E.R. (Emergency Room)
Two days into the filming of “ER” the producers had not yet cast the regular role of the self-assured Dr. Benton. Eriq La Salle seized the moment. “When casting waits that long, they’re basically waiting for someone to come in and take the role,” says La Salle. “I was completely focused and came into the office with a stethoscope and surgical greens I had left over from a previous role. When I left, I wanted them to say, ‘That’s Dr. Benton.’” Three days later, he suited up again—this time on the set as Peter Benton, a role which earned him two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, as well as three Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination.
La Salle, who was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut as one of four children, studied at Juilliard for two years, before receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts from New York University. Just before his graduation, he was cast in the first of several productions for Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park theater company. Weeks later he landed his first feature film role in a low-budget Italian movie shot in Florida. He soon found continuous acting work on Broadway, off-Broadway and in the daytime TV drama “One Life to Live” as reporter Mike Rivers.
In 1991, La Salle moved to Los Angeles to co-star (with John Mahoney of NBC’s “Frasier”) in the medical drama series “The Human Factor.” He piled up television credits by guest-starring on NBC’s “L.A. Law,” “Quantum Leap” and “A Different World,” as well as in cable’s “Vietnam War Stories.” Among his television movie credits are “Empty Cradle,” “Circumstantial Evidence,” “What Price Victory?” and “Leg Work.” His feature films include “Coming to America,” “Five Corners,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “The Color of Night” and “D.R.O.P. Squad.”
La Salle appeared on Broadway in “Death and the King “ and in “Two Trains Running” at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
La Salle is also making his mark as a film and TV director. He wrote and directed “Psalms from the Underground,” a 35-minute short film in which he also starred. He also directed the critically acclaimed cable movie “Rebound,” about legendary athlete Earl Manigault, whose drug addiction destroyed his promising basketball career. La Salle has written, directed and produced two short films that won awards at the Worldfest Houston film competition and the USA Film Festival. He produced the television movie “Mind Prey,” in which he starred as Lucas Davenport, the policeman made famous in a series of mystery novels by John Sandford.
Along with Frank Darabont, the director of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” La Salle produced “The Salton Sea” (starring Val Kilmer). Recently, La Salle made his feature directing debut with the independent film “Crazy as Hell,” in which he starred and also produced.
In his free time, La Salle enjoys shooting pool, basketball and working out (he used to compete in martial arts). His birthday is July 23.
Some images appear courtesy of the following:
The Internet Movie Database