Eriq La Salle

Eriq La Salle Headshot

Actor • Director • Writer • Producer

Birth Date: July 23, 1962

Age: 61 years old

Birth Place: Hartford, Connecticut

As the supremely confident surgeon Peter Benton on the long-running medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), actor Eriq La Salle raised the performance bar on a series that featured a number of quality turns from other top actors. For eight seasons, he portrayed Dr. Benton and allowed the character to grow in various directions, all the while turning the actor into a bona fide star. Prior to "ER," La Salle appeared frequently on stage before landing a role as reporter Mike Rivers on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968-2012). From there, he shifted over to "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999) and was memorable as the Jheri-curled heir to a hair product dynasty in the Eddie Murphy vehicle "Coming to America" (1988). Following turns in "Jacob's Ladder" (1990), "Color of Night" (1993), and "Drop Squad" (1994), La Salle had his big breakthrough on "ER," and upon departure, contributed supporting turns to several features, including "One Hour Photo" (2002). Starting in 1996, he began a second career as a director, helming episodes of "ER" as well as "The Twilight Zone" (UPN, 2002-03), "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09). Whether in front of the camera or behind, La Salle was always forceful presence on any project.

Born on July 23, 1962 in Hartford, CT, La Salle was raised by his foster mom, Ada Haynes, who took care of him and four siblings, and he remained a rather unfocused student until he discovered acting at a local youth theater group when he was 14. After graduating Weaver High School, he began training as an actor at The Julliard School, only to be denied a return invitation following his second year because of his difficulty in overcoming his inner-city speech patterns. Though he had been training privately with speech teachers, La Salle's teachers felt he was unable to suppress them and was not asked back for a third year. Stung but undaunted, La Salle finished his training at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned his bachelor's in fine arts in 1984. Of course, there was no better teacher than actually being on stage and La Salle began performing in several productions for Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park theater company, which soon led to him making his screen debut.

Following roles in various Broadway and off-Broadway productions, La Salle broke into the movie business with roles in low-budget features aimed at the exploitation crowd like "Rappin'" (1985) and "Cut and Run" (1985), before landing a role as reporter Mike Rivers on the long-running daytime soap "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968-2012) in 1985. He departed the show the following year and headed west to find more substantial work in Los Angeles, including guest shots on "Spenser: For Hire" (ABC, 1985-88) and a recurring character on the soap "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999). La Salle increased his visibility with a supporting role as the haughty Daryl Jenks, whose family grew rich from the fictional Jheri curl product SoulGlo in the classic Eddie Murphy comedy "Coming to America" (1988). More feature work soon followed, including "Jacob's Ladder" (1990), "Color of Night" (1993), and a lead in the Spike Lee-produced "Drop Squad" (1994), a message drama about a black militant group who kidnaps an executive (La Salle) who produces advertising spots that belittle African-Americans.

The following year, La Salle was tapped to join the cast of Michael Crichton's fledgling medical drama, "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). An exceptionally talented doctor, La Salle's Peter Benson clashed with his fellow surgical residents - especially Noah Wyle's John Carter - over his take-charge attitude and occasionally arrogant behavior. But as the series progressed, Benson softened somewhat thanks in part to relationships with physician assistant Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reuben) and a former girlfriend with whom he had a deaf son. Benson's character developed further layers as he attempted to raise Reese on his own, dated white surgeon Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) and clashed with chief surgeon Robert Romano (Paul McCrane) over patient treatment. Eventually, Benton departed County General for a better job that would allow him more time with his son, who had returned to the custody of his mother and her new husband. La Salle's performance was popular with viewers and critics alike, allowing him to net a substantial share of awards, including three Image Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards (for Outstanding Ensemble). La Salle's further nominations for Benton included three Emmy nods and a Golden Globe nomination in 1998.

While still a regular on "ER," La Salle made his debut as director on the short film "Psalms from the Underground" (1996), in which he also co-starred with such top-notch actors as John C. McGinley, Ronny Cox and Lorraine Toussaint. The following year, he tackled his first feature with the made-for-cable drama "Rebound," about the troubled life of street basketball player Earl "The Goat" Manigault. La Salle later tackled episodes of television series like "Soul Food" (Showtime, 2000-04) and the independent feature "Crazy as Hell" (2002), in which he also starred as a mental patient who calls himself Satan. Following his departure from "ER" in 2002, La Salle appeared as a detective investigating a terror campaign waged on a family by a deranged photo technician (Robin Williams) in "One Hour Photo" (2002). He also contributed a cameo to the action film "Biker Boyz" (2003), about black motorcycle racers, co-starred as a Jamaican gangster in "Johnny Was" (2006), and appeared in several made-for-TV features. On the directorial front, he helmed episodes of "The Twilight Zone" (UPN, 2002-03), "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09), as well as the television movie, "Playing Father" (Hallmark, 2012). In front of the camera, La Salle delivered episodes of "Covert Affairs" (USA Network, 2009-14) and "24" (Fox, 2001-10), while landing recurring role on "How to Make it in America" (HBO, 2009-12) and "A Gifted Man" (CBS, 2011-12).

