Almost 12 years after Law & Order was abruptly canceled by NBC, Dick Wolf’s Emmy-winning drama series is returning Feb. 24 for a 21st season, which features Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson reprising their roles from the original series, joined by new cast additions Jeffrey Donovan, Camryn Manheim, Hugh Dancy and Odelya Halevi.
Ever since Law & Order was canceled in 2010 when it was on the cusp of breaking Gunsmoke’s record as the longest running primetime drama series, Wolf has been plotting a return.
“He was talking about it five years ago too, and I don’t think he’s ever stopped talking about it,” Waterston said during the TCA panel for the Law & Order revival. “One of the reasons that we’re back is because of his persistence and determination and his complete conviction that it was a terrible mistake to stop in the first place.”
The new installment comes from Wolf and frequent collaborator, writer-showrunner Rick Eid, who said he was approached by Wolf over a year ago.
“Dick has been talking to me about, you know, ‘The mothership’s going to come back. Law & Order is going to come back. Are you in?’ And I know he was talking to Sam, and he said, ‘Sam’s in.’,” Eid said. “And then, maybe May or June of [last] year, he called and said, “It’s happening. Do you want to do it?” And I jumped at the opportunity.”
While Waterston, coming off Grace and Frankie, and Eid were recruited by Wolf for the new season, Anderson, who is wrapping his eight-season run on black-ish, said he raised his hand to return.
“I called Dick once I found out the show was coming back, and he was excited to hear from me, to hear that I would be interested in doing it,” he said. “Returning to the streets of New York, returning to our sound stages and that squad room and donning that badge, Badge No. 1901, was just, like, sitting in a well worn saddle. It gripped you just right and was comfortable.”
Other original Law & Order cast members, including Jesse L. Martin, have hinted at potentially reprising their roles in the revival. While he would not reveal names, Eid confirmed that will happen.
“You’ll definitely see some familiar faces along the way,” he said. “We’re going to keep that, those names quiet right now. But, yeah, 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. So I think we definitely want to find ways to bring back several of our alumni.”
Wolf helped establish the current trend of drama franchises that live in an integrated character universe with the series staging frequent crossovers. The other two current Law & Order series, SVU and Organized Crime have done it several times already, and SVU also has crossed over with the Chicago franchise. With the mothership Law & Order joining the two spinoff for a Law & Order branded Thursday night on NBC, potential crossovers are definitely in the cards, Eid said.
“I think crossovers have been very successful in the Dick Wolf universe, in the Chicago universe and FBI universe. They are a fan favorite,” he said. “So there’s a chance there will be a three part or a two part Law & Order crossover somewhere along the way. So anything is possible in this universe.”
During the panel, Waterston also spoke about the longevity of the mothership Law & Order series which has continued to find new fans on broadcast stations, cable — and now on streaming — which, along with Wolf’s determination, helped make the revival happen.
“The other reason that we’re coming back, I think, is because we stopped making the shows, but the audience never stopped watching them,” he said. “So the audience’s persistent appetite for Law & Order is a major reason why we’re back.”
Law & Order is produced by Wolf Entertainment and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group. Wolf, Eid, Arthur W. Forney and Peter Jankowski are executive producers.