- 1 History
- 2 Relationships
- 3 Gallery
John Truman Carter III was born on June 4, 1970. He comes from a very wealthy family. His father was once estimated to be worth US$178 million, although in later seasons there are hints that this is only a fraction of the family's total net worth. Carter had a brother, Bobby, with whom he had a good relationship. At one point, Carter tells a story in which he and his brother were playing in a tree, and Carter was accidentally pushed off. His brother made him promise not to tell their parents; however, it's revealed their mother was aware of the incident. In earlier seasons, Carter mentions he has a sister, but this singular mention is the only indication given of her existence.
When Carter was a child, his brother died of leukemia. This fractured Carter's relationship with his mother, who was left traumatized by the loss of one son and responded by pulling away from the other. It was his brother's death that made Carter want to practice medicine. Carter also had a positive relationship with his grandmother, whom he calls "Gamma." Carter's family did not support his decision to practice medicine in an inner-city hospital, preferring instead that he devote more time to the family's philanthropic endeavors. Despite his family's antipathy towards his career choice, for the first few seasons Carter had few, if any, financial worries. His grandmother also eventually came around to the idea of Carter practicing medicine, even going so far as to help fund a clinic at County (though this is arguably due to the efforts of Carol Hathaway.)
In season 1, Carter mentions that he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he competed on the wrestling team.
Season 1 (3rd year Med Student)
Carter comes to County General as a third year medical student. As a medical student, Carter is not always the most gifted physician, but he is very dedicated and compassionate with his patients. Carter is assigned to resident Peter Benton, but is also unofficially mentored by Mark Greene.
On his first day he is introduced to the hospital by Benton. However, he becomes unexpectedly sick while attending to a car crash victim, as he is unused to seeing actual medical trauma firsthand. Carter leaves to sit outside in the ambulance bay, where Greene finds him. Greene delivers a monologue that Carter will later echo to Archie Morris, telling him that there are two kinds of doctors: the kind that hide their feelings and succumb to them, and those that get rid of their feelings. No matter how you feel it's the patients that matter.
During his time as a student, Carter often finds himself at odds with Benton, though it is clear Benton does care about him. Carter's frequent dealing with psychological trauma in the workplace, such as a transgender patient who commits suicide, leaves Carter unsure if he made the right career choice, but after helping a woman give birth his choice is reconfirmed.
Season 2 (4th year Med Student)
Carter accompanies Peter Benton in helping Dr. Vucelich on a research project, and even attempts to continue working with Vucelich after Benton is removed from the project for questioning Vucelich's data reporting. Carter develops a cavalier and disdainful attitude towards patients during this time, which adds stress to various professional relationships. Just before graduation, John requests a review of his transcript in order to determine whether he will graduate with honors. He is informed, however, that he has not seen a sufficient number of pediatric patients, and in order to graduate on time, he will need to serve a rotation with Doug Ross in Pediatrics, rather than the Plastic Surgery rotation he was interested in.
Season 3 (Surgical intern)
He is initially interested in surgery—even completing the first year of his surgical residency—and is mentored by surgical resident Benton. However, after extended exposure to the emergency room, and a short discussion with Dr. Anspaugh, he decides to change his specialty to emergency medicine to Benton's dismay.
In order for Carter to change from his surgical residency to an emergency medicine residency, he agrees to work for free for his first year, since County General had no more funding for an additional spot. As a resident, his confidence grows, and he often does whatever is in his power (or, sometimes, things outside of his power, much to the annoyance of his superiors) to help patients.
Season 6 (ER Resident)
Things continue at a normal pace for Carter up until the episode, Be Still My Heart where while looking at a Valentine's Day card in a patient's room, Carter is attacked and stabbed in the back by a schizophrenic patient - Paul Sobriki (David Krumholtz) who had been lying in wait.
As Carter slips to the floor, crying for help which goes ignored due to the loud music at the office Valentine's Day party, he discovers that Sobriki has also attacked and stabbed medical student, Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) who is lying on the floor, also bleeding heavily. Carter whispers Lucy's name, horrified and watches as she passes out before he too passes out seconds later.
In All in the Family, Kerry Weaver heads into the Exam Room and discovers Carter and Lucy lying on the ground, both unconscious, promptly bringing the party to an abrupt end as the ER staff work to save both their seriously injured colleagues.
Thanks to surgery, Carter survives his injuries but he's left with lifelong kidney problems due to his kidney being damaged while Lucy succumbs to her injuries and dies, leaving the ER team devastated.
As a result, Carter is left emotionally and psychologically damaged, eventually developing survivor's guilt due to his guilt and grief over Lucy's death.
Carter's dark side also emerges as he develops an addiction to Fentanyl, even going so far as to inject himself while on the job which gets worse when he gives a patient some medicine despite her telling him that she was allergic to it.
After Abby Lockhart catches him shooting up Fentanyl following a trauma, Kerry Weaver and the other doctors stage an intervention in the Season 6 finale episode, "May Day" where they demand that Carter go to an inpatient rehab center for medical doctors in Atlanta or be fired and brought up on charges. Although initially opposed to going, Carter eventually agrees to go with Dr. Benton accompanying him.
