Published October 22, 2012
Decades before “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House” and “Nurse Jackie,” there was “St. Elsewhere,” an irreverent, hilarious, often controversial series that broke a lot of broadcast television ground. Over its six seasons, it addressed AIDS, addiction, infidelity, rape — not to mention the deaths of several main characters.
A whopping 30 years later (man we are getting old), it’s clear that one of the most astonishing things about "St. Elsewhere" was its ensemble cast. The show ended up giving some of today's biggest stars their first big break.
And don’t forget the series’ shocking finale, which is, to this day, one of the most talked-about and oft-maligned in TV history: Was St. Eligius hospital indeed all a figment of an autistic boy’s (played child actor Chad Allen) imagination?
Our friends at Snakkle.com took a look back at the “St. Elsewhere” actors and found out where they ended up three decades later.
THEN: Mark Harmon as Dr. Bobby Caldwell in 1983
Bobby Caldwell was the promiscuous plastic surgeon whose story ended in tragedy: A psycho hookup slashed his face, leaving him scarred, and he eventually contracted HIV. It was revealed in the final season that he’d died of AIDS.
“I was real thankful to be included in this group,” Harmon says of being on the show, saying that the cast provided “teachers in every direction.”
NOW: Harmon on 'NCIS'
Harmon had memorable stints on series like “Chicago Hope” (as another doctor) and “The West Wing” (as an ill-fated agent). His movie credits include both “Freaky Friday” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Of course, nowadays he’s best known for starring in one of the most popular dramas on television, “NCIS,” as Special Agent Jethro Gibbs.
THEN: Denzel Washington as Dr. Philip Chandler in 1985
Laser-focused, serious, accomplished, Dr. Chandler was all business at St. Eligius and frequently called his colleagues out when they were less than professional. Even then, it was clear that the young actor portraying him (in one of his very first roles) was a star.
“To this day he will call me from the set and go, ‘Howie, how would you play this?’,” says costar Howie Mandel.
NOW: Washington the Oscar-Winning Movie Star
Perhaps you are familiar with this particular “St. Elsewhere” alum’s career—but in case you need any reminding, here’s a brief summary. Mr. Denzel has won two Oscars (for “Training Day” and “Glory”), and has been nominated for three more (including for portraying an American icon in “Malcolm X”). He’s starred in acclaimed movies from “Philadelphia” to “The Hurricane” (for which he won a Golden Globe) to “American Gangsters,” and he is one of the most powerful and influential actors working in Hollywood today.
Oh, and he’s also been named “People” magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and one of the “Most Beautiful People in the World.”
THEN: Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus in 1983
Not surprisingly, comedian Howie Mandel’s Dr. Fiscus was a cutup at St. Eligius. Though a dedicated surgeon, he was known for his lighthearted behavior toward colleagues and patients alike. His castmates unanimously named Mandel the class clown of the show. “We were irreverent,” says Mandel. “We were ironic. We were sometimes silly.”
NOW: Mandel on 'America's Got Talent'
Mandel has loaned his voice to numerous projects, including the movie “Gremlins” and the long-running “Bobby’s World,” as well as appearing in series like “The Outer Limits” and “Monk.”
But he’s best known for playing himself: As the host of “Deal or No Deal” and now a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” among others, his gift of gab has kept him one of Hollywood's highest paid TV stars.