George Clooney Talks About the Nerve-wracking Start of ‘ER’ & ‘Friends’ in Rare Interview

E.R., George Clooney, (Season 1), 1994-2009
NBC/Everett Collection

George Clooney remembers anxiously waiting backstage with the main cast of ER and Friends, most of them unknown actors at the time, wondering if their shows would even take off. Clooney had already done 12 pilots and been featured in seven series, but none of them were a hit. He hoped with ER that he would become someone and of course, he did. ER and Friends were two shows that had their start 30 years ago and became classics. The stars mingled together and became close, so the recent death of Friends star Matthew Perry hit him hard.

He shared that they actually met before the sitcoms began when Perry was only 16 years old. Clooney revealed to Deadline, “We used to play paddle tennis together. He’s about 10 years younger than me. And he was a great, funny, funny, funny kid. He was a kid and all he would say to us, I mean me, Richard Kind and Grant Heslov, was, I just want to get on a sitcom, man. I just want to get on a regular sitcom and I would be the happiest man on earth. And he got on probably one of the best ever. He wasn’t happy. It didn’t bring him joy or happiness or peace.”

E.R., George Clooney, 1994-2009

NBC/Everett Collection

He continued, “And watching that go on on the lot — we were at Warner Brothers, we were there right next to each other — it was hard to watch because we didn’t know what was going through him. We just knew that he wasn’t happy and I had no idea he was doing what, 12 Vicodin a day and all the stuff he talked about, all that heartbreaking stuff. And it also just tells you that success and money and all those things, it doesn’t just automatically bring you happiness. You have to be happy with yourself and your life.”

Mark Wahlberg, Matthew Perry, Salma Hayek, George Clooney & Dylan McDermott at Showest '98 in Las Vega

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Next year celebrates the 30th anniversary of the start of both shows, and Clooney still recalls that time in his life vividly. He shared about waiting backstage while trailers for the shows played. He explained, “For us, it was Noah Wyle and Tony Edwards and Eriq LaSalle and Sherry Stringfield, and Julianna Margulies, and myself. And for them it was their six and we were all sitting backstage and none of us were stars but Tony Edwards was the most famous person and Courteney Cox. They were the two people who everybody knew, and the rest of us were kind of unknowns. They showed a trailer for both shows. And then we came out on stage. And I remember at that moment thinking, this is a really special moment. It ended up being one of those crazy, I can’t explain it things. Two weeks after we debuted, we were on the cover of Newsweek. Everything changed for us after that.”

ER, Anthony Edwards, Gloria Reuben, George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Sherry Stringfield, Laura Innes, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle, (Season 3), 1994-2009

NBC/Everett Collection

Clooney credits ER for changing his career and said that it was the team of writers, directors, actors, and crew that made the show so successful. While Clooney went on to become a huge movie star, he admitted that nothing will ever be the same as his ER days. The thrill of getting on a popular show that has now stood the test of time is priceless.

 TV's Top Doctors
Want More?

TV's Top Doctors

March 2019

Is there a doctor in the house? These docs & nurses have a bad case of lovin' you!

Buy This Issue