|ER doc Goran Visnjic cuts big deal|
Goran Visnjic, who replaced George Clooney as the resident heartthrob on ER, has inked a four-year deal that runs through the 11th season of the hit medical drama.
Visnjic's deal follows a recent reupping by Noah Wyle and follows the surprise return by original cast member Sherry Stringfield, who, like Wyle, is also booked to stay through the show's 10th season.
The move gives producer Warner Bros Television a powerful selling point in any future negotiations with NBC to keep the hit drama on the air past its 10th season. NBC last year renewed ER until May 2004, agreeing to pay between $8 million and $9 million per episode, starting this fall.
NBC had been paying a record $13 million per episode for ER as part of a previous renewal deal inked in January 1998.
Visnjic joined the show in 1999 after the exit of George Clooney; his signing indicates that Wells and WB will likely try to persuade NBC to add one more year to its current deal. ER has shown no signs of giving up its ratings crown as TV's top-rated drama, which it's maintained despite the defections of several core cast members.
The exact numbers of Visnjic's deal were being clamped as tightly as a leaking artery, because the same network, producer and studio are in the midst of contract renegotiations with the cast members of their latest runaway dramatic hit, The West Wing. But sources said that the deal will put Visnjic in the six-figure-per-episode club, with the total pact worth millions of dollars. The one remaining season in his original deal will be sweetened to that salary level, and he'll continue three seasons beyond that.
That's quite an accomplishment for the 28-year old who's hardly a household name yet. Visnjic was discovered when Welcome to Sarajevo bowed at the Cannes Film Festival several years ago. Clooney starred opposite Clooney in The Peacemaker and also did Practical Magic and Committed. He'll next be seen in The Deep End a Fox Searchlight picture bowing Aug. 8.
Wells said that Visnjic "has been great for the show. He's a wonderful actor and a consummate professional."