Law & Order is back for season 22 with new episodes airing Thursday nights at 8 PM ET. While covering the Law & Order Season Premiere red carpet, I had the opportunity to interview Camryn Manheim, Sam Waterston, Hugh Dancy, Odelya Halevi, and Mehcad Brooks.
The series, which will continue the classic bifurcated format that was created for its original run, will once again examine “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”
We discussed the fan support for the show, their individual characters, filming in New York, and more. Keep reading for everything they shared with me!
Law & Order returned for season 21 in February 2022 after starting in 1990 and originally ending in 2010. Now, it starts Law & Order Thursdays for the franchise, airing before SVU and Organized Crime. Fans were thrilled that the legendary show was back on air and to start, I asked what that response meant to the actors.
“For me, I did Law & Order in 1990, so it feels like home to me and it’s been wonderful to watch it grow, follow the times, follow the headlines, and follow the police department. The whole thing has been so fascinating and when they asked me to come back, it just felt like, ‘This is full circle for me, what a dream.’ Law & Order has a very special place in my heart because I think every actor who grew up in New York, that’s all we ever wanted to do was be on this show. Have you ever looked at a list of the actors who have come through this show? It is mindblowing and it’s still happening. So I show up at work at the precinct and before I know it, some incredible actor walks in and I’m like, ‘It’s my lucky day,’” Camryn Manheim expressed.
Hugh Dancy continued by saying, “Well, look, I guess that’s why I have a job right now because people watched the show enough over the course of the decade that it was off the air that eventually, somebody with a checkbook realized, ‘Wait, we’ve made a mistake there.’ So, thank God.”
“It was incredible. For me, this is my first big thing and I didn’t even know how the fans were gonna respond to me,” Odelya Halevi admitted. “I was nervous about it. I did read a lot of fans’ comments out there because I care and it was wonderful. It was very touching to hear that they love the character and they love what Samantha Maroun, but also me as Odelya bring to the table. I can’t thank them enough. They are the reason why we have a second season, hopefully, a third season, fourth, and fifth and I’m just grateful. I’m grateful that they love the show and that they are loyal to the show and characters.”
“I pinch myself that this came back,” Sam Waterston stated. “It’s such a lucky thing for an actor. It’s a great pride. It looked like we weren’t gonna be doing it anymore and now, we are. It’s amazing.”
Of course, Law & Order is known for having strong female leads in the franchise, so I asked the actresses about the significance of that compared to other characters on television based on stereotypes or that are sidelined.
Manheim told me, “When they asked me to do this, I’m like, ‘What do you need from me?’ And they’re like, ‘We need a credible, really strong, alpha woman, who can come in and they will take seriously.’ I’m like, ‘Oh ask my son, I’m good for that job.’ So that’s what you try to do. I try to keep them in check, make them focus on what’s important, and get the job done honorably with good intentions.”
“Oh, it means the world. I would watch a show as a little girl with my mother in Israel and I wasn’t even capable of speaking Hebrew at the time, I could barely read the subtitles, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I wanted to be,” Halevi shared. “When I moved to the United States and they said, ‘What are you gonna play? Your options are fairly limited. You can play a terrorist or an Arab.’ I was like, you know what, if that’s what I have to do, that’s what I’m gonna do. Then eight years later, the industry opened their arms to hiring minority girls with a little bit of an accent that you don’t know where they’re from, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t go by the book anymore. They just hire people who can tell a story. To me, that is major, that is everything that I ever wished for and I never in my life thought that I could play a lawyer on American TV. To me, it’s a big win, and I want to thank Dick Wolf and the team for allowing me to do that.”
As for what Waterston has taken from playing D.A. Jack McCoy: “His appetite for the chase.”
The actor explained, “I’ve always been attracted to characters that are struggling with doing the right thing and justice itself. That’s a lot of characters from the classics right up to modern times. So this was very much the kind of thing that I would have invented for myself if someone else hadn’t brought it to me.”
Dancy spoke about how being on the show has affected his perspective when it comes to true crime in the real world: “I mean, I think probably like most of us, many of us have thought more about it in the last few years honestly and I don’t know if working on the show has expanded that necessarily. I think it probably presents a side of that world that I hadn’t considered as much, which is always helpful. I appreciated when I first read the reboot or season 21, that the format of the show allowed for that conversation to be brought in and wrapped into it. It’s not primarily what it’s doing, I think if we’re being really honest, but it’s there and I personally appreciate that.”
