|John Truman Carter III|
Noah Wyle as John Carter
|First appearance||September 19, 1994
(Pilot, "24 Hours")
|Last appearance||April 2, 2009
(Season 15, "And In the End...")
|Cause/reason||End of series|
|Portrayed by||Noah Wyle|
Medical Student (1994-1996)
Chief Resident (2001-2003)
Per Diem (2004-2005)
Attending Physician (2005)
Per Diem (2009)
Chairman of The Carter Family Foundation
|Family||John "Jack" Carter Jr. (father)
Eleanor Carter (mother)
Robert "Bobby" Carter (brother, deceased)
|Spouse(s)||Makemba Likasu (wife)|
|Children||Joshua Makalo Carter (son, with Makemba; stillborn)|
|Relatives||John Carter Sr. (paternal grandfather, deceased)
Millicent Carter (paternal grandmother, deceased)
Dr. John Truman Carter III, portrayed by Noah Wyle, is a fictional medical doctor from the television series ER. The character, called simply "Carter" by most other characters, was introduced in the pilot episode, and, without interruption, was the only main character to have stayed with the show from the beginning of the series in 1994 up to the 2004–2005 season, for a total of eleven consecutive seasons. Carter was considered the main character of the series after the departure of Dr. Mark Greene after season 8, up until season 11 when Wyle left the show.
Wyle decided to leave the show as a regular character at the conclusion of season 11, despite offers to stay. He cited a budding family and an already lengthy tenure on the show as reasons. Carter was then written out of the show by moving to Africa and marrying his love interest, Makemba Likasu, in the episode aptly titled "The Show Must Go On".
Noah Wyle was contractually invited back for a four episode arc in Seasons 12 and 13. While he did so in Season 12, his Season 13 episodes were pushed back a year to season 14, to make way for other Season 13 storylines. Because of the WGA Strike, ER was renewed for a 15th and final season (it was originally planned to end after Season 14). This allowed Wyle to return for five episodes as part of the show's plan to bring back former regulars who were interested in returning before the end of the series.
Carter comes to County General as a third year medical student. Carter is characterized as not always being the most gifted physician, but he is very dedicated and compassionate to his patients. He is initially interested in surgery — even completing the first year of his surgical residency — and is mentored by surgical resident Dr. Peter Benton. However, after extended exposure to the emergency room, he decides to change his specialty to emergency medicine, to Benton's dismay. In order for Carter to change from his surgical residency to an emergency medicine residency, he agrees to work for free for his first year, since County General had no more funding for an additional spot. As a resident his confidence grows, and he often does whatever is in his power (or, sometimes, things outside of his power, much to the annoyance of his superiors) to help patients.
During Season 6 (in his first major season-long story arc) Carter and his friend and medical student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) were stabbed by a schizophrenic patient - Paul Sobricki (David Krumholtz). Knight is stabbed in the throat and dies from her injuries; Carter is stabbed in the back and his kidney is damaged (a situation which comes to a head 9 years later). As a result of Carter's chronic battle with pain, survivor guilt, and resistance to getting help, he eventually develops a narcotic addiction. He begins to make a series of errors on the job. After Abby Lockhart catches him shooting up fentanyl, Dr. Greene demands he go to an inpatient rehab center for medical doctors in Atlanta or be fired. Although initially opposed to going, he is taken by Dr. Benton. Upon returning from rehab, Carter makes peace with his recovering heroin-addict cousin, Chase, and apologizes for his long absence, saying, "I didn't want to admit to the fact that I was just like you."
During Season 9, Carter dates Abby after they were quarantined in the ER for two weeks because of the outbreak of monkey pox. They have long been attracted to each other, and their romantic relationship is the natural next step. However, Abby's brother Eric is diagnosed with bipolar disorder (like their mother) and his behavior becomes erratic. He then disappears. Meanwhile, the health of Carter's grandmother, Millicent, continues to decline, and Carter's mother has difficulty accepting her divorce from Carter's father. Worse, Abby and Carter continue to disagree over whether or not Abby (a recovering alcoholic) should be drinking at all, even moderately. These personal issues come to a head when Abby's brother reappears the same day Carter's grandmother dies. Carter is broken by his grief, yet Abby feels it is her duty to go and get her destitute brother, essentially leaving Carter alone to grieve. When the uninvited Eric behaves inappropriately at Millicent's funeral, even falling into her open grave, it marks the beginning of the end of Carter and Abby's relationship. About a month later, Carter cannot shake his grief or his troubles with Abby, and agrees to go to the Congo (without Abby's agreement) to join Luka. While there, he is nearly killed by guerrilla soldiers. He returns after two weeks. When Dr. Kovač is reported killed in Africa, Carter goes to retrieve his body at the beginning of Season 10. To his surprise, he finds Kovač - still alive. He arranges for Kovač to be sent home, during which he gives Kovač a letter for Abby, which is a "Dear John letter" that ends their relationship. Around this time, Wyle had his first child, and requested to have three months off from the show in order to enjoy his infant son. Producers complied with this request. To deal with this absence, Carter remains in Africa for several months. He primarily works in Kem's AIDS clinic. They initially differ on approaches to treatment, but come to respect and love each other (see more about Kem below under "Related Characters: Romantic")
During Season 11, Carter starts building an HIV/AIDS clinic adjacent to County General, with full funding by his family's charity foundation. It will be named after his stillborn son - "The Joshua Makalo Carter Center." Afterwards, he goes to Paris, where Kem is visiting her mother, who has fallen ill. After a very awkward reunion, their relationship begins to grow again, and Carter offers to go to Africa with Kem and start all over. She doesn't answer right away, but later accepts the offer. Dr. Carter goes back to Chicago to finish out his work with County General, and, after saying goodbye to his friends, goes to Africa to be with Kem.
