Forceful yet smooth actor Eriq La Salle worked on the stage and on television before breaking into films, directing, and producing his own projects. He is perhaps best known for his role of the confident Dr. Peter Benton on the NBC series ER, which has earned him several Emmy nominations. He grew up in New England and got a prestigious education at Juilliard and N.Y.U. Living in New York, he made a living doing Broadway, off-Broadway, and soap operas. He worked intermittently between film and television for a few years, with one of his first movies being the breakdancing drama Rappin' with Mario Van Peebles. During this time, he made numerous TV guest appearances, briefly joined the cast of the NBC soap Another World, and played the role of Jeri-curled Darryl in Coming to America. A couple TV movies later, he strayed away from comedy and got a small part in the drama Jacob's Ladder. In 1991 he moved to L.A. for a part in the series The Human Factor, giving him an introduction to the prolific world of medical dramas. He also played two detectives in a row for the thrillers Empty Cradle and Color of Night, and appeared in the crime series Under Suspicion. In 1994, he joined the cast of ER and got his first starring role in the drama Drop Squad, produced by Spike Lee. In 1996, he made his directorial debut with the HBO movie Rebound, about the life of basketball player Earl "The Goat" Manigault, which he also appeared in. The same year he directed the short film Psalms From the Underground. He moved on to producing for the made-for-TV thriller Mind Prey, which he also starred in. Along with some small roles in Biker Boyz and One Hour Photo, 2002 saw La Salle make his first feature as director, producer, and star with the psychological thriller Crazy as Hell.