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ON THE SET

Last moments are bittersweet in the filming of 'ER'

Scott Grimes, Noah Wyle and John Stamos join the cast and crew in sadness and celebration.

March 29, 2009|Maria Elena Fernandez

It was the last day that many of the doctors, nurses and other hospital favorites would work on an "ER" scene together. The routine shift change at the nurse's station, part of Thursday's two-hour finale that will bring the NBC show to a close after 15 seasons, called for 150 actors, crew members and extras and bustled with the energy that fans have loved over the years.

Scott Grimes sang and cracked jokes, sometimes flubbing his lines to the dismay (or was it amusement?) of director Rod Holcomb, who also commanded the pilot. Noah Wyle quietly did wheelies in a wheelchair, waiting to step in. David Lyons concentrated on his 67 rapid-fire words of dialogue, mostly medical mumbo jumbo. John Stamos looked forward to delivering his one line so that he could leave. Angela Bassett felt "a little sentimental" observing the organized commotion.

Around the room, a dozen or so background actors lay in stretchers, playing the part of silent sick patients, with one falling so deeply asleep that he snored. Supporting player Yvette Freeman thanked casting director John Levy for choosing her; Mary Heiss revealed her school-girl crush on John Carter (Wyle); Abraham Benrubi pondered what production might take over Stage 11 on the Warner Bros. lot; and Troy Evans wept privately in a trauma room as he imagined life without his "ER" family.

Then Parminder Nagra, who considered leaving personal belongings in her trailer as an act of denial, performed her last scene on "ER." It was a significant last moment, show runner David Zabel noted, because Nagra was the series' last No. 1 on the call sheet, the designation reserved for the star of a show or, in the case of this ensemble, the one with the most seniority. Nagra held herself together as the applause of her peers filled the room, but couldn't help but melt into tears when Wyle wrapped his arms around her.

Now, it's our turn.

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maria.elena.fernandez @latimes.com

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