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Dick Wolf on Law & Order

Published January 3, 2008 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
Law & Order Law & Order
Dick Wolf has been producing Law & Order and all its different spinoffs for nearly 20 years. Right now, his focus is on the original series, which gets a reboot this season. Jeremy Sisto and Linus Roache are joining the cast, and his staff has stepped up their game.

Wolf Praises the Return of Law & Order


"I think the show this year, it’s the best writing in five or six seasons," Wolf said. "I think the storytelling is truly amazing. I think there really is no difference in the top level cable shows and the top network dramas now. Whether it’s Glenn Close’s show or Kyra Sedgwick’s, this is network quality stuff. I think the biggest difference is the exhaustion factor that after you’ve finished a cable season of 13, if you’re on network gee, I’ve only got another 15 weeks to go."

On the new blood in front of the camera, Wolf wanted to go younger. "I’ve known both of their work over the years," said Wolf. "With Linus it was not so much the name but the face because I remembered him from the Bobby Kennedy Miniseries. And Jeremy was just a known quantity because I had seen his work more recently. So it was a decided desire to go in a new direction. I consider these two changes the most significant since the fourth year of the show when Epatha and Jill Hennessy came in and brought some progesterone as opposed to the pure testosterone of the first three seasons. If you look back two years and you think of again great actors that were in the show, but Dennis Farina was in his early 60s at that point. Obviously Fred [Thompson] was in his 60s. And Sam [Waterston] was in his 60s. And without revealing too much, I think Jeremy is 33 and Linus, I believe, you’re 43. If you do the math, we’ve taken literally about 50 years out of the demo and I think that that’s a significant more than refreshment of the show. I think it is the next generation of the show quite literally."



All of the show's stars are acclaimed actors, but often their Law & Order work gets dismissed. "One of the things that is I think been frustrating to me over the years is the fact that oftentimes the actors are not congratulated enough, especially at award season. What they’re not telling you is it’s an incredibly tough acting job to stay fresh, to stay on story. The way I’ve described it is not to wear your heart on your sleeve. I’m not an actor but I think that it is much easier to play characters with flaws that are visible and who give you their emotional state of mind in every scene they’re playing as opposed to being real, being incredibly in the moment and taking people along on a journey that they seemed to have enjoyed for all these years. It is a testament to a lot of the great acting that’s been going on. I don’t think that I’ve ever read an article where somebody claimed that gee, I wish we had more character stuff from Sam or Jerry. They came into the show as recognized stars and everybody knew how good they were acting or how well they were acting. That sometimes gets lost in a true procedural, because it takes an enormous amount of talent to be real."

With 20 years on the streets and in the courts, Wolf knows his material. "I’ve said before I’ve probably spent more time with cops than anybody who doesn’t have a badge. I’ve been doing this for an awfully long time before Law & Order too."

Law & Order airs Wednesday nights at 10 on NBC.
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