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PASADENA, Calif. - Noah Wyle was 23 years old the first time he met Steven Spielberg. Wyle had been cast as the young John Carter in "ER"; Spielberg was one of the show's executive producers.
And Wyle was petrified.
"Oh, I couldn't say a word. My hands were sweaty," he said. "Luckily he kind of ignored me. In fact, he totally ignored me, I believe."
Sixteen years later, Wyle is once again starring in a Spielberg-produced series. He's the star of "Falling Skies," a post-alien apocalypse show that's slated to premiere on TNT in June.
"Getting to work again with Mr. Spielberg again, especially in something that's probably more in his bailiwick of interests - the sci-fi/alien genre - has been tremendous," Wyle said. "And getting to see his notes come through, whether they were in preproduction, in casting, or in script shaping or in the editing room or in the postproduction with the special effects, it's like getting to sit at the foot of the master."
A lot of people seem to have forgotten that Spielberg was involved in "ER" - it's the one big television hit the Oscar-winning movie director has had. And he was more than just a name on the credits.
"Steven was tremendously involved with the beginning of 'ER,'" Wyle said. "So I had the great fortune of getting to spend a lot of time around him and to see how razor sharp his mind is when it comes to developing story and character."
And, in the early days of "ER," Spielberg kept a hand in despite the fact that he had movie projects going at the same time.
"Sort of halfway through the first season, he made a reference to some of the dailies he'd been watching the night before," Wyle said. "I asked him if he made a habit of watching all the dailies, and he said, 'I never miss a day of footage.' And I thought that that was incredible.
"He was doing the postproduction, I think, on 'Schindler's List' at the time. And when he wasn't doing that, he was watching all of the 'ER' dailies. So that was the first clue I had as to how hands-on he was and yet how hands-off he was in his managerial style.
"But I was incredibly intimidated. I'm still incredibly intimidated to be around him, to be honest."
STILL INVOLVED: Spielberg apparently has less day-to-day involvement in "Falling Skies." Although he was closely involved in one aspect of the alien-invasion show - creating the look of the aliens.
"Steven sort of oversaw everything from design to the execution of it," said executive producer Darryl Frank. "The most important thing was to do something that looked scary. We have two or three different variations of aliens that you'll see throughout the series, but something that you hadn't seen before."
"I don't think we can overstate how involved Steven was in the creation of the aliens," added executive producer Robert Roday. "And God is in the details. I mean, he would weigh in on the amount of dust coming from a footstep because it would determine the weight that you would sense from the alien. His attention to detail is what created the aliens."