The original Law & Order is back, with its 21st season set to premiere on Thursday, Feb. 24 on NBC. But who are the actors playing the detectives and prosecutors that serve as the heroes for this continuation of the classic TV crime drama?
Through its first 20 seasons (1990-2010), Law & Order featured a rotating roster of actors, including Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Leslie Hendrix, Benjamin Bratt, Dann Florek, Richard Brooks, Dianne Wiest and J.K. Simmons; as well as some crossovers with Law & Order: SVU characters and others from the Law & Order franchise.
The show was also famous for landing big guest stars to be at the center of their crime-of-the-week stories, including Julia Roberts, Idris Elba, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kerry Washington, Julianna Margulies, Sebastian Stan and Laura Linney, just to name a few.
While any potential big guest stars are a mystery right now, here’s the main cast of Law & Order season 21, including some new and familiar faces.
Sam Waterston as D.A. Jack McCoy
For many, Law & Order just wouldn’t be right without Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy. Waterston made his debut on the series in 1994, appearing in 368 episodes between then and 2010, the second-most of any Law & Order actor ever, behind only S. Epatha Merkerson’s 391 episodes, all but one of which (she appeared as a guest star) was as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren. Waterston was also nominated three times for an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy during the show’s original run.
Speaking with TV Line (opens in new tab), even though it had been more than 11 years since Law & Order ended its original run, Waterston said he “never put [Law & Order] in the past,” but he did wonder “could I go home again?” He told TV Line that stepping back on sets that looked very much familiar to the old ones was helpful.
The return of Waterston definitely helps make this reignited Law & Order feel like home for fans and it should be interesting to see how McCoy interacts with the rookies on the show.
Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard
Another Law & Order alum coming back for the continuation is Anthony Anderson, who will once again play the role of Detective Kevin Bernard. Anderson appeared on two seasons of Law & Order before the show stopped in 2010, but his star has only grown since then as one of the main characters on the sitcom black-ish, which wraps up its final season this year. As What to Watch sister site Cinemablend (opens in new tab) previously reported, Anderson described the idea of not returning to the show as “foolish.”
During an interview with E! (opens in new tab) at the red carpet premiere for the new season of Law & Order, Anderson talked about ways he tried to lighten the mood on set of the crime drama. He joked about hazing his new co-star and on-screen partner Jeffrey Donovan, but emphasized their great relationship. “What Jeffrey and I are doing, we’re making Law & Order: The Comedy, and we don’t tell any of the directors that come in, so they have to reel us in.”
Jeffrey Donovan as Detective Frank Cosgrove
Speaking of Jeffrey Donovan, he joins Law & Order as one of the new principal cast members. Donovan is best known for roles like Michael Westen on Burn Notice, starring in season 2 of Fargo and roles in movies like Changeling, Sicario and Wrath of Man. However, he is not a complete newcomer in the world of Law & Order.
Donovan actually appeared as a guest star in two episodes of Law & Order, first in 1995 and then again in 2007 (playing different roles). But this is clearly a different level, as the actor told E! (opens in new tab) that he is “geeking out that I’m on Law & Order” and boasting that he has probably seen all previous season episodes “at least once.”
As far as his character, Donovan described Detective Frank Cosgrove as an Irish Catholic from the Bronx, someone who is New York through and through, who speaks his mind and doesn’t have a filter, which can get him into trouble.
Camryn Manheim as Lieutenant Kate Dixon
Camryn Manheim, who will star as Lieutenant Kate Dixon in Law & Order season 21, also had experience as a guest star on the crime drama. She appeared on the show three times in 1991, 1993 and 1994 as three different characters; in fact, her first TV credit came in that 1991 episode. She spoke about her experience with the show to E! (opens in new tab) during the show’s recent premiere.
“I was just a snot-nosed kid out of graduate school, and like every New York actor wanted to add Law & Order to my resume and waited and waited and finally I got cast. I’ve played three separate characters prior to this one, so it’s a big full circle moment for me to come back as Lieutenant Dixon.”
Manheim is someone who is very familiar with the police/legal crime drama, as she has starred throughout her career in shows like The Practice, Stumptown and Ghost Whisperer.
Odelya Halevi as ADA Samantha Maroun
Someone wholly new to the Law & Order franchise is Odelya Halevi, who will play Assistant District Attorney Samantha Maround in the continuation. This is Halevi’s biggest TV role to date, though she has previously appeared on multiple episodes of Good Trouble and Good Girls Revolt, as well as some guest appearances on shows like Why Women Kill, MacGyver and NCIS.
Law & Order is just part of the big year for Halevi, who also has a role in the upcoming big screen DC comic book adaptation Black Adam alongside Dwayne Johnson.
Hugh Dancy as EADA Nolan Price
Hugh Dancy previously solved crimes alongside Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in NBC’s Hannibal, but he may be glad to no longer have to deal with the famous cannibal. Instead, he’ll be spending most of his time in the courtroom as the show’s lead prosecutor, Executive Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price.
Dancy is a British actor whose credits, in addition to Hannibal, include The Good Fight, Homeland, The Path, The Big C, the indie film Martha Marcy May Marlene and more.
Being a Brit, Law & Order wasn’t a thing for Dancy growing up, though he was sure to catch up. “When I came here [America] about 15 years ago, I kind of binge watched Law & Order. So it became my “welcome to America” package, if you like,” the actor told E! (opens in new tab) at the Law & Order premiere.
Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun.
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