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Stop asking Eriq LaSalle about ER

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 11th 2008 9:19AM
LaSalle ERRemember what a jerk Eriq LaSalle was as Dr. Peter Benton on ER? You know, a real hard-ass. Well, it turns out his dynamic performance as that character may be because he wasn't acting. At the Hallmark Channel press tour, LaSalle got ticked off when asked about ER.

He was meeting the press to answer questions about his TV movie, Relative Stranger, which will air next January. When LaSalle noticed that there were a plethora of questions about ER -- for him and co-stars Michael Michele and Michael Beach, both of whom had also been on NBC's long-running medical drama -- Eriq flared.

"Okay, I mean look, it was a defining moment, you know, for a lot of us as artists. You know, it was a show that was a little bit ahead of its time. We had a great time doing it. I don't know what else to say. I talked about the show so much. I prefer to talk about Relative Stranger."

So rather than tick off Mr. LaSalle further, the press listened to his description of this very serious TV movie that Hallmark Channel had a hard time financing, apparently because European financiers veer away from intense dramas about dysfunctional African-American families. David Kenin, EVP of programming for Hallmark said it took five years to get this picture made.

But, you know, the press doesn't like to be told what to do, so more ER questions came up, prompting Mr. LaSalle to declare, "It was a great show. I had a great time doing it. And I'm not doing it anymore. And I'm doing other things ... That's it."

Eriq, I hear you. Really, I do. And if you had a career like George Clooney and the media could ask you about winning an Oscar and working with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, we would. To this day, Eriq, ER is your claim to fame. Be glad you have that to talk about.

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"But, you know, the press doesn't like to be told what to do....". That's the most telling - not to mention obnoxious - line in this report.

July 12 2008 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you for allowing for the possible that some of us might interpret LaSalle's comments differently than you do. If you review the comments both here and at the originating article, you'll notice that your opinion is in a very small minority.

To answer your question about Jason Alexander, no I've never heard him diss Seinfeld. But I've never heard LaSalle diss ER either; he certainly did not do so here. What I did see was LaSalle politely, if somewhat pointedly, twice answer the question asked and twice attempt to redirect the conversation to the more pressing matter at hand. I agree that, had an quick question been asked relating to both the actors present and to ER (for example, would any of them be returning to County for the final season), it should have been answered politely. The problem comes from the fact that, having asked ER-related questions and, having had them anwered, the reporters were asked to move on and they did not. Not because LaSalle or his former costars are untapped ER resources but simply because the show is about to enter it's final season.

It sounds like you had a lovely chat with Sharon Gless but it seems, from the way you describe it, that you had a more intimate experience with Gless and that the interview was of a more conversation. LaSalle was in the middle of a press tour, surrouned by his cast mates and answering questions from a gaggle of reporters. The differences are obvious and while it is great that Gless was so forthcoming, your comparison seems inapt.

As to the question of how gracious he, or any actor should have been, whether he should have answered any and all ER-related "questions with a smile," I flat out disagree with you. Having had the pleasure of interacting with, working with, and getting to know a large number of successful actors (one of whom is mentioned in the Courant article), I feel that I can speak with some familiarity about the actors perspective on this subject. On some level, regardless of the role or the success, for many actors (not celebrities, not stars) it is just a job. A job with tremendous perks, one that opens numerous opportunities, but a job nonetheless. All the actors with whom I've spoken wouldn't hesitate to say it was a pleasure, that a successful show allows them to pursue other projects, that they are grateful for the opportunities, etc. However, they all also say that a show is a job, a job that ends. They are constantly pursuing new jobs that are exciting to them and while they understand the need to (at times) discuss old jobs they are excited about their new projects and would rather talk about those.

For LaSalle, the job ER ended 6 years ago. He does admit that it was an important experience. Hell, he goes one better: "it was a defining moment, you know, for a lot of us as artists." What else is he supposed to say, especially when he is there promoting another project. The promotion of the new show, the press tour, is part of his current job!

And I have to apologize, because now I'm just grinding an axe, but I am really disturbed by your attitude that, because you watched them on TV, actors like LaSalle owe you answers to all your questions and smiles to boot. Part of the disconnect comes from the difference between how the audience thinks of actors and how they think of themselves. You call him a star, but LaSalle calls himself an artist. An artist who has been asked the same question 6,000 times since leaving the show. Give him a break.

July 11 2008 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not only do I think Eric was perfectly justified in his comments, but the reporters where down right rude to continue pestering him with questions about ER after he asked for them to stop.

It doesn't matter if Eric hasn't done anything of consequence since ER, what matters is that he is promoting something now and you all were ostensibly there to cover that.

July 11 2008 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Slow blog day? Must be if petty stuff like this is all you have to write about. Gheeesh.

I have to agree with every one else here. It would appear he was justified and polite in his comments. What's the prob?

"Wow, they let any hack write for TV Squad."
That one made me chuckle.

July 11 2008 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Howard

I agree with everyone else. It's been years since he was on ER, there just isn't any reason to still be asking him about it. If there was really something about ER that only Eriq LaSalle could tell you, you probably could have tracked him down somewhere else in the past six years. And it doesn't sound at all like he was being a jerk, his comments sounded pretty appropriate. And keeping the thing on track was probably appreciated by the people actually paying him for his current work.

Also, he should certainly be remembered more for Coming to America than ER anyway.

July 11 2008 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"To this day, Eriq, ER is your claim to fame."

HEY! He was in Biker Boyz with Laurence Fishburne. :D

July 11 2008 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've got to agree with the general consensus of the previous comments. The quotes from LaSalle sound very calm and restrained, not angry at all. This is a welcome departure from a lot of prima-donna actors and I think he handled the situation with relative grace.

July 11 2008 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, they let any hack write for TV Squad

July 11 2008 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First off, I have to agree with commenter 2 and especially 3.

Secondly, I can only guess that you, Allison, once asked him about ER and he gave a less than forthcoming answer, right? That's the only reason I can think of for the aggressive condescension in your final paragraph. Maybe, rather than telling him he should be grateful that you are deigning to ask him about a project that he hasn't been involved with for 6 years, you should think about it from his perspective: Imagine if, for the rest of your life, you were only every asked about what you wrote in college and even if you asked people to focus on your current book, they kept bringing up your college thesis. Sure, you're glad that you wrote the thesis and that it allowed you to graduate cum laude, but surely you would want to talk about other things eventually...

July 11 2008 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to 01Zero's comment
Allison Solow

I have never interviewed Eriq LaSalle and have no axe to grind with him. I read the report and to me, he sounded ungracious. That's how the reporter who was at the TCA event presented it. I think that's how it came across. You could read it differently.

As for my career, please feel free to ask me about anything else I've done and I will answer questions without getting huffy. If I'd done anything as good as ER, I would be proud and happy to talk about it. Do you ever hear Jason Alexander diss Seinfeld? Don't you think he's swamped with questions about that show no matter what else he does? I think when you've been a star is a famous success, it stands to reason that you will always be asked about it. As a star, you should have the grace to answer the questions with a smile. Those reporters weren't ignoring Relative Strangers, they asked questions. Was it wrong that they had questions about ER, too?

BTW, when I interviewed Sharon Gless recently, she brought up Cagney & Lacey and couldn't have been nicer in answering questions and sharing stories. I even asked her about her first Universal contract. She didn't cut me off and say, "No, let's just talk about Burn Notice." See the difference?

Finally, thank you all for reading and commenting.

July 11 2008 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

I don't see the problem with what Eriq said either. He wants to talk about his current projects, not what he did years ago, and that is all he said. Very respectfully.

This is almost like when the media was talking about how Clinton "flew off the handle" with reporters when his face got red and he pointed his finger at them. (All while keeping his voice perfectly level and normal).

July 11 2008 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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