Sam Waterston leaves ‘Law & Order’ After 400+ Episodes, Tony Goldwyn the New Face of ‘Law & Order’

The era of District Attorney Jack McCoy, portrayed by Sam Waterston, in “Law & Order” is coming to an end. After contributing to more than 400 episodes, Waterston is set to make his exit from the show, with his final episode airing on Thursday, February 22. Tony Goldwyn, widely recognized for his role as Fitz in ABC’s “Scandal,” is slated to take over as the new district attorney.

Waterston first joined the flagship series by Dick Wolf in 1994 and remained a key cast member until the original series concluded in 2010. When the show made a comeback for its 21st season in 2022, Waterston reprised his role. He has also portrayed the character in spin-offs like “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” and “Exited: A Law & Order Movie.”

Upon the announcement of his departure, Waterston released a statement expressing his sentiments, starting with the words, “Greetings, you wonderful people.”

“It’s a pleasure to talk directly like this to the backbone of Law & Order’s absolutely amazing audience. The time has come for me to move on and take Jack McCoy with me. There’s sadness in leaving, but I’m just too curious about what’s next,” Waterston wrote. “An actor doesn’t want to let himself get too comfortable. I’m more grateful to you than I can say. L&O’s continuing and amazing long run, along with its astounding come-back, is all thanks to you and to Dick Wolf, but for whose vision, patience, perseverance, and unique combination of creative and business talents, none of this would have happened. I feel very blessed. I hope to see you all on the flip side.”

Waterston, a veteran in the entertainment industry, has been recognized for his role in “Law & Order” with three Emmy nominations and 11 SAG nominations, even winning a SAG award in 1998.

Ahead of the series’ return in 2022, Waterston told Variety an interview stepping back on to set after more than a decade, calling the experience “totally surreal.

He said, “It’s a step back in time. They built the 42 sets in every detail down to the books on the shelves to the linoleum on the floor. You know perfectly well that it wasn’t all being done for you, but you can’t escape the feeling that you’re being given this opportunity to step back in time in your own life.” Waterston also highlighted that the show is once again tackling relevant issues he said further, “It’s always been the goal of the show to get people throwing their shoes at the television… It feels, to me, like ‘Law & Order’ might have something to contribute to the general conversation because we’re all mad about something. We’re all mad as hell about something right now and mad at each other. For us to get these big issues aired, and to have not a conclusion but a resolution of some kind that you can chew on, might be a useful service.”

At the moment, Wolf described Waterston’s character as “the ultimate conscience of the show,” adding, “I look forward to him emulating the career of New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who served until he was 90.” In response, Waterston stated, “I don’t know how long I’ll be on ‘Law & Order.’ But if my career lasts as long as Robert Morgenthau’s, I will have nothing to complain about at all.”

The 23rd season of “Law & Order” has seen other cast changes as well. Reid Scott joined the cast following the exit of Jeffrey Donovan, who allegedly left due to creative disagreements.

“Law & Order” is a production of Universal Television and Wolf Entertainment. The show is run by Rick Eid, with Wolf, Eid, Pamela Wechsler, Alex Hall, Arthur Forney, and Peter Jankowski serving as executive producers.

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