‘ER’: Why Eriq La Salle and Alex Kingston’s On-Screen Romance Ended So Soon

In the world of television medical dramas, ER stands tall. The TV show premiered in 1994 as the brainchild of Michael Crichton, the writer best known for Jurassic Park and Congo.

It quickly broke records as well as barriers, getting nominated for a slew of awards. To this day, ER remains hugely popular in syndication, even though it has been off the air for over 10 years.

While many fans still discuss the possibility of a reunion, others look to stories of what happened behind the scenes of the popular show as a way to feed their love for the medical drama

‘ER’ is one of the most popular medical dramas of all time

Eriq La Salle as Doctor Peter Benton, Alex Kingston as Doctor Elizabeth Corday
Eriq La Salle as Doctor Peter Benton, Alex Kingston as Doctor Elizabeth Corday | NBCU Photo Bank

ER debuted on television in 1994, and went on to become the second longest-running primetime medical drama in America, after Grey’s Anatomy. In addition to the love from viewers that it received, it was recognized by critics as well and was nominated for many awards, eventually even winning the Peabody Award for excellence in television.

ER was known for the excellent acting featured on the series, as well as the realism portrayed in many of the show’s situations. While every fan of the show knows about George Clooney‘s meteoric rise to fame after starring on ER, there were a number of other popular actors who became very well known after being featured on ER.

One actor who received significant praise for his portrayal of Dr. Peter Benton was Eriq La Salle, a talented performer who appeared on ER for nearly eight years. 

Eriq La Salle played Dr. Benton in ‘ER’

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According to IMDb, Eriq La Salle was born in Connecticut in 1962. La Salle knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in show business and following his graduation from high school, he attended the prestigious Juilliard School’s Drama Division.

La Salle’s earliest work was on the stage, performing in a variety of New York-based productions. La Salle experienced his first big break in 1988 when he co-starred with Eddie Murphy in the blockbuster film Coming to America.

In 1994, La Salle was cast on ER as Dr. Peter Benton. La Salle quickly became one of the show’s shining stars and appeared on the series until leaving during the eighth season.

These days, La Salle remains a heavy hitter in the entertainment industry, working in movies as well as major television shows. Still, many fans still love him best for his work on ER

Why did Eriq La Salle ask showrunners to end his romance?

The romantic relationships portrayed on ER were very popular with viewers, even when the romances themselves were problematic. In the fourth season, Dr. Benton, played by Eriq La Salle, began a romance with Dr. Elizabeth Corday, played by Alex Kingston.

The two characters dated on and off for the entirety of the fourth season and into the fifth before unceremoniously ending things. According to Elle, La Salle was the driving influence behind the characters’ breakup.

Reportedly, La Salle asked showrunners to end the romance because the relationship between Benton and Corday, a black man and a white woman, was portrayed in a much more positive light than Benton’s prior love affairs with black women.

“As an African American man, it becomes a bit offensive if the negative things are all you’re showing,” La Salle later stated via Sitcoms Online. “Because in real life, we romance and get on each other’s nerves and laugh and do all the things that any other race of people do.”

Showrunners respected La Salle’s wishes and ended the romance. 

Still, fans found plenty of other romances to obsess over during the course of the show.