By Shawn Dwyer

Credits

A Second Chance at LoveStream

Actor
Jack
Movie
2022

Law & Order: Organized CrimeStream

Director
Series
2021

Tamron HallStream

Guest
Talk
2019

Training DayStream

Director
Series
2017
24%

LoganStream

Actor
Will Munson
Movie
2017
94%

Angie TribecaStream

Guest Star
Dr. Brainerd
Series
2016
96%

The MessengersStream

Director
Series
2015
47%

CSI: CyberStream

Director
Series
2015
34%

Battle CreekStream

Director
Series
2015
96%

The LibrariansStream

Director
Series
2014

Madam SecretaryStream

Director
Series
2014

Chicago P.D.Stream

Director
Series
2014

Chicago P.D.Stream

Executive Producer
Series
2014

The Real

Guest
Talk
2013

Under the DomeStream

Director
Series
2013
68%

Under the DomeStream

Guest Star
Series
2013
68%

Blackout: Die totale Finsternis

Actor
George
Show
2013

Playing Father

Director
Movie
2013

Blackout

Actor
George
Show
2012

Once Upon a TimeStream

Director
Series
2011
78%

A Gifted ManStream

Director
Series
2011
66%

A Gifted ManStream

Guest Star
Evan "E-Mo" Morris
Series
2011
66%

RingerStream

Director
Series
2011
49%

Relative Stranger

Actor
Walter Clemons
Movie
2009

Megafault

Actor
Charley "Boomer" Baxter
Movie
2009

The Better Show

Guest
Show
2007

Johnny Was

Actor
Julius
Movie
2006

Inside Out

Actor
Dr. Peoples
Movie
2005

CSI: NYStream

Director
Series
2004

Without a TraceStream

Director
Series
2002

Without a TraceStream

Guest Star
Series
2002

The Twilight ZoneStream

Actor
Series
2002

The Twilight ZoneStream

Director
Series
2002

The Twilight ZoneStream

Writer
Series
2002

One Hour PhotoStream

Actor
Det. James Van Der Zee
Movie
2002
81%

The Salton Sea

Producer
Movie
2002

Crazy as Hell

Actor
The Man
Movie
2002

Crazy as Hell

Director
Movie
2002

Crazy as Hell

Producer
Movie
2002

24Stream

Guest Star
UN Secretary General
Series
2001
87%

Soul Food

Director
Series
2000

Law & Order: Special Victims UnitStream

Director
Series
1999
78%

Mockery for Justice

Actor
Lucas Davenport
Movie
1999

Mind Prey

Actor
Lucas Davenport
Movie
1999

Mind Prey

Producer
Movie
1999

For Your Love

Guest Star
Show
1998

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

Rebound -- The Legend of Earl The Goat Manigault

Actor
Diego
Movie
1996

Rebound -- The Legend of Earl The Goat Manigault

Director
Movie
1996

ERStream

Actor
Dr. Peter Benton
Series
1994

ERStream

Director
Series
1994

ERStream

Guest Star
Dr. Peter Benton
Series
1994

Color of Night

Actor
Anderson
Movie
1994

ER

Actor
Dr. Peter Benton
Movie
1994

Drop SquadStream

Actor
Bruford Jamison Jr
Movie
1994
14%

Empty Cradle

Actor
Detective Knoll
Movie
1993

The Larry Sanders ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1992
100%

The Human Factor

Actor
Michael Stoven
Show
1992

Hammer, Slammer & Slade

Actor
Jack Spade
Show
1990

Law & OrderStream

Director
Series
1990

Jacob's LadderStream

Actor
Frank
Movie
1990
72%

B.L. Stryker: Winner Takes All

Actor
Mark Hastings Jr.
Movie
1990

Quantum LeapStream

Guest Star
Bobby Lee
Series
1989

Ese Momento Mágico

Actor
Movie
1989

Magic Moments

Actor
Dancing Guy
Movie
1989

When We Were Young

Actor
Virgil Hawkins
Movie
1989

Coming to AmericaStream

Actor
Darryl Jenks
Movie
1988
73%

Vietnam War Story

Actor
K.C.
Movie
1987

Screenplay

Actor
Eric
Show
1986

Cut and Run

Actor
Fargas
Movie
1986

Spenser For HireStream

Actor
Series
1985

Rappin'

Actor
Ice
Movie
1985

TodayStream

Guest
News
1952

News aboutEriq La Salle