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‘Law & Order’ Cast: 16 of Our Favorite Stars Then and Now

From 1990 to today, this series has stood the test of time — and has been renewed for another season!

When we hear that iconic “dun-dun” sound we know we’re in for some good drama. Law & Order debuted in 1990 and ran for 20 years, spawning numerous spin-offs and allowing us to follow an ever-evolving cast of characters throughout its run. The series came to its conclusion in 2010, but after an 11-year hiatus, it was revived for a 21st season. The 22nd season followed, and in April of 2023, it was renewed for yet another season, proving that the series — and the incredible Law & Order cast — has truly stood the test of time.

This engaging cops-and-lawyers procedural maintains a similar structure: the first half of the episode follows the investigation of a crime that occurred, always within New York City. The second half of the episode depicts the prosecution, and many of the cases that are portrayed in the show are based on ripped-from-the-headlines, real-life crimes.

Law & Order cast who brought the stories to life

Much of the Law & Order cast came and went, but there were a few faces that remained fixtures for a good portion of the series. Actors such as Sam Waterston in his role as Executive ADA Jack McCoy, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, the late Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe and the late Steven Hill as DA Adam Schiff were a few of the faces you could expect to see rather consistently.

S. Epatha Merkerson spoke with Fresh Air Interviews for NPR in 2006 about her character: “You know, the interesting thing is I knew nothing and it happened quickly. I mean, literally, I got the job on a Friday and I started working on a Monday,” she said. “I had the opportunity to meet a couple of female lieutenants. And the interesting thing is when I started, I believe there were only five in Manhattan. There was one lieutenant who was so cool. When you saw her, she literally looked like, someone’s aunt or sweet mother. But the minute she walked into the precinct, you knew she garnered serious respect from the guys that worked for her.”

Taking inspiration from the city around them, the Law & Order cast over the years brought these life-based stories to fruition in more than 488 episodes. Here, take a look at some of the beloved stars then and now!

(Click through to read about spin-off Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay here!)

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