George Clooney Says ‘ER’ Was a ‘Life Changer’

George Clooney is best known for starring in the hit television series ER. He’s also known for his appearance on the television series The Facts of Life. Here’s why Clooney says ER changed his life.

George Clooney didn’t originally plan to become an actor

George Clooney |David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Channel 4 Television
George Clooney |David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Channel 4 Television

Acting wasn’t Clooney’s first career choice. He told The Hollywood Reporter he thought he was going to be a professional baseball player:

I wanted to be a professional baseball player… I only lacked skill. And then I sort of wandered around a bit. I sold ladies’ shoes and I sold men’s suits, and then I cut tobacco every summer for $3.33 an hour. I worked at an all-night liquor store called King Quick Liquor. I got a good taste of what I didn’t want to do in my life.

Then my cousin Miguel and his father Jose Ferrer came to Kentucky to do a movie called And Then They’re Off. It was about an hour and a half from where I was, so I drove down there, and I spent three months on the set. And Miguel said, ‘you gotta come out and be an actor.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’ So, I waited through tobacco season, and once I got through that, I got in the car and I drove out to California. 

George Clooney had humble beginnings

George Clooney | Franco Origlia/Getty Images
George Clooney | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Things were tough before Clooney got his big acting break. He told The Hollywood Reporter he lived in the closet of his best friend’s apartment and he would ride his bicycle to auditions. His car died, so he had to be creative with transportation. He says he didn’t have money, so a friend loaned him money for head shots. “To go from that where it was just starting out and just trying to get acting jobs, and just trying to work in anything, and broke—we couldn’t have been more broke for four or five years. To go from that to standing on the stage at the Oscars, that’s a very significant thing,” said Clooney.

George Clooney says he had some pretty bad acting jobs at the beginning of his career

George Clooney | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic
George Clooney | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Once Clooney decided he wanted to be an actor, his goal was to be in films. He first got experience in different television shows. However, Clooney says some of those shows weren’t the best quality. “I did a show called Baby Talk, which is a pretty bad show. I did a show called Sunset Beat, where I played an undercover cop on a Harley during the day and a rock star at night. I did some pretty bad shows, and I was pretty bad in them,” he admits.   

How ER changed George Clooney’s life

George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross | Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank
George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross | Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank

“I knew at some point I was going to have to do better work. And then I got a show called Sisters that actually gave me something to do a little bit. And I was on the Warner Brothers lot under contract, and then ER came around. And that’s a life changer.” Clooney said ER was a lucky break, but it didn’t just fall in his lap. He told The Hollywood Reporter he went to the Warner Brothers casting office every day and asked for new scripts. When ER was presented to him, he knew this was the show for him. “It was a great script, it’s beautifully done, and also we got the sweetest time slot in the world.”

George Clooney as Doctor Doug Ross, Anthony Edwards as Doctor Mark Greene --| NBCU Photo Bank
George Clooney as Doctor Doug Ross, Anthony Edwards as Doctor Mark Greene –| NBCU Photo Bank

ER went on to become television’s most-watched drama and it had 40 million viewers at one point, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Clooney says people bet against ER’s success because it was up against Chicago Hope, but ratings ended up in ER’s favor. Clooney said no one knew his name before ER, but after the show aired people knew his name. The success of the show landed him and his costars on the cover of Newsweek within a month of airing and made him a household name. “[The success] was almost instantaneous and one of those things that never happens… Everything changed so quickly,” said Clooney.

Read more: Why George and Amal Clooney Won’t Have Any More Kids

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