Season 7 (ER Resident)
Upon returning from rehab Carter makes peace with his recovering heroin-addict cousin, Chase, and apologizes for his long absence, saying, "I didn't want to admit to the fact that I was just like you."
In "The Greatest of Gifts", Carter on impulse grabbed a couple of pills, though however immediately realizing his mistake, he ran to the bathroom and threw them up. He then informed Abby of what he did, Abby responded by telling him that he should tell Weaver about what happened, Carter however not willing to risk his career was at first reluctant to tell her, though eventually gathering the nerve to do it anyway, Weaver was glad he told her and let him continue his work at the hospital though she told him not to make her regret going easy on him.
Season 8 (ER Resident/Chief Resident)
In the eleventh episode of Season 8, Beyond Repair, Carter suffered an unpleasant blast from the past when he met patient, Paul Sobriki who at the time of their first meeting had been in the grip of a psychotic outbreak and had stabbed Carter and Lucy with Lucy later dying from the injuries sustained.
Carter reacted strangely calm at first but upon heading into a hospital bathroom, vomited.
In On the Beach, following the death of his predecessor, Mark Greene from brain cancer, Carter became the new Attending, Carter even donning his own version of the green scrubs that Greene himself had worn in the past.
During Season 9, Carter dates Abby after they were quarantined in the ER for three weeks because of the outbreak of monkeypox. They have long been attracted to each other, and their romantic relationship is the natural next step. However, Abby's brother Eric is diagnosed with bipolar disorder (like their mother) and his behavior becomes erratic. He then disappears. Meanwhile, the health of Carter's grandmother, Millicent, continues to decline, and Carter's mother has difficulty accepting her divorce from Carter's father. Worse, Abby and Carter continue to disagree over whether or not Abby (a recovering alcoholic) should be drinking at all, even moderately. These personal issues come to a head when Abby's brother reappears the same day Carter's grandmother dies. Carter is broken by his grief, yet Abby feels it is her duty to go and get her destitute brother, essentially leaving Carter alone to grieve. When the uninvited Eric behaves inappropriately at Millicent's funeral, even falling into her open grave, it marks the beginning of the end of Carter and Abby's relationship. About a month later, Carter cannot shake his grief or his troubles with Abby, and agrees to go to the Congo (without Abby's consent) to join Luka and the Doctors Without Borders program. While there, he is nearly killed by guerrilla soldiers. He returns after two weeks.
When Luka Kovač is reported killed in Africa, Carter goes to retrieve his body at the beginning of Season 10. To his surprise, he finds Kovač - still alive. He arranges for Kovač to be sent home, during which he gives Kovač a letter for Abby, which is a "Dear John letter" that ends their relationship. Around this time, Wyle had his first child, and requested to have three months off from the show in order to spend time with his infant son. Producers complied with this request. To deal with this absence, Carter remains in Africa for several months. He primarily works in Kem's AIDS clinic. They initially differ on approaches to treatment, but come to respect and love each other (see more about Kem below under "Related Characters: Romantic")
During Season 11, Carter starts building an HIV/AIDS clinic adjacent to County General, with full funding by his family's charity foundation. It will be named after his stillborn son - "The Joshua Carter Center." Afterwards, he goes to Paris, where Kem is visiting her mother, who has fallen ill. After a very awkward reunion, their relationship begins to grow again, and Carter offers to go to Africa with Kem and start all over. She doesn't answer right away, but later accepts the offer. Dr. Carter goes back to Chicago to finish out his work with County General, and, after saying goodbye to his friends, goes to Africa to be with Kem.
In Season 12, Carter appears in a four episode arc, working with a fellow doctor in Darfur, Sudan, where he is joined by Gregory Pratt and Debbie (Mary McCormack). Pratt informs him of Abby's pregnancy.
In Season 15, Carter returns in a five-episode arc close to the end, reappearing on Chicago and taking shifts at County General while waiting for a kidney transplant.
Early in the series, Carter's plots typically stayed in the realm of the ER. Since his character was the most visible resident, and residents in the U.S. often are on call in excess of 80 hours a week, this was an extension of that practice. However, with the departure of several lead male actors, beginning with George Clooney in 1999, Wyle was groomed to assume a greater role on the series - both as male lead and central love character. When Anthony Edwards decided to leave after eight seasons in 2002, Noah Wyle was essentially promoted to the top lead, and received top billing on the show. Carter's character, consequentially took a central role, and he appeared in almost every episode, and took on leadership position (as an attending) in the ER. In a symbolic gesture of this transference, he was told by Mark Greene "you set the tone" on Greene's last day in the ER. Greene had been told exactly the same thing, by Dr. Morgenstern, in the pilot episode in Season One of the show, after Carol's suicide attempt. Carter, in turn, said the same thing to Dr. Archie Morris as Carter left the ER for the last time.
