The cast of the revived NBC series talk to ET about what's in store for season 21.
Law & Order is back! After initially being canceled after season 20 in 2010, creator Dick Wolf’s mothership series, which has spawned a number of spinoffs and an expansive TV universe, is returning with season 21.
Led by executive producer and showrunner Rick Eid, the revival features returning stars Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy and Anthony Anderson as Det. Kevin Bernard. They are joined by several newcomers, including Camryn Manheim as Lt. Kate Dixon, Odelya Halevi as ADA Samantha Maroun, Hugh Dancy as ADA Nolan Price and Jeffrey Donovan as Det. Frank Cosgrove as the Manhattan unit continues to investigate crimes and prosecute the offenders.
New Stories, Same Structure
“The show is very much the same, same story structure and all,” Waterston told ET, referring to its unfaltering format of each episode of the crime procedural being typically split into two parts, with the first following the detectives as they investigate the crimes and the second following the legal proceedings as the lawyers bring the case to trial.
While subsequent spinoffs have played with the format of the episodes and its storytelling, Law & Order will stay true to what made it successful in the first place. “That’s a testament to the success of the show,” Anderson said. But the stories told this time around certainly will be different, especially over a decade after the series first went off the air.
“What we’re doing on the show is going to reflect the changes in society, the changes in police work,” the actor said of the new episodes, which will very much address the new reality of what’s happening now.
Ripped From the Headlines
Another familiar element that will very much be seen is the series’ tendency to tell stories that are ripped from the headlines. “I think people, you know, are interested in seeing and being a part of those stories that are being told and being a part of history,” Anderson said, while Waterston added that the biggest challenge for the writers “is how to choose because there’s such a rich store of stories.”
Even the season 21 premiere (“The Right Thing”), which investigates the murder of a notorious entertainer, will remind fans of Bill Cosby, who was released from prison after the conviction in his sexual assault case was overturned.
And going beyond that, it “became clear pretty quickly that they really stuck to that ripped from the headlines thing,” Dancy said of the new episodes, noting that it makes the show “quite contemporary.”
In addition to Waterston and Anderson reprising their roles as series regulars, season 21 will see several familiar faces from the original run of Law & Order making appearances, with a former ADA from the earlier seasons guest-starring in the premiere.
“In the first episode, there’s a very famous actor that you’ll notice right away,” Donovan teased. “So, there’s gonna be a lot of surprises and a lot of recurring guest stars that people have kind of grown to love in the last two decades.”
While speaking with the Television Critics Association, Eid confirmed that there are even more coming. “We’re going to keep those names quiet right now. But there’s so many great actors who have been involved in the show, and the opportunity for them to come back in some capacity is really exciting,” he said. “So, I think we definitely want to find ways to bring back several of our alumni.”
And for Manheim, who has been a longtime fan of the series and made brief appearances in earlier seasons before joining season 21 full time, said, “I have been surprised and excited already several times. And I think the viewers will be, too.” She added, “One of the most amazing things about being on this show is you come to work and then New York’s finest actors come and play with you.”
Halevi echoed her co-star’s sentiment. “We have guest stars that I would only dream about working with,” she said, teasing that some of them are “mind-blowing.”
While not confirmed, Jesse L. Martin said he was open to the possibility of portraying Det. Ed Green again. “I certainly hope so,” he said before adding, “There were a lot of loose ends when Ed Green left the scene, if you will. Yes, maybe.”
However, one original cast member that’s not interested in returning is Dianne Wiest, who played Interim District Attorney Nora Lewin. “I don’t think so,” she told ET. “I don’t think they’d want me back to tell you the truth. Not at all, not at all, no.”
With Law & Order kicking off a three-hour block of the TV universe, which includes SVU and Organized Crime, there’s bound to be crossovers between all three series. And everyone, including stars of the spinoffs, are looking forward to seeing all three series unite at least for one night, if not more.
“All I can tell you is that my contract has crossovers written into it all over the place,” Manheim said.
“We’re going to run out of murderers eventually, so we’re going to need some other kind of criminals,” Dancy joked, referring to the fact that SVU tackles sexually-based crimes while OC deals with mobs and cartels.
“It will be really exciting to see how all our writers work together to make connections with the different departments and different forces,” said Danielle Moné Truitt, who plays Sgt. Ayanna Bell on OC.
“Dick has already told me that we’re going to. So, it’s just a matter of time,” said Mariska Hargitay, who plays Capt. Olivia Benson on SVU. “I’m excited about the night that it’s a three-show crossover, which sounds impossible but we can do it.”