Originally created 09/24/98

Season premiere of 'ER' has new face

Hey, ER! You've been the most popular drama in America for the last four seasons! What are you going to do now?

Clearly, a trip to Disney World isn't an option.

An addition to the cast is, though, and that's exactly what NBC's drama powerhouse is doing with actress Kellie Martin (Life Goes On, Christy, Crisis Center), who joins the show in the role of Lucy Knight, a third-year medical student.

"We're launching her in a fairly big way," ER executive producer Lydia Woodward said. In fact, the series' season premiere tonight at 10 pretty much belongs to her character.

"It really follows her first day in the ER," Ms. Woodward said, "and everything is told from her point of view."

That gives viewers a radically different perspective on the places and personalities they may have come to take for granted. "You don't often get a chance to do that in the fifth season of a show," Ms. Woodward said.

Indeed, as a third-year med student, Miss Martin's Knight is in the exact position that Noah Wyle's John Carter was when the series premiered. Carter's youthful idealism and lack of cynicism proved enormously appealing to viewers, and it's logical to believe they might similarly be drawn to a new character, this time a woman, who embodies that same optimistic point of view.

The show's focus on Knight will continue, albeit not so intensely as in the season premiere, through the first five or six episodes of the season, Ms. Woodward said, but there will be "a lot of other stories going on" at the same time.

Ms. Woodward was not quite so forthcoming about what to expect at the other end of the ER season, when George Clooney, who plays Dr. Doug Ross, wraps up his five-year run with the series.

"Through the course of the year, there will be a buildup" to his departure, she said. But Ms. Woodward would not supply any details.

"What it comes down to is what every show faces" as it matures, Ms. Woodward said. "Our challenge is keeping the characters fresh and keeping the story lines fresh."

Tonight's premiere of ER! and the show's first few episodes will focus on Lucy Knight, the third-year medical student played by new cast member Kellie Martin.


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