LOS ANGELES (AP) — Noah Wyle's life during the past five years has been divided neatly between bucolic and demanding.
At his Santa Barbara-area ranch, Wyle has been happily surrounded by his wife, actress Sara Wells; his son and daughter; and rescue animals, including a pair of miniature horses that, as the former "ER" star puts it, "do nothing but stand there and look cute."
"I have sort of a love ranch. Everybody's in harmony: dogs and cats and ducks all wandering around," Wyle said.
There's an important new member of the brood: Wells gave birth Monday to their daughter, Frances Harper Wyle. (Wyle's other two children are from his first marriage to Tracy Warbin.)
On the flip side of the equation is "Falling Skies," the post-apocalyptic drama that he found a valuable but stressful experience. As the TNT series begins its final season (10 p.m. EDT Sunday), Wyle, 44, says he's ready to say farewell to his role as alien-fighter Tom Mason.
Ahead for the actor: A return to the lighthearted action of TNT's "The Librarians" series this fall, and production of a TV project about key U.S. and British figures in the World War II era.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he discussed the ups and down of fighting an extraterrestrial invasion, the art of the TV finale and how "Falling Skies" must end (no spoiler alert needed).
AP: Is the timing right to bring the series to a close?
Wyle: I definitely think this is the right time for it to end. It's very rare you get to script your own ending. Usually it's thrust upon you because of poor ratings and you don't get a sense of closure as a cast, you don't get a sense of completion as an audience member. So we were all very grateful they announced our fifth and final season last year so we could write an end and wrap up all our storytelling and mythology.
AP: In last season's finale, we saw your character, Tom, coming to aboard a mystery spaceship. What's next for him?
Wyle: We left Tom staring at something that we don't see and saying the line, 'My God, you're beautiful.' I will say we pick up exactly where we left off. We'll see what Tom is talking to, and that moment will kick off the entire season. It brings Tom back into the narrative with a brand new point of view. He's on a murderous rampage to finish this war, and this sliding moral scale that's he's been grappling with for four seasons, he's just put that on a shelf for a little while.
AP: You'd left 'ER' as a series regular but returned to be part of the 2009 finale. How does wrapping 'Falling Skies' compare to that experience?
Wyle: That ('ER') was more like saying goodbye to a chapter of my life than saying goodbye to a job. ... 'Falling Skies' feels like closing up the circus tent: 'See you on the next one.' .... It's a show that's really difficult to do. It's hard to be in Canada away from your kids and away from home for five months a year. It's hard to work on a show that in five seasons had six show runners.
But I learned a lot. It was an experience that gave me a (Directors Guild of America) membership. An experience that allowed me to lead an ensemble from the jump, and have a real hand in crafting the creative side of things and understand what producing's all about. I'm so grateful to the show for the education. But I'm also really glad I graduated.
AP: How challenging is it to do a successful finale?
Wyle: You're under a lot of pressure to tie up story lines and wrap up mythology and make it satisfying on all fronts. It's very difficult to do that. We have the advantage of having a broad concept — aliens attack the Earth — so you assume in the finale they're either going to be defeated or be successful, and we definitely give closure to that. But in terms of individual story lines, it's tricky. We have a huge ensemble and it was tough to give everybody their due.
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.