Joan Copeland: Broadway Star and Former ‘Law & Order’ Actress Dead at 99

by Jonathan Howard
(Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

Legendary actress and Broadway star Joan Copeland has passed away at the age of 99. She entertained for years on shows like Law & Order.

Copeland passed away in her sleep at her Manhattan home. She performed in just about every kind of show you could during her 60+ year career. From the Broadway stage to soap operas, and law enforcement procedurals.

The actress’s son, Eric told The Hollywood Reporter about his mother’s death. She died early Tuesday in her sleep. Her brother, Arthur Miller, was a famed playwright and wrote Death of a Salesman among other classics. He wrote many of the plays that Joan performed in during her lifetime. A truly talented pair of siblings.

During her career, Copeland garnered fame for her soap opera performances. From 1960-63 she portrayed a pair of twins, Maggie and Kay for CBS’ Love of Life. She then went on to play the evil Andrea Whiting on Search for Tomorrow from 1967-72. She would go on to be included in four other shows in the genre.

Above all, Joan Copeland was a Broadway actress. While the stage might not be the best way to become a household name, she was able to do it. Her role in Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story might be her most well-known. She was the understudy for Katherine Hepburn in the Coco Chanel-based musical Coco. That show had over 300 shows from 1969-70.

Joan Copeland on ‘Law & Order’

Following her work on stage in the 1976 hit musical Pal Joey, Copeland earned a Drama Desk Award. While she was honing her skills in live theatre, she was also finding work on television. She had found success early on in the 1950s on TV.

Of course, her work on soap operas was impactful and led to a lot of her success. However, she wasn’t limited to just soaps. From 1993-1997, Joan Copeland was one of the favorite judges on Law & Order. Those early seasons of the show are so special. Now, looking back they are even more special.

As Judge Rebecca Stein, Joan Copeland made several appearances on the show. She commanded control of the courtroom and was an imposing figure. Those early casts were some of the best in the show and one of the big reasons why it was so successful, to begin with. Copeland had a role in making that come true.

Two 99 Year Old Actresses Pass Away

When you hear the news that Joan Copeland passed at 99 years old, it is hard to not also think of Betty White. This year both actresses would have turned 100. White was just 17 days from her 100th birthday which will be celebrated by many around the world.

Then again, 99 years and a six-decade career in entertainment isn’t a bad way to live life. Joan will be missed dearly by her family, friends, and many fans she inspired throughout the decades.