Erik is the youngest of 3 sons born to Peter and Queenie Palladino. He grew up in Yonkers, and wanted to become an actor since seeing Robert De Niro's performance in Raging Bull (1980) when he was 12. A year later, he joined a children's repertory company. He and his brother, Chris, performed together in Chris' alternative rock band, No More Happy Faces. Erik majored in theatre at Marymount Manhattan College, graduating in 1991. He then continued playing in No More Happy Faces, while also pursuing his acting career. His breakthrough role came in (1994)on TV's successful series ER .