For eight years in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, Eriq La Salle gave one of the more acclaimed performances of the decade as strident emergency room surgeon Dr. Peter Benton on NBC’s ER. Nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards and the winner of multiple SAG Awards as part of the show’s ensemble, La Salle did admirable and often heartbreaking work on one of the era’s best TV dramas.
But the actor, otherwise best known for playing antagonist/Soul Glo entrepreneur Darryl Jenks in the 1988 comedy Coming to America, has been relatively scarce since he left ER in 2002. Sure, he occasionally returned to ER for guest spots after leaving, and he’s had recurring and guest roles on such TV series as Under the Dome, 24 (in the series finale) and Covert Affairs, and has also been in demand as a TV director. But La Salle hasn’t had a lot of high-profile roles in movies -- until now.
According to Variety, La Salle has been cast in the upcoming Wolverine 3. So far, there are few details as to what part La Salle will be playing in the film, which is set for release next March. But it did reiterate previous reports that Boyd Holbrook and Stephen Merchant are also on board, along with director James Mangold (who directed 2013’s The Wolverine, as well as Copland and Walk the Line.)
What else do we know about Wolverine 3? The film is said to be set in the future, and is based at least in part on the 'Old Man Logan' storyline. Patrick Stewart will appear once again as Professor Xavier, and it’s reportedly Hugh Jackman’s final time donning Wolverine’s claws.
Should we be excited about this? Well, there’s little doubt that since the bifurcation of X-Men movie franchise, the standalone Wolverine movies with Jackman have been significantly weaker than the First Class films. Whether the pattern continues with this month’s release of X-Men: Apocalypse -- in which Jackman appears as Wolverine -- remains to be seen.
However, both of the previous Wolverine movies did fine financially -- both took in over $100 million domestically -- and another X-Men-adjacent film, Deadpool, was recently a mega-hit, despite featuring none of the familiar First Class cast. Perhaps an off-beat supporting cast, with the likes of Merchant, Richard E. Grant and now La Salle could be just what the franchise needs in what sounds to be the end of an era.
X-Men: Apocalypse will open in U.S. theaters on May 27th, 2016, followed by Wolverine 3 on March 3rd, 2017 and unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), January 12th, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and July 13th, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.