Tragic Details About The Cast Of ER

The following article contains references to child sexual abuse and suicide.

Prior to becoming a hit medical drama TV series, "ER" was a movie script. The original concept was the brainchild of Michael Crichton, the novelist who penned "Jurassic Park." Eventually, director Steven Speilberg got involved, and the makings of a television show emerged. County General Hospital, a fictitious medical facility in Chicago, was the heart of the show. An all-star cast, including Anthony Edwards, Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield, was brought in. Producer Chris Chulak told The Hollywood Reporter, "The whole idea was to convey the pace of working in an actual ER. That, and studying the lives of the people who work in that emergency room and how this job impacted them."

"ER" premiered in 1994 and became a primetime sensation. The series ran for 15 seasons, scored 23 Emmys, and paved the way for countless other medical dramas. Along with gripping storylines and medical realism, "ER" supplied us with an ever-changing cast of characters. Throughout the years, dozens of actors have passed through the tiled walls of County General, evoking thrills, laughter, and, of course, a whole lot of tragedy. But for some of the "ER" cast, the trauma and heartache didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling. In fact, some of our favorite "ER" alums have faced unimaginable woes.  

George Clooney had several harrowing injuries

George Clooney played Dr. Doug Ross, County General's staff pediatrician and resident playboy. "ER" catapulted the actor to mega-stardom, and he eventually left the series to pursue a big-screen career. Nowadays, he's one of Hollywood's leading men, best known for films like "From Dusk Till Down" and "Ocean's Eleven." He may seem like the most charmed man in the world, but in reality, this superstar has encountered some pretty significant bumps in life — literally.

In 2005, Clooney hit his head while filming an action movie, causing severe internal damage. "I tore my dura, which is the wrap around my spine that holds in the spinal fluid. But it's not my back; it's my brain," he told The Guardian. "I basically bruised my brain." Clooney described the injury as "the most unbearable pain I've ever been through" and admitted that he'd considered suicide because of it. Fortunately, he had surgery and made a full recovery.

In 2018, a motorcycle crash left Clooney with a pelvic injury and severe bruising. As he recalled to Vanity Fair, the Oscar winner was driving 75 miles per hour when his bike collided with a car. Onlookers recognized him and stopped to record videos of the incident. Looking back, Clooney stated, "If you're in the public eye, what you realize when you're on the ground thinking it's the last minute of your life is that, for some people, it's just going to be entertainment for their Facebook page." 

Vanessa Marquez was killed by police while experiencing a mental health crisis‌

Vanessa Marquez played nurse Wendy Goldman for three seasons on "ER." With her chirpy voice and bouncy hair, Marquez was a standout in the series. Before landing on "ER," she gained notoriety for her role in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver." By all accounts, Marquez was a rising star. But behind the scenes, she dealt with a barrage of health issues, including seizures, mental illness, and celiac disease. Over the years, the TV star became increasingly isolated and unwell.

On August 30, 2018, police officers conducted a welfare check at Marquez's home in South Pasadena. Believing she needed help, the officers tried to detain her for involuntary hospitalization, but she refused to go. The situation escalated, prompting Marquez to brandish a BB gun at the officers. In response, the officers opened fire, fatally shooting Marquez in her home. Marquez's death shook the local community and sparked a public outcry against the police department. Vicki Sarmiento, an attorney for the actor's family, criticized the police force, telling the South Pasadenan, "Ms. Marquez was in her home minding her own business and instead of receiving assistance from medical professionals, she was shot to death."

Marquez's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the South Pasadena police, citing negligence, excessive force, unlawful entry, and numerous other violations. Ultimately, the family received a $450,000 settlement in 2021.

Laura Innes' fiance was murdered in 1980

Laura Innes was one of the longest-running cast members on "ER." Her character, Kerry Weaver, appeared in 249 episodes and gave viewers a treasure trove of storylines. Dr. Weaver's arc featured plenty of trauma and heartbreak — but for Innes herself, tragedy was, unfortunately, nothing new. 

Before starring in "ER," Innes was engaged to a fellow up-and-coming actor, David Scot Bell. While the pair were planning their future together, Bell's life was senselessly cut short. In December 1980, the actor parked his car in a Los Angeles neighborhood when an elderly neighbor, Marion Kay Beach, came out of her house to confront Bell about partially blocking her driveway. A brief argument ensued, and Bell walked away. When the young actor returned to his car, another argument broke out. This time, Beach drew a gun and shot Bell in the face, killing him.

In 1982, Beach was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The actor doesn't typically discuss the murder of her first fiance; however, in 1996, she did open up about the tragedy. "I had a boyfriend who was killed when I was 21," Innes told the Sun Sentinel. "He was shot." The TV star called Bell's death "the worst time of [her] life." In 1988, Innes went on to marry actor (and fellow "ER" alum) David Brisbin.