Mehcad Brooks joins the cast this year as Detective Jalen Shaw. He opened up about what interested him about the role: “He’s a former attorney. He was an attorney for a few years with the NYU, so he knows the law inside and out. He practiced, he didn’t like it. He’s an adrenaline junkie, became an undercover narcotics detective, didn’t think he was making enough of a difference so he became a homicide detective. The coolest thing for me is that I’m a nerd and I break everything down to the etymology of it, right? So, Jalen is Latin for peace like Shalom. It’s phonetic too, right? So it works out that way, it’s like peace, calm. The etymology of Shaw is wolf in Welsh. So he’s the calm wolf, he’s the peace wolf, he’s the wolf that hunts for peace, right? And if you get in his way, he becomes a wolf. So there’s something kind of cool about that that informs everything I do as a character that, like, I’m peaceful, I’m calm, I’m trying to maintain the peace, but if you don’t let me, I become a wolf and it really makes my job so fun. I know what he’s gonna do in every situation, that he’s a hunter, but he’s peaceful about it until he can’t be.”
Next, Manheim noted her favorite part of filming the show in NY: “I love it when we are on the street, not just in a location, but when we are on the street, walking down the street, talking on the phone, badging somebody– that makes me feel like I’m super cool.”
Waterston added, “I love the fact that New York has adopted us as its own show. I love the fact that when you see people on the street, they claim you as their own. It’s wonderful.”
As for who Brooks would like to see his character work with, the actor had nothing but praise for his co-stars: “Mariska’s incredible, Meloni’s incredible. Listen, I’ll tell you a cool story about Mariska, we worked together on SVU, maybe a decade ago, and I told her that my brother was the biggest fan in the world of her, and she’s like, ‘What’s his phone number?’ A couple of months later, she calls him out of the blue, talks to him for like 15 minutes. He’s gonna remember that day for the rest of his life. I was so excited to work with her, not only because she’s a fantastic actress, likely the most successful television star of all time, an incredible philanthropist, so many different things, but also a very kind and genuine person, and that’s probably why the success has happened for her because she is that. She truly is that. So I was really excited to work with her, but also, I’m really excited for the fans to see the chemistry between me and Jeffrey Donovan. We are like brothers from another mother, really; we’re like brothers from the same alien mother that was able to have two different types of babies that was completely different from each other, but also completely the same. We’re like dimensional Doppelgängers. It’s so weird, we can finish each other’s statements already. I think the chemistry that you’re gonna see there really informs some of these later scripts that are coming out now, and it’s really cool. It’s not your granddad’s Law & Order.”
Before I let the cast go, I had to ask them about what they would consider a dream storyline and what topics they’d like to see their characters to tackle.
“Actually, some of the storylines this year are kind of picking away at his principles. I think he’s quite a principled person, but he is torn a little bit, let’s say, between the kind of desire for justice vs. maybe some tendency to be a bit more vengeful, trying to balance that out,” Dancy revealed.
“There is a little surprise this season. I can’t talk a lot about it but Maroun definitely has a tough case that takes her to a little bit of a background about her and her past, maybe something that she did that was wrong,” Halevi said. “But you know Maroun, she fights for justice even at the risk of being fired because that’s who she is. That’s what I take from that character into my personal life. She’s a strong woman who fights for justice and fights for women’s rights, especially being a minority. So I really hope that this season the writers are going to explore more about her personal life.”
“I mean, listen, the topicality is king– or queen, however, you want to put it. I think that America started having a conversation that was long overdue in 2020 and that conversation needs new life but also needs new perspectives. It’s not defund the police, but it’s also not back the blue for everything they do, it’s somewhere in the middle, right? And I think that we have to understand that there’s a difference between policing and police brutality. There’s a difference between over-policing and crime-solving,” Brooks concluded. “So, we can’t lump them all together, but also, we can’t divorce the fact that a lot of people put these things together because they feel like this is their lived experience. So, I’m excited to help that conversation expand to the kitchen table to families who might not naturally have that conversation. I think NBC does a good job of that and Law & Order does a great job with that.”