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After ‘ER,’ ‘Full House’ vet still has hands full

"ER" heartthrob John Stamos reveals his career plans, Christmas gift-giving habits, and how he responded to actress Cloris Leachman's indecent proposal (“She’s with child -- it’s mine”).
/ Source: TODAY

Don’t assume it’s a lack of story lines or viewer interest that’s put the kibosh on “ER” after 15 seasons. “We’ve run out of blood — that’s why the show’s ending,” joked John Stamos, who plays Dr. Tony Gates on the show, during a TODAY interview in New York. “There’s no more fake blood.”

The Emmy-winning drama, one of the longest-running series on television, featured Stamos as a charming, hot-tempered doctor and Gulf War veteran. Since joining the esteemed medical staff three years ago and helping boost ratings, Gates has been involved in a series of explosive plots: assisting a young kidnapping victim, saving a woman from a burning building and fighting over a love interest in a heated bar brawl.

“It’s the first adult, flawed character I’ve gotten to play on TV,” Stamos said backstage at TODAY. “It’s also the best character I’ve ever gotten, so I’ll miss that.”

Stamos savors his “ER” role even though he doesn’t have much in common with a character known for his temperamental outbursts and complicated personal life. “When I first came on, [Gates] was a bit of an ass, self-immersed and a magnet for trouble,” the actor said. “But he’s grown up a bit on the show. [And the writers] have written me more humor lately, so that’s a bit closer to me."

What does he have most in common with Dr. Gates? Could it be the fictional doctor’s flirtatious manner? “Yeah, I guess so,” Stamos confessed, laughing.

Humorous heartthrob
The actor’s tongue-in-cheek sexuality has become iconic. For example, in the film “Step Brothers,” the title antagonists, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, finally bond when they discover they share the same dream man: John Stamos.

And he’s not just a hit with the middle-aged men — older ladies also go crazy for the former “Full House” star with the perfectly coifed mane. Just this past August, at the Comedy Central roast of Bob Saget, actress Cloris Leachman said the only reason she showed up at the event was to get with the “pretty boy” actor.

For those who wonder what went on after Leachman’s indecent proposal, Stamos finally came clean: “She’s with child,” he smirked. “It’s mine.”

It’s that type of mischievous personality that prompted Stamos to purchase the $30,000 “D” of the old Disneyland sign, which now overshadows his Hollywood home.

“I thought I would hide it behind my house, but I didn’t realize that you could see for miles all the way down Mulholland Highway,” he said. “Sometimes as I’m driving home, I’ll see these Hollywood tours stopping to taking pictures of it.”

But such extravagance doesn’t mean Stamos’ loved ones should expect posh presents under the Christmas tree this season. “I’m pretty lavish, but my family just wants money,” Stamos lamented. “It’s so impersonal. But then they can buy what they want, since I’ve usually bought them something they don’t want.” It’s an easier system for Stamos, but he admits it “feels cheap.”

Moving on
On Saturday, Nov. 15, Stamos will star in “The Two Mr. Kissels,” a film he produced for Lifetime. It’s based on the true story of two multimillionaire brothers who married the women of their dreams and wound up dead. Robert Kissel was murdered by his wife Nancy in what became known as “the milkshake murder” because she drugged him with a milkshake full of sedatives before bludgeoning him to death. Robert’s brother Andrew was found stabbed to death in the basement of his $2.5 million home in Greenwich, Conn.

Known for portraying sweet, doting Uncle Jesse on “Full House,” Stamos found a dark, dirty character particularly appealing. “Andrew Kissel really loved his family, but equally loved money, drugs and hookers,” he said of the real estate mogul he portrays in the film. “It was great to play the duality of this character ... he was a con artist.”

Managing the hectic schedule of starring in a TV series and a TV-movie at the same time was no mean feat. The actor would film “ER” on weekdays, then head to Toronto for the weekends.

With his producing, musical and acting talents, Stamos boasts an impressive resume. From touring with the Beach Boys to singing in hit musicals such as “Nine” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” he isn’t afraid to venture into new territory. In 2006, he played a gay wedding planner in the A&E TV-movie “Wedding Wars,” which inspired him to publicly declare his support for gay marital rights.

Although he generally shies away from airing his personal politics, Stamos discussed his “disappointment” in last week’s passage of Proposition 8 in California, which amended the state’s constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. “I was really saddened for a lot of people, a lot of friends. That one really upset me.”

And Stamos is also sad about “ER” coming to an end. But he’s excited about the next chapter in his career, which may include another stint on Broadway.

Not that’s he’s slowing down, or giving up hustling for more TV or feature film roles. Asked what his New Year’s resolution for 2009 will be, Stamos enthusiastically replied: “To get a new job after ‘ER’!”