NBC’s crime procedural Law & Order was a massive success enjoying an impressive 20 season run and multiple spinoffs. That success was well-earned, as the show was a ratings powerhouse in its early years and is considered to be partially responsible for the slew of procedural dramas that followed.
Featuring true crimes (sometimes) and a serious look at the people who solve them, the series captured America’s attention.
However, naturally, an ensemble television franchise featuring a rotating feature cast and an endless list of guest stars is bound to come across its share of real-life, behind-the-scenes drama that could rival even the show’s own controversial plotlines.
Was creator and executive producer Dick Wolf’s greed really the reason the show failed to nab an all but guaranteed a 21st season, as some sources claim? Why did so many of the show’s prominent actors end up going on very public rants? Will poor Jerry Orbach ever actually rest in peace?
From Serena Southerlyn’s shocking reveal to director Jason Alexander’s horrific convictions, here are the 15 Secrets You Didn’t Know About Law & Order.
15. The Director Was Arrested For Possessing Illict Child Content
Jason “Jace” Alexander directed several episodes of many famous television shows over the years, such as The Blacklist, Raising Hope, and, ironically, Law & Order.
The series famously dealt with harrowing crimes of assault and abuse and eventually created a spinoff specifically designed to explore such topics with Special Victim’s Unit. However, Alexander was charged with two felony counts of possessing inappropriate child content in 2016.
Alexander was accused of both promoting and possessing material depicting an inappropriate “performance” by a child, resulting in the respective Class D and E felony charges.
14. Creator Dick Wolf Might Have Got The Series Cancelled
Reports state that the show was actually going to be renewed for a 21st season in 2010. This was essentially a guarantee. So, what happened? Well, rumors have pointed the finger squarely at creator and executive producer, Dick Wolf.
The tale blames Wolf for the series’ cancellation due to greed and frosty contract negotiations. The series had been slipping in ratings, but was still popular enough and had generated enough good will to earn one last season.
The network had a few conditions, though. Sources accused Wolf of holding out for more money, refusing to cut the budget for the final season, and refusing a smaller episode count, resulting in the entire deal falling through. An anonymous source accused Wolf of caring more about fancy cars than about the future of the series.
13. Michael Moriarty Became A 9/11 Truther
Since Law & Order spanned decades and had multiple spinoffs, it only makes sense that the cast would eventually yield a true nutter. Executive Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Stone actor Michael Moriarty appears to have stepped up to take that title.
After leaving the crime procedural, Moriarty went on to become a contributing writer for Breitbart. Many of the posts appeared to be angry rants, a fact that was not lost on some readers.
When the site was called out for giving Moriarty, a publicly vocal 9/11 truther, a platform, Andrew Breitbart stated that though he hadn’t known about Moriarty’s beliefs before he allowed him to write for the site, he had no intentions to take his column away.
12. Two Actresses Quit At The Same Time
S. Epatha Merkerson left Criminal Intent in 2006 because she was reportedly unhappy with the way the writers were treating her character, Anita Van Buren.
Annie Parisse left her role playing the Assistant District Attorney at the exact same time. It wasn’t the first time that an actor left the role of ADA, but Parisse’s sudden exit proved particularly challenging for showrunners.
At the time of Parisse’s exit, rumors were swirling around that show might not have been renewed. The loss of a major actress combined with these reports made it difficult for execs to find a replacement.
A source revealed part of the reason for Parisse’s decision to quit, saying that the actress had not been treated well and that the crew was constantly complaining about her hair.
11. Daniel Dae Kim And The Hellboy Whitewashing Controversy
The tides of change have been slamming into the shores of Hollywood with full-force lately. Movie-goers are demanding more representation and equal treatment of women and minority actors to varying levels of success. This is a truth that the execs of the upcoming David Harbour starring Hellboy reboot learned the hard way.
When Ed Skrein was announced as the new Ben Daimio — the Japanese-American Bureau for Paranormal Research officer with jaguar transformation powers — there was an instantaneous angry uproar.
Fans felt cheated by the apparent whitewashing of the Asian-American character and they weren’t afraid to let the showrunners know how they felt about it. Skrein made the classy move to walk away from the part, and former Law & Order alum Daniel Dae Kim stepped into the role instead.
10. One Character Came Out In Her VERY LAST Episode
Shocking reveals of orientation on network TV are often revered as progressive or honorable decisions. However, something about the way Elisabeth Rohm’s Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn was revealed as a lesbian in her final episode doesn’t quite sit right with most fans.
Serena Southerlyn’s firing from her position came with no warning, leaving the character and viewers totally confused. An angry Southerlyn hit at what she thought was the true reason hiding behind her sudden departure.
“Is this because I’m a lesbian?” she angrily asked. The plot could have explored unfair bias in the workplace, but by showcasing Southerlyn’s revealing moment in Rohm’s very last episode, the series essentially “buried their gays” the moment she came out.
9. Chad L. Coleman Went On A Rant On The Subway
After his star turns in both HBO’s The Wire and AMC’s The Walking Dead, two of the most popular cable TV series of all time, Chad L. Coleman put in a guest appearance on SVU as a reportedly abusive ex-football player. After that… well, things got a little weird.
In 2015, Coleman was captured on video ranting and raving on a New York City subway. Coleman began screaming about how he was telling his listeners “the truth” and demanded to know where their “humanitarian” side was.
Reports claimed that the rant was a reference to the Baltimore Riots, but the alleged catalyst behind the rant was a woman reportedly not recognizing the actor. Former Walking Dead showrunner, Scott Gimple, supported Coleman in a tweet saying that it wasn’t such a bad question, after all.
