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Dr. Luka Kovač is a fictional medical doctor from the television series ER. He makes his first appearance in ER in Season 6 as a moonlighting physician, but is offered a permanent position as an attending physician by Kerry Weaver. He remains at County General for nine years, eventually assuming the role of chief of the ER in Season 12 until he steps down from his position due to his growing disillusionment with hospital politics. He is portrayed by Croatian-born actor Goran Višnjić.

As attending physician of the ER, Luka mentored numerous medical students and residents through their medical careers. In Season 14, he exits the ER and temporarily works as a hospice physician until he and Abby Lockhart, fellow doctor and wife, decide to leave Chicago together for Boston.

History

Early life

Luka Kovač was the son of Josip Kovač, an amateur painter and train conductor on a Zagreb train line, and an unnamed mother. He has one brother, Niko. He spoke of having a joyful, though financially modest, childhood; he told Carol Hathaway he and his brother once rented out various farm animals from their grandfather's farm to a Swedish film set nearby as a way to make some money. He grew up in an unnamed city near the coast.

When of age, Luka served his mandatory year of service in the Croatian Army and saw combat. He married his wife Danijela young; in "Secrets and Lies", he revealed he remained a virgin until his wedding night to Danijela, as she was religious and wished to wait. The two had two children, an elder daughter, Jasna, and a son, Marko.

He attended medical school in Croatia, with colleagues Dr. Gordana Horvat, Stipe, and Tomo; the latter two were his roommates. After their finals, the four hit a goat with their car on a drive up to Vukovar. Despite their attempts at CPR, and botched ideas of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and a chest tube, the goat passed away. Gordana referred to the goat as the "first patient [Luka] ever lost".

The family resided in a small apartment in Vukovar. When the Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995) broke out, Danijela wished to move out of Vukovar; however, Luka had to finish his internship. He ended up waiting too long, and it became unsafe to leave. Luka and Danijela kept their children inside; they struggled with cabin fever. When he went out to the market one morning, his apartment building was hit by an artillery/mortar shell. His infant son died instantly. His wife, while bleeding profusely from a piece of shrapnel embedded in her spleen, was still alive when he found her; however, he insisted on performing CPR to his pulseless daughter, who was breathing when he first found her. He continued the resuscitation for hours, praying for someone to come by and help; he only stopped hours later when he was too exhausted to continue. He confesses his guilt of continuing CPR on his daughter when he could have taken Danijela to the hospital and save her life to Bishop Stewart in "The Crossing".

Luka later moved to the United States of America some time after that for a fresh start. This was a move unpopular with his brother Niko, who accused him of cowardice. He worked as a moonlighting physician, travelling north in the summer and "flying" south in the winter; Carol comments his migration was bird-like.

Season 6

Luka starts his career at County General as a locum tenens physician in the episode "Leave it to Weaver". He assists the ER after a mass casualty when a vehicle crashes through a coffee shop. Luka would assist in more cases up until "Greene with Envy", when Kerry Weaver fires him after he goaded a patient's husband into punching him to prove that the husband was an abuser. He returns as a full-time attending physician after Gabriel Lawrence was let go due to his growing Alzheimer's. From there Luka assists in a number of cases, including helping save John Carter after he was stabbed by a patient in "All in the Family".

Personality

Luka is a quiet, but no doubt passionate doctor. His greatest strength is his care for his patients; he will go above and beyond, even breaking some rules, to make sure his patients get the care they wish for. While he is professional at work, he lets emotion dictate his choices when children get involved.

In "Things Change", Dr. Gordana Horvat, a surgeon who went to medical school with Luka, reveals Luka was a prankster in college, "always pulling practical jokes" and having a "contagious smile". Upon meeting him again in Chicago, she comments to Abby Lockhart that he's changed significantly from that time.

Relationships

Romantic

Abby Lockhart

Luka first meet Abby in "Abby Road", where she is the new medical student in the ER. Abby immediately expresses an interest in him to Haleh and Carol, which earns her Carol's cold shoulder. The two are cordial through Season 6.

Early season 7, Abby's program is interrupted due to her ex-husband Richard not paying her tuition as promised. Abby returns to County as an ER nurse, which leaves her to compare her mediocre performance as a med student with her excellent work as a nurse. When she confides this in Luka, he tells her he believes she could be a great doctor - "just need a little more confidence." Abby kisses him fleetingly.