Gloria Rueben lost two brothers

Gloria Rueben stole our hearts as Jeanie Boulet, the ever-tragic yet endlessly dignified physician assistant who spent six seasons at County General. Jeanie's struggles were seemingly neverending, from her HIV diagnosis to the fate of her adopted son. Much like her "ER" character, Reuben has seen plenty of heartache in her life. 

In 1988, Reuben lost her brother, David, to suicide. Prior to his death, Reuben and David shared a unique bond as the youngest of five siblings. In her memoir, Reuben described the impact of David's death. "The only clear image I have is of my mother walking through the front door that night after her long and heartbroken journey home," the actor wrote. "I had never before seen her face look the way it did that night. I don't have the words to describe it. There was insurmountable sorrow emanating from her body."

In 2010, tragedy struck again with the death of Rueben's older brother, Dennis. In her overwhelming grief, Reuben began journaling. The actor found comfort in reflecting on her early life and revisiting memories of her brothers. In 2019, she published the book "My Brothers' Keeper: Two Brothers. Loved. And Lost." "Everybody experiences loss — it's part of life, and we all know that," Reuben said during an appearance on the BUILD Series while promoting her book. "But there's no reason to hide or to feel ashamed about the feelings or to try to run away from them."

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Anthony Edwards was sexually abused as a child

Anthony Edwards famously played Dr. Mark Greene for eight seasons of "ER." From reconnecting with his father to battling brain cancer, there was no shortage of raw emotion in Dr. Greene's storylines. Like his "ER" character, Edwards is no stranger to tragedy. In a 2017 essay, the actor revealed that he'd been sexually abused by Hollywood producer Gary Goddard, at age 12. Edward considered Goddard to be a trusted adult — a "mentor, teacher, and friend." Unfortunately, according to Edwards, Goddard exploited that trust to control, abuse, and silence him. That silence lasted for several decades — until, at the age of 51, Edwards went public. Following his lead, seven more people came forward with similar allegations against Goddard, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Since going public with his story, Edwards has become an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse. "One of the most tragic effects of sexual abuse in children is that the victims often feel deeply responsible — as if it is somehow their fault," Edwards wrote in his essay. "With their sick form of control, abusers exploit a child's natural desire to bond." Edwards credits therapy for helping him process the experience and giving him the strength to speak out. He also hopes that his story will comfort and empower other survivors. "They will say to me, 'It happened to me too,'" Edwards told The Daily Beast in 2018. "They have kept it to themselves, just like me. They say, 'I'm not ready to talk about it yet, but I will.'"

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Alex Kingston endured a difficult divorce

Alex Kingston portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Corday, the ambitious surgeon who came to County General in the fourth season. "ER" took us inside Corday's romantic exploits, including her iconic relationship with Dr. Mark Greene. But offscreen, Kingston's love life was quite tumultuous. Prior to joining the show, she was newly divorced from fellow actor Ralph Fiennes. Like a scene from a bad rom-com, Fiennes ended their marriage by declaring that he was in love with another woman.

In an interview with the Standard, Kingston admitted that the painful divorce drove her to consider suicide. Ultimately, she left her home in England and moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start. There, she nabbed her "ER" role and started rebuilding her life. Unfortunately for Fiennes, things didn't work out with his new flame. When asked about her ex-husband's relationship status back in 2012, Kingston proved to be completely unbothered. "I know nothing about it, other than that I'm told they are no longer together," she said. "I feel no connection to him or to her now. It's been so long, I can't quite believe I was ever married to him."

Fortunately, this tragedy has a happy ending. Kingston married German journalist Florian Haertel in 1998, and gave birth to her daughter, Salome, in 2001. The couple eventually split, and Kingston would go on to marry producer Jonathan Stamp in 2015. 

Kellie Martin lost her sister to lupus

Kellie Martin joined the "ER" cast during Season 5 and became an instant fan favorite. She played Lucy Knight, a plucky young intern with an aptitude for caregiving. If you're anything like us, you're probably still processing Lucy's brutal, shocking exit from the show. As it turns out, Martin left "ER" partly due to tragic real-life circumstances.

A week before Martin started on "ER," her sister, Heather, died from lupus. On an episode of the "I Think You're Interesting" podcast, the actor admitted, "Being in a hospital after having been in a hospital for months for real with my sister was super weird and felt really wrong. I never allowed myself to really enjoy it and go there" (via Vox). With encouragement from her husband, Martin pulled it together for two iconic seasons on "ER." However, her sister's death took an enormous toll, and she ultimately decided to leave the show.

Martin also revealed that her "ER" co-stars only learned about her departure after reading the script. Alex Kingston (Dr. Corday) sobbed while she and Martin filmed their final scene together. Martin recalled, "It was hard, and my last scene that I ever shot on 'ER' was when I was laying on the slab dead, and the director, Jonathan Kaplan, came up, and he whispered to me, 'You're wrapped,' and I just grabbed my husband's hand, and I left. I didn't even say goodbye to people. It was really hard for me."