8. Chris Noth Called Carrie Bradshaw An Illicit Word
The ladies of HBO’s Sex and the City are no stranger to behind-the-scenes drama… and neither are the men, for that matter. After his early role in the Law & Order franchise, Chris Noth showed an unfortunately misogynistic side with some sadly unsavory comments about City‘s fictional columnist, Carrie Bradshaw.
While promoting his work for Chivas Regal Extra Scotch, Noth let loose with his feelings on Bradshaw and her infamous relationship with Mr. Big. Noth defended Big, stating that the character was always honest about himself and denying Bradshaw’s victim status.
He went on to reference Bradshaw’s boyfriend count, stating that though she was a “strong, smart woman,” she was also “such a wh*re.” However, reports gave Noth the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t totally serious when he made the remarks, as he said them “with a laugh.”
7. Dick Wolf Stated That Men Are Built To Be Predators
Lots of celebrities have come forward with their opinion of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and how they believe that Hollywood will change because of it. Many stars seem to be hopeful for a brighter future, but Law & Order creator Dick Wolf isn’t one of them.
Wolf revealed to TMZ his total lack of surprise over the scandal, saying that this sort of behavior was a constant presence in Hollywood. Wolf called this treatment of women both “unfortunate” and “awful” but he seemed to have no real hope for any lasting change.
When asked how the dangerously mysogynistic atmosphere in Hollywood could be changed, Wolf maintained that a lot of men, if “given the opportunity” would choose to “be pigs.” This is a bleak point of view, to be sure.
6. Chris Noth Dealt With Racist Hate Mail After His Marriage
Chris Noth married Tara Lynn Wilson, an African/Asian Canadian. Chris Noth, obviously, is white. The wedding took place in 2012, yet the couple’s would-be honeymoon phase was sadly tainted as the pair was forced to face backlash over their interracial relationship.
Noth revealed that while he was starring in a Broadway play he would receive letters in the mail warning him not to come to the letter writer’s state of residence. Nevermind that the writers of the letters usually lived in some far-flung state like Alabama while Noth was busy in New York. Noth is frequently described in the media as being a very “private” star, but the letters bothered him so much he felt he had to come out and say something about them.
5. The Cast And Crew Said Nothing When Fred Thompson Passed Away
Fred Thompson played District Attorney Arthur Branch in the Law & Order franchise. He was also a Watergate attorney, a United States senator, a lobbyist, and columnist. He was truly a man of many hats.
Sadly, Thompson passed away in 2015 of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma– an event that initially elicited nothing but silence from his Law & Order co-stars. This was a distinct difference from the outpouring of sympathies expressed from the political community.
Only once The Wrap pointed out the crickets that were left chirping after the announcement of Thompson’s passing, Dick Wolf released an official statement referencing the sad news.
4. People Fought Over Jerry Orbach’s Bank Account For 10 Years
Jerry Orbach’s decision to donate his eyes after his death is frequently quoted Hollywood legend, but there’s another story surrounding the beloved actor’s death that’s much, much darker.
According to the New York Post, as long as ten full years after Orbach’s death, his friend and former accountant Patricia M. Black refused to give up control of the actor’s second wife’s bank account five years after her death.
Orbach’s production company was listed as the owner of the account. Reports indicated that Black had been removed as Orbach’s executor, but she refused to hand over control of the account to her intended successor, Rita Hubbard.
3. Dick Wolf Admitted To Having An Agenda With The True Crime Episodes
There was a fairly large amount of people who believed that the Menendez Brothers had been given a bad rap when they were convicted of ending their parents’ lives in the early 1990s.
It has since been reported that the brothers had been fondled and had undergone intense trauma before the deaths in 1989, a sad fact that Dick Wolf leaned on in Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.
Wolf was very straightforward in the fact that the true crime miniseries was created with an agenda. The executive producer said that no matter how a viewer felt about the case, he believed that the facts presented in the series would change their minds.
2. S. Epatha Merkerson Smoked Up To Three Packs A Day While Filming
S. Epatha Merkerson shared her struggle with nicotine addiction and her inspiring success in quitting the nagging habit. Merkerson revealed that her habit had gotten so bad at one point that she was smoking nearly three packs a day and had witnessed two friends die of lung cancer because of their own smoking habit, but it wasn’t enough to help her kick the habit for good.
Finally, Merkerson realized that she was struggling to breathe, describing the feeling as that of having an “elephant sitting on my chest.”
Merkerson then realized that it was time to do something about her health and really began taking her efforts to quit much more seriously. She was indeed successful in giving up her dangerous habit after leaving her cigarettes on her nightstand as opposed to carrying them around. She threw out the whole pack after going a week without smoking.
1. FOX Rejected The Series Before NBC Said Yes
Lots of successful TV shows are given the run-around by television studios before they ever see the light of day. Networks wanted The Walking Dead to drop the slow, country-side pace and format the plot to be more of a crime-solving procedural… somehow.
Nobody would touch Stranger Things until the script completely dropped the kids (what a mistake that would have been). Law & Order received similar pushback.
FOX Chief Executive Barry Diller reportedly shot the series down on account of its “locked perspective.” Apparently, Diller felt that the characters wouldn’t have enough room to grow as they dealt with a new crime every week.
There was also the issue of the series’ demographic, which Diller claimed to be much older than the young audience that FOX was chasing after at the time.
Can you think of any other dark secrets behind Law & Order? Let us know in the comments!
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