Twelve years after “Law & Order” signed off, “the mothership,” which launched several spinoffs including the still-strong “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” is back on NBC on Feb. 24. Sam Waterston, who starred as Jack McCoy from 1994 to 2010, returns to shore up the “law” side, with Anthony Anderson’s Detective Kevin Bernard back on the side of “order.”
The show also adds Hugh Dancy as ADA Nolan Price, Odelya Halevi as ADA Samantha Maroun, Camryn Manheim as Lieutenant Kate Dixon, and Jeffrey Donovan as Detective Frank Cosgrove, Bernard’s brusque and often abrasive partner.
Both Waterston and Anderson, who was a regular for the last two years of the original series, jumped at the chance to return and were well aware that creator Dick Wolf has been trying to get a revival going for years.
“[Wolf] was talking about it five years ago and I don’t think he’s ever stopped talking about it,” Waterston said Friday during a Television Critics Association panel. “One of the reasons that we’re back is because of his persistence and determination — and his conviction that it was a terrible mistake to stop in the first place. The other reason we’re coming back is because we stopped making the shows, but the audience never stopped watching them. The audience’s persistent appetite for ‘Law & Order’ is a major reason why we’re back, so thanks to them.”
Anderson didn’t even wait for Wolf to reach out. “I called Dick once I found out the show was coming back and he was excited to hear from me,” he said. “Ending eight seasons on ‘Black-ish’ and coming back to an iconic show like ‘Law & Order’ was a no-brainer for me. Leaving one great show to go back to another show? I jumped at the opportunity to do it.”
In the premiere episode of Season 21, one fan-favorite former prosecutor is reluctantly pulled back into a case involving the shooting death of a Billy Cosby-esque rapist. Executive producer Rick Eid teases: “You’ll definitely see some familiar faces along the way. We’re going to keep those names quiet right now, but there are 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. We definitely want to find ways to bring back several of our alumni.”
He promised we’ll continue to “ripped from the headlines” stories, which have always been a staple for the show. “That’s the core of narratives of this show, year in and year out. And boy are there a lot of stories that need telling,” Waterston added.
Of course, policing and the legal system have changed significantly in the last dozen years, and so have the conversations around them. “I think we’re going to try our best to reflect the world we live in now. 2022 is a unique moment in time, and our stories and characters reflect what’s happening in society. The way people police is a lot different now that it was 10 years ago or even two years ago and same with the district attorney’s office. It’ll just reflect that new reality,” Eid said.
Waterston added, “What Rick is doing is really exciting. There would be a way to dodge all the conflicts going on and he’s just walked straight up to them one after another. Every show is a shock.”
“Every single episode seems to take the story straight from the headlines and then uses that as an entryway into the arguments that are being had across the country right now,” Dancy said.
Eid said he is open to crossovers with “Law & Order: SVU” and possibly even with Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise. “Crossovers have been very successful in the Dick Wolf universe. There’s a chance there will be a two-part of a three-part ‘Law & Order’ crossover. Anything is possible in this universe.”
And the show will continue to focus on the cast of the week and not the personal lives of the characters investigating and prosecuting those crimes. “It’s not about us, it’s about the crime,” Anderson said.
Season 21 of “Law & Order” premieres on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 8-9 p.m. ET/PT.