Interview : NOAH WYLE As ER's Carter he's the world's favourite junior doctor. So surely he must be fascinating? Erm ...
WAITING FOR Wyle is like waiting for Godot. The wait is exceedingly long and expectations are unrealistically high. His personal assistant tells his publicist to tell his agent to tell me that Wyle has gone to get his groceries and that he'll be calling me reverse charge the minute he walks in the door. Clearly salaries in Hollywood don't stretch to LA- New York phone calls these days, particularly when you've just blown it all on a brand new Spanish-style mansion for yourself, your dogs, your cats and your fish.

When Wyle, alias Dr Carter in ER, does finally call, I've been waiting by the telephone for two and a half hours. But Noah is just so-o-o nice that it would be churlish to be offended. He's nice about his co-actors George Clooney, Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield and the rest of the "medical" team: "They're just so great and fabulous and it all works so well." And he's nice about his mum, the real-life orthopaedic nurse who insists on sitting in front of the TV with him to watch every episode of the hit series and remind him not to do things like touch his surgical goggles with his bloodstained hands. "I've made her into the most famous orthopaedic nurse in the world," he boasts.

He's nice about his stepfather, a film producer who introduced him to the acting world, and he's even kind about the intrusive fans who scream "Dr Carter", after him down the street and think they know him.

Wyle says of Dr Carter that he's "well-meaning and eager to do a good job ... but he's an idiot." Is he similar in any way to his on-screen character? Wyle on himself: "I was born in 1971 in LA and I went straight into acting from high school. I'm interested in low-budget film and drama, too, not just TV, and I've six brothers and sisters." Wyle on the subject of being famous at 25: "I'm far more into the process, the unfolding, than the getting there."

Wyle-watchers drool over his boyish smile, the aquiline nose, the peachy complexion. It wouldn't matter whether Dr Carter was talking drivel or not. Journalists can be less forgiving. Wyle is still smarting from a recent encounter with a nasty reporter who said mean things about him. "She said I was flash over substantial. She said I had looks over talent and charm over intelligence. I guess I must have been really naive and I dug myself into a hole. But now I'm far more media-savvy. I know how to deal with the press."

It is possible that the journalist was not nasty at all - she might have just been desperate. It's not that there aren't plenty of exciting things to say about Wyle's life. Rumour has linked him to Friends star Jennifer Aniston and ER co-star Sherry Stringfield, who plays Dr Susan Lewis. But Wyle's cherub-shaped lips remained sealed. He won't say anything about the interesting stuff. Instead he says things like, "My motto is to take my work seriously but not to take myself too seriously."

He is, however, ever so happy to talk about the new-found love of his life, a make-up artist whom he met on the set of ER and whose identity is one of the show's most closely guarded secrets. "I set eyes on her, I said wow, and I knew. And guess what, three days later I kissed her," he says and giggles.

Wyle is hoping that the stupendous success of ER will bring in the invitations to come and work in Britain.

"I'm a real anglophile," he says. "Your drama schools are so much more specialised than ours. I love your theatres, your clubs. I love the atmosphere on London streets. I love Sean Connery, Peter O'Toole and Sir John Gielgud..."

Wyle says goodbye and thank you and even surprisingly offers a tete- a-tete should I ever want another interview. The conversation ends just before 10 o'clock and ER is scheduled for a few minutes later. Wyle hangs up. It's time to watch with mother.