In the Season 15 episode "The Book of Abby", Haleh Adams shows the departing Abby a wall where all the former doctors of the hospital put their locker name tags. Abby notices that Carter's name isn't there and Haleh says that he refused as he "didn't want to deface governement property." Carter reappears in the Season 15 episode, "The Beginning Of the End," in which he returns to the ER at County General after being in Africa. He explains to Cate Banfield that he will be in Chicago indefinitely, and is looking to pick up some shifts and keep his skills up. She agrees, after finding out that one of his teachers at the hospital was Mark Greene. While there, Carter is reunited with several familiar faces, including Morris, Jerry, Neela, Zadro and Sam Taggart. Sam passes on that she's heard from Abby and Kovač, and that they are doing well, while he explains to her that Kem is also fine and visiting her parents in Paris. He visits the Joshua Makaio Carter Center, taking time to clear snow accumulating on Joshua's name at the sign. At the end of the episode, it is shown that Carter is on dialysis. In the following episode "T-minus-6", it's revealed that this is because of amyloidosis developing from schistosomiasis which irreparably damaged Carter's remaining kidney (the other's function being lost when he was stabbed by Sobricki in the Season 6 episode "Be Still My Heart"). He is back in Chicago to be placed on the US transplant list. Working in the ER, he's shown to still be a good doctor with good judgment, but is not up on the latest medicines and techniques used in the U.S. In the episode "Old Times" he is visited by his mentor and good friend Peter Benton, to whom he reveals that his relationship with Kem is not doing well. In the same episode, he gets a new kidney.
In "And In The End...", the series finale, Carter uses his family fortune to open the Joshua Carter Center, a medical clinic for the underprivileged. His final line, spoken to Rachel Greene, is "Dr. Greene, you coming?", a nod to the pilot episode.
Early in the series, Carter's plots typically stayed in the realm of the ER. Since his character was the most visible resident, and residents in the U.S. often are on call in excess of 80 hours a week, this was an extension of that practice. However, with the departure of several lead male actors, beginning with George Clooney in 1999, Wyle was groomed to assume a greater role on the series - both as male lead and central love character. When Anthony Edwards decided to leave after eight seasons in 2002, Noah Wyle was essentially promoted to the top lead, and received top billing on the show. Carter's character consequentially took a central role, and he appeared in almost every episode, and took on leadership position (as an attending) in the ER. In a symbolic gesture of this transference, he was told by Mark Greene "you set the tone" on Greene's last day in the ER. Greene had been told this exact same thing, by Dr. Morgenstern, in the pilot episode in Season 1 of the show, after Carol's suicide attempt. Carter, in turn, said the same thing to Dr. Archie Morris as Carter left the ER, though Morris did not understand the significance. When Carter returned in Season 15, finding Morris now an ER attending, he remarked that Morris had taken his advice after all, but in fact Morris had no recollection of the conversation and no idea what Carter was talking about.
John Carter is the only lead character in the series who has interacted with all the show's series regular characters.
Throughout the course of the series (particularly at the beginning of Season 8) we meet various members of Carter's wealthy family. His father, John (Jack) Truman Carter, Jr. (played by Michael Gross), is caring but stiff, and very acquiescent with his wife. He and Carter have an awkward relationship. Carter's mother, Eleanor (played by Mary McDonnell), is emotionally distant and cold. Her personality apparently became even colder after the death of Carter's older brother, Bobby (Robert), dies from leukemia. Carter's grandfather, John Truman Carter, Sr. (portrayed by George Plimpton), is the most disappointed by Carter's career choice, and though Carter respects him, he also resents him for that. Carter's grandmother, Millicent Carter (played by Frances Sternhagen), is a benefactor of the hospital, even funding Nurse Hathaway's clinic. Carter is very close to his grandmother (whom he calls "Gamma") and intermittently lives at her home. They do occasionally argue, however, usually in regard to Carter's reluctance to participate in matters related to the family foundation. Chase Carter (Jonathan Scarfe) is John's first cousin and a "functioning" heroin addict. Carter, with the assistance of his colleague Anna, attempts to detox and rehabilitate him, but fails. Chase eventually overdoses, resulting in severe brain damage. Carter pleads for the family to keep Chase in physical therapy, and Chase improves significantly. Elaine Nichols Carter (played by Rebecca DeMornay), the ex-wife of another of Carter's cousins, comes to the hospital for treatment for breast cancer and she and Carter conduct an affair.
A variety of actresses were called to play the love interests of Carter. Due to ER's increasing popularity and iconic status in the 1990s, this proved to be a pivotal turn in the career of several actresses, probably most notably for Maria Bello. Significant girlfriends (and the actresses that played them) are listed below:
Jing-Mei "Deb" Chen
|Attending Physician in Emergency Medicine