‘Law & Order’: Here’s What Led to Chris Noth Exiting the Show

by Suzanne Halliburton
Scott Gries/Getty Images

As Law & Order gears up for a revival, it’s worth glancing at the crime procedural’s past to see how it became one of the most popular series on TV.

Think back to 1990, when NBC first introduced Law & Order. Here’s the original cast: Chris Noth, George Dzundza, Dann Florek, Stephen Hill, Michael Moriarty and Richard Brooks.

The breakout star was Noth, who portrayed junior detective Mike Logan. Of the original cast, only Hill stuck around Law & Order longer than Noth. And after five seasons, Noth finally made his exit.

Why? Law & Order couldn’t afford Noth anymore. This was 1995 and by this time, Noth’s Logan partnered with Jerry Orbach’s Lennie Briscoe.

“This is one of the toughest decisions you’ve got to make as a producer,″ said Law & Order creator Dick Wolf. “I want to emphasize that Chris has done a spectacular job this year. He’s never been better.″

Wolf now is synonymous with the crime procedural. By the end of February, when the Law & Order reboot premieres, Wolf’s shows will fill up three hours of network primetime on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

But back in 1995, Law & Order didn’t want to pay Noth more money. Keep in mind, this was a time when there were no Law & Order spinoffs. Wolf, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Noth would be in line for a “huge” salary bump. He said “that would be impossible to grant, given the age of the show.″

Dolores Robinson, one of Noth’s managers, said her client was ready for a film career. “He’s really sorry that they couldn’t get it together,” Robinson said. “But he’s had five great years and his feeling is that it’s time to move on.″

When Wolf cut Noth from the cast, the series was enjoying its best season ever, in terms of audience size. Ratings were up 11 percent from the year before.

(Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

Noth, after leaving Law & Order, became a part of pop culture history. He joined the cast of Sex and the City as a recurring character in 1998 playing the love interest of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Carrie and her friends always called Noth’s character Mr. Big. Audiences didn’t even know his real name until the final scene of the final episode, when Carrie took a call from “John.”

Noth then starred in The Good Wife as the eventual governor of Illinois. But he also came back to Law & Order, reprising his Mike Logan character for Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Noth co-starred in The Equalizer on CBS and appeared in the premiere of And Just Like That, the Sex and the City sequel. Mr. Big died of a heart attack at the end of the premiere, crushing the hearts of long-time fans.

However, Noth lost his role in The Equalizer last month when several women accused him of sexual assault. Plus, And Just Like That cut him from a scheduled cameo that was supposed to be in the finale.

The Law & Order reboot premieres Feb. 24.