John Carter (ER)

John Carter (ER)
John Carter
Dr carter.jpg
Noah Wyle as John Carter
First appearance September 19, 1994
(Pilot, "24 Hours")
Last appearance April 2, 2009
(15x22 "And in the End...")
Portrayed by Noah Wyle
Gender Male
Occupation Physician
Title County General:
Medical Student (1994-1996)
Intern (1996-1998)
Resident (1998-2001)
Chief Resident (2001-2003)
Per Diem (2003-2005)
Attending Physician (2005)
Per Diem (2009)

Chairman of The Carter Family Foundation

NGO Volunteer
(2003, 2005-2008)
Family John "Jack" Carter Jr. (father)
Eleanor Carter (mother)
Robert "Bobby" Carter (brother, deceased)
a sister
Spouse(s) Makemba Likasu (wife)
Children Joshua Makalo Carter (son, with Makemba; stillborn)
Relatives John Carter Sr. (paternal grandfather, deceased)
Millicent "Gamma" Carter (paternal grandmother, deceased)
Chase Carter (cousin)
Born 1972[1]

Dr. John Truman Carter III, portrayed by Noah Wyle, is a fictional character from the television series ER. The character, called simply "Carter" by most other characters, was introduced in the pilot episode and appeared for eleven consecutive seasons. Wyle decided to leave the show as a regular character at the conclusion of season 11, despite offers to stay.[2] 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 "The Show Must Go On".

Noah Wyle agreed to make two four-episode appearances in Seasons 12 and 13. While he did so in Season 12, his Season 13 episodes were pushed back a year to season 14. Because of the WGA Strike, ER was renewed for a 15th season (it was originally slated to end after Season 14), during which Wyle appeared in five episodes as part of the show's plan to bring back former regulars.


Character history

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; Carter felt the lack of patient connection and thorough follow-up and care in the surgical field was unwelcoming. 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 held at gunpoint by guerrillas in the Congo.

Season 6-7

During Season 6, Carter and his friend and medical student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) were stabbed by patient Paul Sobricki (David Krumholtz), a law student suffering from schizophrenia. Knight is stabbed in the throat and dies from her injuries; Carter is stabbed in the back and his kidney is damaged, leaving him with life-long kidney problems. As a result of Carter's chronic battle with pain, survivor guilt, and resistance to getting help, he eventually develops a narcotic addiction and begins to make a series of errors on the job. After Abby Lockhart catches him injecting left-over fentanyl from a trauma into his wrist, Carter's colleagues hold an intervention and Dr. Greene demands he go to an inpatient rehab center for medical doctors in Atlanta or be fired. Although initially opposed to going, Dr. Benton confronts him outside the hospital and boards the plane with him.

Upon returning from rehab in Season 7, 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."

Season 9-10

During Season 9, Carter begins sleeping with Abby after they were quarantined in the ER for two weeks because of the outbreak of monkey pox. 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 (Gamma), continues to decline, and his mother, Eleanor, has difficulty accepting her divorce from Carter's father, Jack. 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 Eric reappears the same day Gamma 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 the 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 Dr. Kovač. While there, he is threatened by guerrilla soldiers. He returns after two weeks. When Kovač is reported killed in Africa, Carter goes back to retrieve his body at the beginning of Season 10, bringing some hospital supplies with him. To his surprise, he finds Kovač still alive, but ill with malaria. He arranges for Kovač to be sent home, and he gives Kovač a "Dear John letter" for Abby that ends their relationship. Around this time, Wyle himself 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")

Season 11-12

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 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 (Mary McCormack). Pratt informs him that Luka and Abby have reunited, and of her pregnancy.

Season 15

In the Season 15 episode, "The Book of Abby", long-serving nurse Haleh Adams shows the departing Abby Lockhart a closet wall where all the past doctors and employees have put their locker name tags. However, Carter's was absent; according to Haleh, he didn't want to do it because it was "defacing government property"

Carter later returns 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. 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[3] because of amyloidosis developing from schistosomiasis which irreparably damaged Carter's remaining kidney. 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. Eventually, his condition worsens, causing him to pass out in one of the Trauma Rooms. While being treated by Drs Gates and Morris, he went into v-tach, but was brought back. He was transferred to Northwestern, where his nephrologist worked.

In the episode "Old Times", while a patient at Northwestern, 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, Benton acts a back-seat driver and supervises the operation to make sure Carter is well taken care of. Later, he gets a new kidney; the transplant was a success (unknowingly thanks to his old colleagues and friends, Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway).

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. Later on, in a discussion with Tony Gates, he indicates he might come back to County for good.

Related characters

Early in the series, Carter's plots typically stayed in the realm of 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 the 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, although Morris did not understand the significance.


Eleanor and John Carter

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 Carter's older brother, Robert (Bobby), 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.


Carter had a number of unsuccessful relationships over his history on the show. Significant girlfriends (and the actresses that played them) are listed below:

  • 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.
  • Abby 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. She 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 Knight.
  • Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) Both liked each other although their constant discussions. Carter and Lucy kissed only once, because he decided to break things up before they started due to the fact that she was a medical student and it was wrong. Although they continued to be friends, until she was killed.
Carter with Kem in the Congo.
  • Elaine Nichols (Rebecca De Mornay) First appears when she comes to the ER from a fender bender. Elaine is Carter's cousin Douglas' ex-wife. Their relationship to Elaine is just sex, though Carter wanted it to be more. She stops seeing Carter, when she finds out he knows that she has Breast Cancer. She later has surgery to remove the cancerous breast, when Carter tries to console her, she simply tells him to leave her alone, though Carter does not give up, and she finally tries at the relationship again, but stops taking Carter's calls. Later she moves to Europe for a few months, and bluntly tells Carter to not call her when she returns.
  • 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 Lockhart.
  • Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), Susan Lewis left ER early in Season 3 to take a position in Phoenix, Arizona, returning in 2001. After finally dating briefly during Season 8, they realize an earlier spark is now gone, largely due to Carter's obsession with Abby. They split amicably after Susan tells him to "tell Abby."
  • Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) a nurse in the ER. Carter and Abby become involved during Season 9 after Carter inserts himself into her relationship with Luka Kovac, leading to their break-up. 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 engagement ring. However, Carter cannot cope with Abby's unwillingness to make changes he wants, and does not propose, dooming their relationship.
  • Makemba "Kem" Likasu (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, we learn Kem and Carter have married. 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 they will reconcile.
  • Wendall Meade (Mädchen Amick), a social worker in the ER, with whom Carter has an affair while separated from Kem during Season 11. She ends the relationship with him after he admits that he doesn't love her, realizing that he wasn't ready for a new relationship.


  1. ^ "One More for the Road". Christopher Chulack, Writ. John Wells. ER. NBC. 1997-05-15. No. 22, season 3.
  2. ^ *Coleridge, Daniel R., "Noah Wyle's 'ER' Dilemma," TV Guide, December 3, 2004
  3. ^ The Beginning of the End, NBC episode summary

External links

Other offices
Preceded by
Jing-Mei "Deb" Chen
Chief Resident
Succeeded by
Archie Morris

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