Orbach Quits "Law & Order" Beat
Lia Haberman, E! Online, 3.26.04
Itís the end of an era.
Law & Order veteran Jerry Orbach will be leaving the NBC series at the end of this season, according to sources close to the show.
The thesp has played professional curmudgeon Detective Lennie Briscoe for 12 of the show's 14 years on the air--making him the longest-serving member on a show known for cast upheavals.
Among those who've passed through the crime's drama's revolving door over the years are Angie Harmon, Benjamin Bratt, Paul Sorvino, Jill Hennessy, and Carey Lowell, Diane Wiest and Chris Noth.
No word yet on how his character will be replaced but according to the Hollywood Reporter, Orbach may play some role in Dick Wolf's fourth franchise installment Law & Order: Trial By Jury following the promotion of his character's partner, Detective Ed Green (played by Jesse L. Martin), on the flagship show.
The move would promote S. Epatha Merkerson, who's played Lieutenant Anita Van Buren since '93, to senior cast member, followed by Sam Waterston, who joined as no-nonsense Assistant D.A. Jack McCoy in '94. Waterston just re-upped on the Emmy-winning series through at least the 2004-05 television season.
Rounding out the current cast are Elisabeth Rohm and Fred Dalton Thompson.
The ripped-from-the-headlines drama celebrated its 300th episode last year and still ranks as TV's 13th most watched show, averaging 15.9 million viewers this season. It's also proved a cash show for the Peacock, spawning two highly rated spinoffs--Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as the upcoming Trial By Jury, described as a contemporary Perry Mason.
Along with upping his recognition factor, Orbach's stint on Law & Order also netted the actor an Emmy nomination for Lead Actor and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations as part of the show's ensemble.
Orbach previously made a name for himself on stage and the big screen. He originated the role of El Gallo in the long-running off-Broadway sensation The Fantasticks and won a Tony for 1969's Promises, Promises, while film credits range from Dirty Dancing and The Flamingo Kid to Beauty and the Beast.