Sharif (pronounced “Sha-REEF”) Atkins continues his role as Michael Gallant, a fourth-year medical student who is working his way through medical school on the U.S. Army’s ticket.
Atkins, who joined the regular cast of “ER” last season, describes the character he plays as very confident, eager and passionate about what he does. Excited by the challenge of being a relative newcomer to the seasoned cast of NBC’s powerhouse drama, the young actor readily admits there are parallels between Gallant and himself. “Like him, I’ve entered a new and challenging environment where I am committed to doing my best, so some of the acting you see isn’t acting.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Atkins moved with his family to Chicago when he was 6 years old. His father, a chief public defender, and mother, a museum executive, still reside there; his sister, Makeba Atkins, a mechanical engineer, now lives in Tucson, Arizona. While he remembers his first acting role as a strawberry in a fourth-grade play, he didn’t feel any special commitment to the arts until he participated in a summer theater arts program at nearby Northwestern University.
Atkins later obtained his bachelor of science degree in speech at the prestigious private university in 1997. He remained in Chicago and worked in small stage productions. He also appeared on the locally filmed series “Early Edition,” and in the feature film “Light It Up.”
After moving to Los Angeles, where he crashed on a friend’s couch, Atkins found an agent and began working, landing guest-starring roles on “That’s Life”, “The District,” and “Arliss.” His big break came, however, when he was cast in “The Big Time,” a two-hour pilot for “ER” executive producer John Wells. Sufficiently impressed with the young actor, Wells offered him the new role of Gallant over an arc of episodes early in the 2001-02 season.
Sharif, resides in Los Angeles; his birthday is January 29.