Mekhi Phifer hit a low point in his career after leaving ER

For seven seasons, we watched Dr. Gregory Pratt, played by Mekhi Phifer, evolve from a cocky, careless doctor into a true hero. Dr. Pratt's exit was a sobfest for the ages — but for Phifer himself, the future looked bright. After leaving the show, Phifer moved on to other projects, including "Lie To Me" and "Torchwood" — but unfortunately, he soon ran into some serious financial trouble.

In 2014, Phifer declared bankruptcy. According to documents obtained by TMZ, the former "ER" star owed $1.2 million in back taxes, $50,000 in legal expenses, and $45,000 in unpaid child support. With only $67,000 in assets, things weren't looking good for the television star. In addition to his financial struggles, Phifer floundered in his career. In 2014, he joined the cast of "Divergent," a dystopian fantasy saga comparable to the "Hunger Games." "Divergent" was well-received but failed to garner the same fanfare as its competitor. In 2017, Phifer signed on with the CW's "Frequency," but the series was canceled after one season.

Despite his personal and financial setbacks, Phifer stayed the course with his acting career — and eventually, things paid off. The former "ER" star bounced back, appearing in popular series like "Love, Victor" and "Truth Be Told." 

Parminder Nagra faced prejudice in the entertainment industry

Parminder Nagra played Neela Rasgotra, a talented young surgeon who struggled with the pressures of working in the ER, from 2003 until the conclusion of the show in 2009. Over time, Dr. Rasgotra hit her stride and became one of the most valued doctors at County General. Like her character, Nagra knows a thing or two about being underestimated in her field. The actor scored her big break in 2002 when she starred in "Bend It Like Beckham." However, like many budding actors, Nagra's early career was riddled with rejection. And as an Indian actor, she has also faced prejudice.

In 2021, Nagra opened up to BBC about dealing with tokenism and racial bias in the industry. In one instance, a show refused to hire her because they already had an Indian cast member. Nagra recalled: "I went, 'Yeah but I'm completely different to that person.' Is that ever gonna happen when you say that, 'No we've already got a white person on the show'? I don't think that conversation is happening."

Unfortunately, Nagra has also dealt with stereotyping and cultural insensitivity. Recalling another experience on-set, she told The Telegraph, "It was for a modern-day character, my age, either American or English, and they're bringing out all of this massive Indian jewelry and I'm like, 'She's at home ... she'd probably wear that to a wedding.'" The actor continued, saying, "It's hard because you don't want to come across as having a chip on your shoulder. Which I don't." 

Angela Bassett is no stranger to grief

Angela Bassett played Chief of Emergency Medicine Catherine "Cate" Banfield during the final season of "ER." Fans were stunned to learn about Dr. Banfield's tragic backstory involving the death of her son from leukemia. Much like her "ER" character, Bassett has endured some devastating losses of her own. In June 2014, Bassetts's mother, Betty Jane, died after navigating multiple health issues. Speaking with "Good Morning America," the actor revealed, "She had developed Type 2 diabetes — along with that came cardiovascular disease, and ultimately, she was lost to heart failure." Today, Bassett works with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about the risk factors of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

In August 2020, Bassett's friend and "Black Panther" co-star, Chadwick Boseman, died from colon cancer. Boseman was due to star in the film's sequel, "Wakanda Forever" — but after his death, the script was rewritten, and grief became a central theme in the film. In 2020, Bassett opened up about filming the emotionally charged movie while processing her real-life grief. "Here we are years later, decades later, in a scene portraying grief. And I'm experiencing grief, having lost this dear, dear brother, who plays my son," Bassett told the The Hollywood Reporter. "We are all going through this grief. I mean, literal tears every day on the set as we're sitting on the set where we sat with him, not knowing what we now know as we try to strike lightning again."

ER lost a treasured cast member in 2021

Deezer D played Malik McGrath, a dutiful, kind-hearted nurse who worked in the ER. He was a regular on the show, appearing in all 15 seasons. When he wasn't pushing around gurneys at County General, the television star had a thriving hip-hop career. However, in 2009, Deezer D — whose real name is Dearon Thompson — had a serious health scare. "I have a heart valve that is leaking and the aorta had expanded to way beyond what it is supposed to be," the actor told Radar Online. That year, Thompson underwent heart surgery, and his health seemingly improved. However, in January 2021, the "ER" star died from a suspected heart attack. 

On social media, fans and co-stars paid tribute to the beloved actor. "I lost a dear friend yesterday," co-star Noah Wyle revealed on Instagram. "Deezer D, known to millions of ER fans as nurse Malik McGrath, died yesterday morning. He was one of the most creative and charismatic men I've ever known, and his gospel of positivity pulled us both up from many a dark place. I will miss him terribly."

Ming Na Wen, who played Dr. Chen on the show, also mourned Thompson. She tweeted, "What horrible news! I am so saddened to hear of Deezer D's passing. He always greeted everyone w/ the biggest smile. I loved all the fun times w/ him on ER."