Forget ripped from the headlines, Thursday's shocking ER was ripped straight from The Wizard of Oz. In case you missed it, a fiery helicopter was dropped on County General's very own Wicked Physician, Robert Romano — marking the one-armed medic's second (and presumably final) run-in with an angry chopper. But forgive us if we're not moved to join in a chorus of, "Ding dong the raging misogynist is dead." For as despicable as the rat bastard was, we'll miss his special brand of bad medicine. So, in honor of the doc's death, we rang up Romano's portrayer, Paul McCrane, for a quick postmortem.
TV Guide Online: What's the deal with Romano and helicopters?
(Laughs) Yeah, just call him Ahab [from Moby Dick]. [Helicopters are] like his white whale.
TVGO: Are you gonna think twice before going near one in real life?
No, I have no problem with helicopters. I like helicopters. But I guess helicopters have a problem with Romano.
TVGO: Why did they kill you off?
They felt that this character had sort of run his course. He provided a lot of great stuff for a long time, but I guess they wanted the character to go before he overstayed his welcome — and I sure feel the same way about that.
TVGO: Were you disappointed?
Yes. Sure. But to be honest with you, I came on the show as a guest to appear in one or two episodes. And then that became a recurring role, which I didn't expect. And then that became a regular role, which I didn't expect. And then I've had the opportunity to direct an episode. So, the unexpected opportunities I've had overwhelmingly outweigh any unexpected disappointments.
TVGO: Romano wasn't featured much in this episode considering it was his swan song.
It's sweeps time, and they wanted it to be a shocking surprise. And if they had played up anything about it, it would have diminished the impact of it.
TVGO: Will he come back as a ghost and get a proper send-off?
(Laughs) No, I don't think so. They haven't talked to me about that yet, but you never know. It is television.
TVGO: Do you wish you had a chance to show a softer side to the character?
I've had a ball playing him. And one of the things that has been fun is that every season they give him a little something here and there to reveal some other aspect of his ostensible humanity. Selfishly, as an actor, I would have loved to have played a lot of different facets of his personality. But characters serve functions in shows, and I understand that.
TVGO: He did have that final moment of vulnerability and fear right before he died.
Yeah, it's much more fun to do it that way than to just have him go out to get a breath of fresh air and have a helicopter fall on him. (Laughs) At least there was some other emotional thing going on.
TVGO: What lady doc did you have the most fun sexually harassing over the years?
(Laughs) The actress I had the most fun working with was Alex Kingston. It was a fun relationship to play because it was a combination of occasional sexual harrassment with genuine affection. She's such a terrific actress and such a lovely person.
TVGO: Who do you think will inherit Romano's throne as ER's biggest jerk?
No one can fill the void left by Romano! (Laughs) To be honest, one of the things that sort of surprised me about [being killed off] was, just doing the math, that I was the one major bad guy. Maybe they hope to spread that around a little bit more, and in a way, humanize some of the characters a little bit more and make them a little less completely virtuous. Sort of what they've done with Laura Innes's character over the years. She is, at alternate times, really loathsome and very sympathetic. They may be looking to spread that malice around a little bit more instead of just embodying it all in just one character.