Halevi opens up to ET about joining the franchise as ADA Samantha Maroun.
On the season 21 revival of Law & Order, Odelya Halevi joined the franchise as ADA Samantha Maroun opposite Hugh Dancy as ADA Nolan Price and returning alum Sam Waterston as DA Jack McCoy. While speaking to ET, Halevi looks back on joining creator Dick Wolf’s mothership series, what makes her character a standout on the franchise, and why “the stakes are very high” for everyone in the finale.
After having grown up watching Law & Order and always wanting to be a lawyer as a kid, Halevi says her mind was blown when she was offered the part. “It is extraordinary,” she gushes. “I really cannot express it in words.”
For the Israeli-born actress, the most exciting part is that her character is Middle Eastern. “What I experienced moving here from a foreign country was people told me, ‘Oh, you know, there aren’t enough parts for a Middle Eastern character. You’re always going to be the guest star. The stories are always going to be about you being a terrorist or your brother is a terrorist.’ And that’s what I played for years,” Halevi recalls. “And this is something that’s so different from anything else I experienced.”
Now, Halevi is starring on one of the most iconic TV franchises as “a Middle Eastern character that is celebrated and that is a lawyer,” she continues. “That’s something that really, really excited me and surprised me. And, for me, it was proof that the industry’s changed so much for the better.”
And over the course of the first nine episodes, Maroun not only has proven herself to be an essential part of the prosecution team, but she “has a strong personality, a strong essence and she plays to win. She doesn’t take no for an answer. And she’s there for justice,” Halevi says.
That quest for justice is driven by the fact that years prior her sister was raped and murdered. Even though the police knew who the killer was, they could not file charges. And that’s something that’s stuck with Maroun, who channeled that injustice into the prosecution of Nicole Bell in the premiere. “She relates to the victims and she relates to some of the defendants,” Halevi says. “And she has had thoughts about killing the person [who raped her sister]. And so, she relates to people who have those fantasies.”
The key is Maroun knows the difference between “from having those fantasies and actually doing something about it, which is criminal.”
At times, though, Maroun’s quest for justice has put her at odds with Price, who at one point threatened to fire her for going behind his back in order to convince a defendant to take a plea deal. “She crosses a line and does something that she’s not supposed to do because she knows he’s not going to approve,” Halevi explains. “And so, she risks her job and her career -- a job that she’s really worked hard to get -- for justice or what she thinks is right.”
Despite pushing the limits with Price, the two have developed quite the banter and interoffice dynamic that’s been fun to watch week to week. When looking back on those scenes between Maroun and Price, Halevi says she and Dancy talked a lot about how to turn those moments of exposition and information into character-building scenes.
“We thought that an interesting way to play what would be that within those lines we create a relationship between the both of them,” she says, referring to the “banter and the disagreements and what drives Maroun to disagree with him.”
And over time, “the more we got to know each other as human beings, the more interesting those scenes became.”
But as the series closes out its latest season, showrunner Rick Eid promised that the tension between the police department and the distinct attorney’s office would continue to ramp up, with all the characters making hard choices. And when the case in the latest episode, “The Great Pretender,” became too personal for Price, it left Maroun in a compromising position.
Now as the team heads into the finale, Halevi says, “The stakes are very high in this episode.”
In “Black and Blue,” the death of an off-duty police officer leads Det. Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan) to call upon Capt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) for help with solving the case. Meanwhile, McCoy and Price disagree over how to prosecute the culprit, sparking condemnation from all sides.
“Without giving too much away, I can say that the story in the final episode of season 21 is very personal to all the characters and in turn will start some new and transformative conversations,” Halevi says, teasing that “there also may be a shift in one of Maroun’s important relationships.”
Law & Order airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.