‘Law & Order’ Revival Is Trying to Fill an S. Epatha Merkerson Shaped Hole

by Allison Hambrick
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2020)

The cast and crew of Law & Order have their work cut out for them filling the shoes of longtime series regular S. Epatha Merkerson.

Emmy-winning actress Camryn Manheim joined the series as Lt. Kate Dixon. Her character replaced Lt. Anita Van Buren, who was okay by S. Epatha Merkerson from season four to season 20. Merkerson declined to return to the series as she is currently starring in another Wolf-produced series, Chicago Med.

Interestingly, Manheim started her small-screen career on Law & Order. Her first role was a guest appearance on the show’s debut season. She appeared again as different characters in seasons three and four. This means that Manheim played three roles in the series, with Dixon making four.

Additionally, Manheim shared a post to her Instagram celebrating her new role. The actress captioned a screenshot of the announcement: “I am over the moon to be joining the cast of Law & Order as Lt. Kate Dixon. My very first job on television was on Law & Order, so it feels like I’m coming home. New York, here I come!”

‘Law & Order’ Has a Mix of New and Old Characters

In addition to Manheim, several cast members were announced. Anthony Anderson will return to his Law & Order role as NYPD Detective Kevin Bernard. The series also added Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame as a detective as well as Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy as an Assistant District Attorney.

In a since-deleted photo, Wolf Entertainment showed Anderson and Donovan filming together on location. The caption stated: “here we go. Season 21 of [Law & Order] is officially in production.”

Created by Dick Wolf in 1990, the show ran for 20 years. Wolf again executive produces alongside writer-showrunner Rick Eid. It will remain episodic in structure, and again follows “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”

In addition, it created a number of successful spin-offs, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. That series both started as a spinoff of the original show and now has its own spinoff. 

Centered around former SVU Detective Elliot Stabler, Law & Order: Organized Crime follows a serialized format, a franchise first. Tackling a serialized storyline in the regular Law & Order could prove interesting, especially if it brings over characters from the other series. A team-up between the dream team of Stabler and Benson and Bernard would be a sight to behold.

Additionally, NBCUniversal chairman Susan Rovner called the crossover possibilities “countless,” praising the way the world of Law & Order has expanded.

Interested fans can catch the revival Thursdays on NBC, alongside its spin-off and its spinoff’s spinoff. The first episode of Law & Order airs on Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. eastern