Throughout the course of the series (particularly at the beginning of Season 6) we meet various members of Carter's family. His father, John (Jack) Truman Carter, Jr. (played by Michael Gross), is caring but stiff, and very acquiescent with his wife. He and Carter have an awkward relationship. Carter's mother, Eleanor (played by Mary McDonnell), is emotionally distant and cold. Her personality apparently became even colder after the death of Carter's older brother, Bobby (Robert), from leukemia. Carter's grandfather, John Truman Carter, Sr. (portrayed by George Plimpton), is the most disappointed by Carter's career choice, and though Carter respects him, he also resents him for that. Carter's grandmother, Millicent Carter (played by Frances Sternhagen), is a benefactor of the hospital, even funding Nurse Hathaway's clinic. Carter is very close to his grandmother (whom he calls "Gamma") and intermittently lives at her home. They do occasionally argue, however, usually in regard to Carter's reluctance to participate in matters related to the family foundation. Chase Carter (Jonathan Scarfe) is John's first cousin and a "functioning" heroin addict. Carter, with the assistance of his colleague Anna, attempts to detox and rehabilitate him, but fails. Chase eventually overdoses, resulting in severe brain damage. Carter pleads for the family to keep Chase in physical therapy, and Chase improves significantly. In earlier episodes, Carter mentions having a sister who lives in London and who traveled to Chicago for his med school graduation, but she is never seen, nor named, and in later episodes she is never mentioned at all.
A variety of actresses were called to play the love interests of Carter. Due to ER's increasing popularity and iconic status in the 1990s, this proved to be a pivotal turn in the career of several actresses, probably most notably for Maria Bello. Significant girlfriends (and the actresses that played them) are listed below:
- Harper Tracey (Christine Elise), a fellow med student, they dated during Season 2. She cheats on Carter very early in the relationship with Dr. Ross. Carter forgives her, only for her to dump him a few months later because Carter tricks another med student in order to get a procedure.
- Abby Keaton (Glenne Headly), a pediatric surgeon from Southside Hospital reassigned to County when Southside closes. She begins a pediatric surgical rotation with Dr. Peter Benton. Carter is Benton's intern, and Carter and Keaton begin working together, eventually embarking on a clandestine relationship that ends when Keaton leaves for a volunteer mission to teach Pakistani surgeons.
- Anna Del Amico (Maria Bello), they develop a close friendship during Season 4, but Carter's crush on her is never reciprocated. She was a new resident in the ER. She eventually returns to Philadelphia and makes up with her ex-boyfriend, a doctor and former painkiller addict.
- Roxanne Please (Julie Bowen), an insurance salesmen and patient of Carter, the two began dating in Season 5. The relationship falls apart for many reasons, including both of their busy work schedules and perhaps because Carter liked Med Student Lucy Knight.
- Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin), a med student, and cast regular in Seasons 5-6, Lucy was a few years younger than Carter. Although Lucy and Carter never actually date, they flirt with each other and come close to having a romantic moment, but do not continue over Carter's indecision over their differences and the fact that he has a girlfriend. Despite character popularity, Kellie Martin decided to leave the series; her character died from injuries after she was stabbed by a schizophrenic patient in the Season 6 episode, Be Still My Heart and All in the Family.
- Rena Trujillo (Lourdes Benedicto), Carter briefly dates Rena during Season 7, until he finds out that she is still a student and is only 19. He dates her for a brief time until she dumps him because she knows he has feelings for Abby Lockhart.
- Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), Susan Lewis left ER early in Season 3 to comfortable residency in Phoenix, Arizona, only to return in 2001. As Carter had a crush on her during her first tenure on the show, this dropped plot was resumed. But, after finally dating, during Season 8, their chemistry is very low and they never share a physical relationship. Susan could sense Abby's subtle jealousy ever since Carter was giving her much attention since she came back to County. They split amicably after Susan tells him to "tell Abby".
- Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), both date during Season 9, after being very good friends during Seasons 7 and 8. She is a nurse in the ER. After a series of personal crises and general dysfunction on the part of them both (see "Key Events" above), their relationship finally dissolves when Carter goes to the Congo for seven months. He breaks up with her by letter. Millicent initially didn't like Abby; but shortly before her death gave Carter her blessing, and her mother's engagement ring.
- Makemba "Kem" Likasu-Carter (Thandie Newton), they begin dating in Season 10. A French/Congolese AIDS worker in the Congo, Carter meets Kem while working for Doctors Without Borders. They have a passionate, fast-paced romance culminating in Kem's pregnancy. However, she loses the baby after eight months of pregnancy, and begins to shut down emotionally. Carter proposes, but she doesn't answer and moves back to Africa. During their separation, they date others, but when Carter visits her while she is in France, they reconcile, and give their relationship another chance. During Season 12, we learn that Kem and Carter got married. Carter is wearing a wedding band and someone refers to Kem as "Carter's wife".
- Wendall Meade (Mädchen Amick), a social worker in the ER, she dates Carter during Season 11. But, despite his protests, she dumps him after he admits that he doesn't love her and can't stop calling Kem. She apologizes for not realizing that he wasn't ready for a new relationship.
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