There’s an old saying that bad memories die faster than good ones. That’s apparently true for the cast of ER, which reunited Thursday night for an upbeat Zoom call that brought laughs, tears and awe as they reviewed some old clips.
There was visible affection shared by the attendees on the call, as they reminisced about such things as stitching pigs feet off-camera to practice their techniques, getting cell phones from Steven Spielberg as a Christmas gift (“The gift that keeps on taking,” Clooney cracked), and learning the medical jargon from real doctors who consulted the show.
The call included George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies, Anthony Edwards, Ming-Na Wen, Gloria Reuben, Goran Visnjic and CCH Pounder in its first hour.
ER, which ran on NBC from 1994-2009, was a cornerstone of the network’s “Must-See TV” Thursday night programming, scoring 22 Emmy Awards out of 124 nominations. At its height, it was drawing more than 40 million viewers a week.
The reunion (which is available on YouTube if you missed the livestream) will benefit Waterkeeper Alliance, the global clean water nonprofit. The idea for the benefit reunion came from actress Gloria Reuben, who portrayed ER‘s physician assistant Jeanie Boulet and now serves as the organization’s president.
The ER reunion episode streamed on People’s social platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as on PeopleTV’s Facebook and Twitter, and on the Stars In The House YouTube channel and StarsInTheHouse.com. Viewers were able to ask questions live and donate to Waterkeeper Alliance.
Clooney was an active participant in the discussion, admitting he’s been tuning in to the reruns of the show because his wife has become a fan. He admitted he “forgot all the bad things he did” as Dr. Doug Ross on the show. He also admitted that he felt bad that the rest of the cast on the call sported no apparent grey hair.
The cast repeatedly stated how thankful they were to have experienced the hit show with a group that seemed to truly enjoy each other. Anthony Edwards summed it up the synergy: “I laughed and stayed in love for eight years.”
Clooney remembered standing backstage at the first upfronts for ER “and the place went apeshit.
“And we realized at that exact moment – we knew suddenly, as a bunch of actors who struggled – suddenly, we’re going to be working for a while. And the joy that came with that, people forget when our show came out – in the first few seasons, we were doing 10s of millions more than Friends. We knew how lucky we were.”
Noah Wyle, who was new to show biz at the time, said he was surprised at the excitement. “You’re like, that’s not always the case?”
Julianna Margulies compared her next show to the ER experience. recalling producers were excited on her next assignment because they had 14 million viewers. “14 million (compared) to 44 million,” she noted.
Clooney underlined the ER moment in its heyday. “It was appointment television. I’d been on seven series before that, and not one of them was a success. We got to take a really nice ride on a really wonderful show.”
Fame quickly transformed the experience. Margulies noted that while they were on location, a group of the actors decided to go to dinner together. “It was like walking with the Beatles,” she said. “I remember standing back and they were screaming for the guys.”
The series was so popular that it inspired a generation of people to investigate careers in medicine and as first responders, the cast members noted. The fast pace of the show was like “cowboy action,” said CCH Pounders, which may have appealed to a younger audience that was just finding their career paths.
While the cast was joyous at being reunited for the call, they were downbeat when asked about the prospect of reuniting for a reboot or TV special.
Clooney admitted, “I don’t know. The hardest part is when you look at the show consistently over the years, it would be hard to say that we could do it at the level we did it. I’ve been watching it a little bit. It’s such great television. This is better than anything I see in film or anywhere. I felt that way about a lot of the episodes I saw.” He added, “It’s hard to catch lightning again.”
Wyle noted that it was classy of executive producer/showrunner John Wells not to franchise the show into “ER New Orleans” or other shows. “We never did that.”
Margulies agreed with Clooney’s assessment. “I don’t think you can reboot it. I think you have to leave what was so beautiful and move on. It feels like (a reboot) would cheapen it.”
But Ming-Na Wen admitted she would like to do it again. “I would like to do it just to hang out with this group of people again,” she said.
Clooney had the final word on that. “When we got the call on the (online benefit), we were really excited to see each other. I’m excited to see this gang. We grew up together. These are people that I love. It’s fun to see you guys.”
Watch the full reunion above.