After eight years as abrasive Dr. Peter Benton, Eriq La Salle discharged himself from ER to concentrate on making movies and he's not looking back. While the 40-year-old actor-writer-producer-director confesses he misses that multi-million dollar paycheck, the quadruple threat says he has no plans to pull a Sherry Stringfield.
"My character didn't die, but I have no interest in returning to the show," he firmly tells TV Guide Online. "I thought about it long and hard when I made the choice [to leave]. I'm doing what I believe I'm supposed to be doing."
Currently, that entails running his own production company (Humble Journey Films) and getting the word out about his feature-directing debut, Crazy As Hell (opening Sept. 27). It's a different kind of grind than TV work, he acknowledges, but it's no less exhausting. "It's not like I went from being this disciplined person who has to get up and go to work every day to laying around all day in my underwear eating Cheerios," he asserts. "I still have structure. The difference is I'm doing it for me."
One of the perks of being you're own boss is having the power to cast yourself against type, as La Salle did in Hell. The former sourpuss in scrubs stars as a mental patient who claims to be Satan a lavishly dressed, smooth-talking, sexy devil at that! "It was nice to play someone with sexuality, frivolity, passion and rakishness," he says with a mischievous grin rarely seen during his ER days.
So determined was La Salle to shake off Benton that he insisted the film's wardrobe designer go over the top with his duds which explains that all-black S&M-inspired dress he sports in one scene. "[At first], she was playing it conservative because she thought I was going to play it conservative," he explains. "The last thing I wanted for this character was to play it safe."