Big quitter Sam Waterston departs Law & Order after measly 400+ episodes

Sam “Outta Here, Suckers” Waterston
Sam “Outta Here, Suckers” Waterston
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In a move we can only deride for displaying a cowardly, and frankly embarrassing, lack of gumption, Sam Waterston quit his job at the Law & Order factory tonight, after making a measly 405 episodes of television for the long-running series. (Guess somebody was paying attention on the set of The Dropout, huh?) Waterston ended his tenure on the Dick Wolf-created show a scant three decades after beginning it—and that’s counting the gap between the show being canceled in 2010 and then revived in 2022—ending what is, yes, technically one of the longest tenures as a single character in television history, and what does he want, a medal? (We just checked, and Waterston already has several awards for his run on the series, including once being designated a New York “living legend” with his late co-star Jerry Orbach, so he should presumably be good on that score.)

Waterston spoke with THR this evening about his final episode of the series, “The Last Dance,” which saw district attorney Jack McCoy returning to the courtroom for the first time in years, tagging out Hugh Dancy’s ADA Nolan Price so he could take on a politically protected tech billionaire himself. In the interview, Waterston confirmed what we’d always assumed, which is that he gets a real kick out of being the one to essentially defeat the show’s various ripped-from-the-headlines villains each week, saying that, “There are lots of other great parts, but only the DA gets to kill the bull.” Sadly, this vigorous estacada defense of TV justice saw Jack push the elected evils of the Law & Order universe too far, forcing him to sacrifice himself so that Dancy wouldn’t also lose his job, and thus have to spend the next five years on the convention circuit, dodging Hannibal fans armed with flower crowns and printouts of questionable fan-fic.

Waterston noted in the interview that he always knew he’d be quitting the revival at some point, in clear defiance of the fact that some of us have daddy issues that we’ve been projecting on to him for like 20-plus years at this point. In his own words: “I think I always knew there was a timestamp, a use-by date, on the return. I didn’t want to turn on the TV and not see myself on the show when it came back, but at the same time, I knew I didn’t want to be there again for the long term. It’s kind of been that way from the beginning. And then before this season, it became apparent to both Law & Order and to me that this would be a really good time to leave.”

Tony Goldwyn (who’s not our real dad, and never will be) has been tapped to replace Waterston on the show.