The plug has been pulled on Dr. Elizabeth Corday.
British actress Alex Kingston will hang up her scrubs, having been tossed off ER, she says, to allow room for new blood.
Kingston told her home country's Radio Times magazine that she has been shown the door after seven-plus years of surgery and romance on the NBC medical series because "apparently, I, according to the producers and the writers, am part of the old fogies who are no longer interesting."
Kingston admits being told her contract wouldn't be renewed "was a shock and obviously upsetting, but it's just your ego that's upset. Then I got over it."
However, she still seemed miffed about the ageism factor: "In that respect, it's a shame. It's fine to have young med students, but you need to have figures of authority, people of different ages, races, shapes and sizes."
In a statement Monday, ER's executive producers and production company Warner Bros. Television said Corday had overstayed her welcome in the hospital.
"Alex Kingston has been an integral part of ER for the past eight years. She is a gifted actress and a true professional. Like countless other characters on long-running series storylines run their course over time," the producers said.
"The situation with Alex Kingston's character Dr. Elizabeth Corday is no exception. We wish Alex all the best in her future endeavors and hope to have the opportunity to work with her again in the near future."
By late Monday, Kingston was backpeddling, saying the whole ageism thing was a joke gone too far.
"I would like to clarify my feelings regarding my departure from ER," she said in a press release issued by publicist Jazmine Valte. "Statements from an interview I recently gave were spoken tongue in cheek and unfortunately have been taken out of context. I regret if these statements have affected the producers, as we are in mutual agreement that the storyline for my character had run its course.
"I am very proud of the work I have done over the past eight years. I am grateful for the professional associations and friendships I have made through ER, and the incredible opportunities it has afforded me."
Kingston joined ER in 1997 as Dr. Elizabeth Corday, the outspoken trauma surgeon struggling to make her Brit attitude and training fit in with the folks at Chicago's County General. She debuted at the start of the show's fourth season, episode 71, titled "Ambush," which was broadcast live, the cast performing it twice, first for the East Coast, then the West.
The curly locked Corday was soon wooing Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq LaSalle), but that interracial romance was considered too controversial and eventually faded out. By the middle of the following season, Corday was beginning to bond with Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards). After many trials and tribulations, including Greene developing a brain tumor, they married and had a kid. Greene died at the end of the eighth season, when Edwards left the show.
Since then, Kingston's appearances have been more sporadic, with Corday either in conflict with hospital administration or involved in short-lived inappropriate romances, or both. By the end of last season, she had been appointed the new head of surgery. She has reportedly already shot two episodes for season 11.
"Like other former cast members who have moved on from the show," Kingston said in her Monday statement, "I am looking forward to a creative and successful future."
Indeed, she joins a long goodbye list of female stars who have left the show for personal or professional reasons, including Gloria Reuben, Julianna Margulies, Kellie Martin and Sherry Stringfield, who left in 1996 but returned in 2001 to reprise her role as Dr. Susan Lewis.
The mature actresses hanging in are Laura Innes (Dr. Kerry Weaver since 1995), who is 44, and Maura Tierney (Abby Lockhart since 2000), who is 39. They compete for screen time with youngsters Linda Cardellini (nurse Sam Taggert) and Parminder Nagra (medical student Neela Rasgotra), both 28, who joined the cast this past season--and, ironically, whose futures at County General seemed in doubt in the season finale. (Meanwhile, Shane West will join the cast next season to bring down the average age on the male side.)
Kingston first attracted attention on this side of the pond in 1996, when PBS aired the British miniseries The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, based on Daniel Defoe's lusty 18th-century novel.
Kingston had been tabloid press fodder in England when her marriage to British movie star Ralph Fiennes broke up, after he took up with actress Francesca Annis, 19 years his senior. After moving to the U.S., Kingston married German journalist Florian Haertel. They now have a three-year-old daughter, Salome Violetta.
Last year, Kingston battled Romans in as the fabled British queen Boadicea in the PBS movie Warrior Queen. She says she will return to England to seek film and television work there. "Scariness comes from not knowing whether I can do it anymore, because I've been playing one role for so long," she said to Radio Times. "Admittedly, I've done little bits and pieces, but I'm very excited about getting back to the U.K."