How Did a Character’s NAME on ER Save the Character’s Life?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: A character on ER was saved from death because of the name of the character.

In Season 9 of E.R., a new character named Erin Harkins was introduced, played by Leslie Bibb.

Harkins was an idealistic medical student who first showed up in Season 9 who became enamored with brooding Croatian doctor Luka Kovac (played by Goran Visnjic). Her puppy dog crush was rejected several times by Kovac before he made a drunken pass at her at a Christmas party after he revealed to his ex-girlfriend that he was still in love with her.

Later in the same episode, an exhausted and angry Kovac (who had been called in to work hungover and had made a mistake while at work) crashes his car with Harkins in the passenger seat.

Originally, the accident was meant to have killed Harkins, giving the character of Kovac (who had already lost his wife and child to a bombing back in Croatia) even MORE trauma before slowly building the character back up (most of Season 9 was spent tearing Kovac down). Harkins does not appear in the next couple of episodes. However, she then makes one final appearance (to finish her ER rotation) before never being seen again.

Amazingly enough, the character was saved for one simple reason – her first name!

You see, the character was created by E.R. writer and producer David Zabel, and he named her after his wife!! So when it came time to kill her off, Zabel recalled, “I just couldn’t do it. I had to come up with a better storyline to let her live.”

Isn’t that sweet?

The legend is…


Thanks to Zabel and Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal for the information!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

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