And then, just for fun...take a moment and watch the real-life moment which inspired Abby's delusion.
The storyline had Carol flying off to Seattle, where Doug had relocated. Just taking a chance. After Carol left the hospital, as it aired, her next scene was running through the airport and then boarding a plane. Those scenes had been shot earlier in the morning. All I had left was the final scene where Carol goes to Doug’s house. We weren’t really in Seattle, of course, so some of the crew and I had only to drive across town to the location.
John Wells, who had been our Executive Producer in the very beginning but had since left to be the showrunner on The West Wing, came back for my farewell, which meant the world to me. He wrote and directed the episode, entitled “Such Sweet Sorrow,” and was rewarded with an Emmy nomination for his beautiful work. But by the time we arrived at the location sight, John Wells was cranky.
We had gotten caught in traffic, and we were losing the light. The scene was simple: I pull up the driveway in a rental car, I knock on the door but no one answers, I look around the yard a bit, and then, with a smile on my face, I head toward the water. And that was the end of Carol Hathaway. I joked with John that it was probably the literal end of Carol Hathaway - I’m not much of a swimmer and if Carol got a little too close to the water... But of course you’re actually left to believe that Carol saw Doug, and then the viewer could create the ending that they wanted.
It was a simple scene, but I was quickly informed that it was also going to have to be a very quick scene. Because of the delay, and the sun going down, John told me I had to get it in one take. I wasn’t too worried about that, again because of the simplicity.
“Just keep it going, Abby,” John directed me, just before he called Action. “Don’t break until I call Cut, and we’ll piece together what we need.”
That wasn’t unusual when filming ER. We were usually behind schedule, so I considered it par for the course. I drove the car the few feet up the drive, got out and went to the door. Nothing. I looked around the yard and started walking toward the water, all going according to plan. And then I saw my birthday gift. I walked toward the dock, smiling as the script had instructed, and then carrying on though my script had run out, determined not to break character until John Wells yelled “Cut.”
George Clooney had come back to television. He smiled that Clooney smile, so proud of himself for keeping the secret from me. It was a huge deal that he was there. In 2000, just like now, there was not a bigger movie star on earth than my best friend. We faked our way through the rest of the scene. He asked where the girls were - the girls being Doug and Carol’s twin daughters - I said they were with my parents, and then, for the very first time, George and I got through a kissing scene on the first take.
“Cut!” John yelled with a laugh.
I didn’t let go of George. I held on for dear life and started crying. “Thank you for this. I needed you today.”
“And here I am. But don’t flatter yourself. I’m just here for the craft services. I’ve missed the pie,” he said with a straight face.
“Yes,” I smiled, “you did always love the pie.”