Dr. John Truman Carter III
, portrayed by Noah Wyle
, is a fictional medical doctor from the
television series ER
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
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
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.
Carter at gunpoint in the Congo.
During Season 6 (in his first major season-long story arc) Carter
and his friend and medical student Lucy
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
Although initially opposed to going, he is taken by
Dr. Benton. Upon returning from rehab, Carter makes peace with his
-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
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
initially differ on approaches to treatment, but come to respect
and love each other (see more about Kem below under "Related
During Season 11
, Carter starts building an
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
Season 12, Carter appears in a four episode arc,
working with a fellow doctor in Darfur, Sudan, where he is
joined by Dr. Pratt and Debbie
informs him of Abby's pregnancy.
Carter reappears in the Season 15
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
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.
is the only lead character
in the series who has interacted with all the show's series regular
Eleanor and John Carter
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), 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
'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
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
Chase improves significantly. Elaine Nichols Carter (played by
), 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
- Harper Tracey (Christine Elise), a fellow med student,
dated Carter during Season 2. She cheats on Carter very early in
the relationship with Dr. Ross. Carter forgives her, only for her
to dump him a few months later because Carter tricks another med
student in order to get a procedure.
Keaton (Glenne Headly), a
pediatric surgeon from Southside Hospital reassigned to County when
Southside closes. She begins a pediatric surgical rotation with Dr.
Peter Benton. Carter is Benton's
intern, and Carter and Keaton begin working together, eventually
embarking on a clandestine relationship that ends when Keaton
leaves for a volunteer mission to teach Pakistani surgeons.
- Carter develops a close friendship with Anna Del Amico (Maria Bello) during Season 4, but his crush on
her is never reciprocated. She was a new resident in the ER.
eventually returns to Philadelphia and makes up with her ex-boyfriend, a doctor and
former painkiller addict.
- Roxanne Please (Julie
Bowen), an insurance salesman and patient of Carter, the two
began dating in Season 5. The relationship falls apart for many
reasons, including both of their busy work schedules, and perhaps
because Carter liked Med Student Lucy
- Lucy Knight
(Kellie Martin), a med student, and
cast regular in Seasons 5-6. Lucy was a few years younger than
Carter and he supervises her on two occasions during her ER
rotation. Although Lucy and Carter never actually date, they flirt
with each other and come close to having a romantic moment, but do
not continue over Carter's indecision over their differences and
the fact that he has a girlfriend. Despite character popularity,
Kellie Martin decided to leave the
series; her character was stabbed by a schizophrenic in the episode
"Be Still My Heart" and died in the following episode "All in the
Family." His reaction to her death seems to hint that Carter may
have harboured stronger feelings for Lucy than he let anyone know.
The same seems to be the case for Lucy, when her mother reveals to
Carter after her death that he used to be the person she would
always talk about, in a positive sense.
Carter with Kem in the Congo.
- Rena Trujillo (Lourdes Benedicto), Carter dates Rena off
and on during Season 7, until he finds out that she is still a
student and is only 19. He tries to rekindle the romance because he
still has feelings for her despite her age, but she dumps him
because she knows he has feelings for Abby
Stringfield), Susan Lewis left ER early in Season 3 to
a comfortable residency in Phoenix, Arizona, only to return in 2001. As Carter had a
crush on her during her first tenure on the show, this dropped plot
was resumed. But, after finally dating briefly during Season 8,
their chemistry is very low and they never share a physical
relationship. Susan could sense Abby's subtle jealousy ever since
Carter started giving her attention since she came back to County.
They split amicably after Susan tells him to "tell Abby."
- After being good friends during Seasons 7 and 8, Carter and
(Maura Tierney) date during Season 9.
She is a nurse in the ER. After a series of personal crises and
general dysfunction on the part of them both (see "Key Events"
above), their relationship finally dissolves when Carter goes to
the Congo for seven months. He breaks up with her by letter.
Millicent (Carter's grandmother) initially didn't like Abby; but
shortly before her death gave Carter her blessing, and her mother's
- Makemba "Kem" Likasu-Carter (Thandie Newton) begins dating Carter in
Season 10. A French/Congolese AIDS worker in the Congo, Carter
meets Kem while working for Doctors Without Borders. They have a
passionate, fast-paced romance culminating in Kem's pregnancy.
However, she loses the baby after eight months of pregnancy, and
begins to shut down emotionally. Carter proposes, but she doesn't
answer and moves back to Africa. During their separation, they date others,
but when Carter visits her while she is in France, they
reconcile, and give their relationship another chance.
During Season 11, it is learned that Kem and Carter got married.
Carter is wearing a wedding band and someone refers to Kem as
"Carter's wife." In the series finale, Kem returns to Chicago to
visit the Joshua Carter Center, posthumously named after their son,
and leaves with some hope that their relationship would reconcile
- Wendall Meade (Mädchen Amick), a social worker in the
ER, dates Carter during Season 11. But, despite his protests, she
dumps him after he admits that he doesn't love her and can't stop
calling Kem. She apologizes for not realizing that he wasn't ready
for a new relationship.
- *Coleridge, Daniel R., " Noah Wyle's 'ER' Dilemma," TV Guide,
- The Beginning of the End, NBC episode