One of John Wells' earliest credits in Hollywood was as producer of a film called “Nice Girls Don’t Explode,” but believe it or not, his most memorable TV credit is “ER.” Wells served as show runner for the first six seasons of NBC’s massively successful hospital drama and was executive producer for all 15 seasons.
The son of an Episcopalian minister, Wells graduated from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 1979. He then traveled west to attend USC’s film school as a graduate student.
Though he did produce “Nice Girls Don’t Explode,” Wells’ big Hollywood break didn’t come until the next year, 1988, when he was hired as a producer for the new ABC drama “China Beach.” Wells stayed with the series through all four of its seasons, writing several episodes and moving up the ranks to co-executive producer.
After a few years writing and producing TV movies, Wells landed his other major credit as show runner of the fast-paced medical drama “ER,” created by author Michael Crichton and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Wells was with the series for its entire 15-year run and was credited as writer on 32 of the episodes.
After six seasons as show runner for “ER,” Wells co-created the emergency service workers series “Third Watch” for NBC, and was show runner for the series’ first three seasons. He was then executive producer for the rest of the show’s six-season run.
In 2003, he moved to NBC’s already-hit series “The West Wing” and replaced creator and show runner Aaron Sorkin as the series’ show runner. He oversaw the final three seasons of the series, which focused on the campaign and election to determine President Jed Bartlett’s (Martin Sheen) successor. Currently, Wells has two television series on the air: the TNT police drama “Southland” and the dysfunctional family drama “Shameless” on Showtime.
Wells made his feature directorial debut with the 2010 film “The Company Men," about the effects of corporate downsizing on white-collar workers in modern America. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, starred Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones.
In 2009, he was elected president of the Writers Guild of America, West for the second time. (His first term was from 1999 to 2001).
He and his wife, Marilyn, have two children.
— Patrick Kevin Day for the Los Angeles Times