September 10, 2004 08:15 AM

Noah Wyle, the last major character to remain with NBC’s ER since the medical drama premiered in 1994, plans to leave the series at the end of this season.

“I’ve just got other stuff going in my life right now,” Wyle told E! News Live. “I’ve got a son, I’ve got family and friends that said goodbye to me 12 years ago and are wondering when I’m coming back, and this little urge to scratch a different kind of itch in my career, and it’s just coming to the end of the character’s run.”

Wyle, 33, plays Dr. John Carter and is the sole survivor of an original cast that included Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Eriq La Salle and Julianna Margulies.

The Associated Press reports that Wyle’s announcement came as a surprise to the series’ creator John Wells and the producers, Warner Bros. Television.

“He’s clear on what he said,” said Wyle’s spokesman, Eddie George. “That’s where his head is at. That could change. There’s a lot of things that could happen between now and the end of the season.”

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said only, “people are going to have to stay tuned to see what’s happening.”

Besides ER, for which has had received five Emmy nominations, over the past few years Wyle has appeared in such movies as Enough, White Oleander and Donnie Darko.

His ER contract expires at the end of this season, says AP, noting that this spring Wyle watched as Friends, another NBC staple, faded away.

“The day the cast filmed their last episode, I saw them in the commissary. It was heavy,” said Wyle. “Here they were, closing a defining chapter in each of their lives, and all I could do was think: ‘The end of that chapter’s coming, for me.'”

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