The Law & Order franchise has made a habit of changing horses midstream and the latest iteration , it seems, is no different.

Law & Order: Los Angeles will undergo its first major restructuring since the premiere by replacing Skeet Ulrich with Alfred Molina—despite the fact Molina is already one of the program’s main characters.

Ulrich, who plays police detective Rex Winters, will leave the show after just 14 episodes, along with actresses Regina Hall and Megan Boone who both play lawyers. Come episode 15 Molina’s character, deputy district attorney Ricardo Morales, will make the leap from courtrooms to crime scenes as Law & Order: Los Angeles’ new lead detective.

So, how is this possible? The show plans to reveal that Molina’s character had been a 15-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, achieving the rank of detective during his tenure. His dissatisfaction with the district attorney’s office ultimately causes him to return to police work.

The casting shakeup will essentially make leads of Alfred Molina and the man with whom he split his screen time: Terrence Howard. Howard’s character, John Dekker, also a district attorney, will now star in every episode, as opposed to alternating with Molina.

Series executive producer Dick Wolf described the situation by saying:

We have the fortune of two world-class actors on LOLA, and it was frustrating to have one on the bench every week. It would be like having Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as your quarterbacks, playing alternate games.”

No stranger to a revolving door of cast members, the Law & Order franchise seems to thrive by pulling out its mainstays and introducing new actors every so often. This time, however, it happened earlier than most expected. NBC’s sudden overhaul of its highest-rated drama is a risky move, but one that is fueled by the show’s ratings reaching a plateau.

Fortunately, Corey Stoll, who plays Ulrich’s partner, will stay on with Molina. While there has yet to be an announcement of who will be joining Terrence Howard in the courtroom, producers are currently searching for an actress to fill Molina’s roll as Deputy District Attorney.

Law & Order: Los Angeles moves to Tuesdays @10 p.m, on Feb. 8th.

Source: TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly

Law & Order: Los Angeles