“Law & Order” is bringing back yet another familiar face. While NBC previously announced that Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson will both be reprising their roles of D.A. Jack McCoy and Detective Kevin Bernard, respectively, they aren’t the only ones stepping back into the courtroom — and the list of possible guest stars is endless.
“One of the wonderful things about doing a television show in New York like this with really juicy parts for visitors is that there’s this extraordinary pool of talent of New York actors. So, the hope and expectation is that there will be a wonderful surprise every week,” Waterston tells Variety, before hinting at one of those surprises. “There is a person coming back in the first show, one of my favorite people on Earth. I’m not allowed to tell who that is, but you’ll be glad when you see her.”
Showrunner Rick Eid adds of the returning stars, “I’m sure we could have done the show without them, but we didn’t want to.”
So, who might be that actor coming back, who’s a favorite of Waterston’s? With 20 seasons worth of “Law & Order” episodes, there are plenty of options — but some fan-favorites may be unavailable, due to their current positions elsewhere in Dick Wolf’s universe. Specifically, the character to appear on “Law & Order” the most, starring in 391 episodes, was Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, played by S. Epatha Merkerson. Unfortunately, the four-time NAACP Image Award winner moved on to another show in the same fictional world and has been part of “SVU” spinoff “Chicago Med” as Sharon Goodwin since its 2015 debut. (While “SVU” was a spinoff of the flagship series, “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” were spinoffs of “SVU,” as were “FBI,” “FBI: Most Wanted” and “FBI International.”)
She’s not the only “Law & Order” alum who, if returned, would raise fans’ eyebrows. Alana De La Garza joined the procedural in Season 16 as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa, and was still part of the team when it came to an end in 2010. In 2018, she was announced as part of the cast of “FBI,” playing Special Agent in Charge Isobel Castille — a role she remains in today.
Over the nearly 500 episodes, dozens of women appeared on the flagship series and could still return. Leslie Hendrix played medical examiner Elizabeth Rodgers for 143 episodes; Carolyn McCormick portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Olivet in 85 episodes; Elisabeth Röhm played A.D.A. Serena Southerlyn for 85 episodes; Angie Harmon starred as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael in 72 episodes; and Carey Lowell portrayed A.D.A. Jamie Ross in 49 episodes.
Two other mainstays, Jill Hennessy, who played A.D.A. Claire Kincaid for 68 episodes and Annie Parisse, who starred as A.D.A. Alexandra Borgia for 34 episodes, can also be ruled out since both of the characters died during the show’s first run.
“Law & Order” aired for 20 seasons before coming to an abrupt end in 2010. Despite Wolf’s efforts to get the courtroom drama picked up elsewhere, he was unsuccessful — until now. The return has been an emotional journey for many.
“It was totally surreal. Unbelievable,” says Waterston of stepping onto the new sound stage in New York. “It’s a step back in time. They built the sets in every detail down to the books on the shelves to the linoleum on the floor. You know perfectly well that it wasn’t all being done for you, but you can’t escape the feeling that you’re being given this opportunity to step back in time in your own life.”
“Law & Order” premieres on NBC Thursday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET.