michael Gallant ).

"It's funny because we were sort of trying to promote that an ER is a safe place to be. Meanwhile, there were bomb scares, plagues, you name it. I kept saying that the show was about stitching people up and not getting paid well to do it. It was about focusing on the banality of ER medicine, punctuated by moments of sheer terror," Wyle says.

But as the show's run wore on, the network started wanting bigger and bigger episodes to try and goose the ratings. "By the end, there was literally some explosion every third episode. The cart really started pulling the horse. The writers were writing backwards to incorporate the things that people supposedly wanted to see," Wyle says.

The actor decided to leave the show for many of the same reasons Carter decided to leave County General and return to Africa: love and family.

"I did feel like I had maxed out where I could take this guy, but the most profound reason I left was when I brought my son home from the hospital on a Monday night and had to report back to work at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. I didn't really get to spend time with my son again until that weekend.

"It's great to be on a show like 'ER' in your 20s. But when you are in your 30s and trying to be present and have a family, it's really difficult," says Wyle, who now has two children with his wife of nearly nine years, make-up artist Tracey Warbin.

In the past year, Wyle had a small part in Oliver Stone's movie "W" and the leading part in TNT's recurring movie series, "The Librarian." He points to those two roles as good examples of the direction he now wants to take."I knew full well after 'ER' there might be a few fallow years in which I would fade from memory and then would have to reinvent myself as an actor in a different way. I've been working with really good directors, watching really strong actors work and taking chances where I normally wouldn't have taken them," he says.Wyle probably wouldn't have revealed any of the show's final twists and turns anyway, but with three more episodes in the hopper, he says even he doesn't know now. "For a while I was sworn to secrecy. Now I can honestly say I have no idea. The script that was going to be the series finale will now be episode 17. They haven't even written the last three yet."

ER, Thursday, 10 p.m., NBC

LAST RESPECTS: April 2 - "ER'"s two-hour series finale.

Other cast members who have taken a final lap in season 15:Anthony Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene): appeared in flashbacks during an episode titled "Heal Thyself," that aired November 13, 2008. Laura Innes (Dr. Kerry Weaver) and Paul McCrane (the deceased Dr. Robert Romano) also returned for this episode. Alex Kingston (Dr. Elizabeth Corday, Greene's wife): appeared in two dream sequences in an episode titled "Dream Runner" that aired on Jan. 15, 2008. Eriq La Salle (the surly Dr. Peter Benton, Carter's mentor and tormentor): returned to direct the episode that aired last Thursday, Feb. 12, which featured William H. Macy, a one-time cast member, as a guest star.

MORE: 6 Best Episodes of 'ER'


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