Shortly afterwards, Abby asks Luka out on a date, where they share a second kiss. The night turns sour when a mugger hits Luka in the head and threatens Abby; Luka attacks the mugger in violent self-defense. Despite the trauma team's best efforts, the mugger passes away, to Luka's immense guilt. When Luka, previously punctual, misses a shift, Abby turns up at his hotel room and comforts him silently: "You don't have to talk."

Luka and Abby have a tentative relationship. As reserved, shy individuals, neither are willing to open up; it takes Abby's prompting for Luka to talk briefly about Danijela, and Abby confides in Carter instead about her alcoholic past (as he had seen her at a local AA meeting).

After the break up, Luka started sleeping around and eventually traveled to Africa where he met Gillian. After returning from Africa, Luka started dating nurse Samantha Taggart (a single mother with a son named Alex), for a short period of time they were living together. Samantha Taggart dumped Luka after dramatic events when her son ran off to see with his criminal dad, after that Dr. Kovac was alone for a while.

One day Luka and Abby started sleeping together again, then went back to dating. They were a happy couple, Abby got pregnant and Luka proposed to her, but she didn't gave him an answer. A shooting in the hospital caused early labor, Abby gave birth to Josip, and finally a few months after she and Kovac got married.

Carol Hathaway

While Luka and Carol's relationship was largely platonic, they did share a kiss. Carol reminded Luka of his late wife. Carol eventually left Luka, and County General, behind after she realized that Doug Ross was her true soulmate.

Samantha Taggart

Luka and Sam shared a passionate but antagonistic relationship. They split following Sam's reticence to have a child with him, and Luka's unwillingness to communicate about his history with her.

Friendships

Greg Pratt

While Luka and Greg had a tumultuous relationship, they held a great amount of respect for each other.

John Carter

The two began as cordial colleagues, albeit one where John was a resident and Luka was his attending. Their relationship grew more antagonistic as the two pursued their own relationship with Abby Lockhart. Following the events of "Kisangani", most of their reticence dissolved into a camaraderie. Luka hosted John's goodbye party at Ike's; the two remained in touch through email and postcards.

Kerry Weaver

Luka was one of the few doctors at County who shared a largely positive relationship with Kerry. His work as a moonlighter convinced Kerry to hire him as a permanent attending physician in the ER.

Susan Lewis

As co-attending physicians, Susan and Luka clashed often. While under Susan's watch, Luka, going through a depressive episode, missed multiple shifts and committed various unethical acts such as sleeping with a patient's mother and accepting money from an elderly, dying patient.

Trivia

  • Goran Višnjić was one of three actors added to the cast at the beginning of Season 6 following the mid-season 5 departure of leading character Doug Ross, played by George Clooney. The other roles include Michael Michele as Cleo Finch, and Erik Palladino as Dave Malucci.
    • All three introduced characters shared similarities with Doug (Cleo filled the role of emergency pediatrician, Malucci shared Doug's brashness), but Luka resembled him most. Both have a soft spot for children, both are willing to bend the rules for their patients, and both are interested in Carol Hathaway. That said, they share many differences as well; notable traits include:
      • Luka is an introvert.
      • Much of Luka's love for children stems from losing his wife and children in Croatia.
      • Luka actively wants a family.
      • While both Doug and Luka had numerous relationships with women, Luka only pursued casual relationships in a depressive period after he and Abby Lockhart separated.
  • Luka acted in college; he took up the role of Hamlet and provided a sample of the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy in "Secrets and Lies".
    • This is a nod to Goran Višnjić's time as Hamlet at the Dubrovnik Summer Theatre Festival in Croatia[external link]. He was the youngest actor to be chosen for the title role.
  • There are several inconsistencies in Luka's backstory.
    • "A Walk in the Woods" and "The Crossing" established his wife's name as Danijela and his children's as Jasna and Marko. However, in a conversation with Abby in "City of Mercy", he states: "after Jasna and the kids died [...]"
    • In "The Crossing", Luka states to the bishop he went out to get supplies when a mortar shell hit his apartment building. Earlier, in "The Fastest Year", he had told Carol he'd gone to the market for cheese and bread when an artillery shell hit the building.


ER Characters
Characters Mark GreeneDoug RossSusan LewisJohn CarterCarol HathawayPeter BentonJeanie BouletKerry WeaverAnna Del AmicoElizabeth CordayLucy KnightLuka KovačAbby LockhartCleo FinchDave MalucciJing-Mei ChenMichael GallantGreg PrattNeela RasgotraSamantha TaggartRay BarnettArchie MorrisTony GatesSimon BrennerCate Banfield
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