‘Law & Order’ Star Camryn Manheim Previously Appeared as Different Character: Who She Played

by Allison Hambrick
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: Camryn Manheim attends 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Law & Order actress Camryn Manheim is no stranger to the franchise; the very first role she played on television was in a 1991 episode of the series.

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

Recently, Manheim joined the revival of Law & Order as Lt. Kate Dixon. Her character was created to replace S. Epatha Merkerson’s Lt. Anita Van Buren, who featured on the show from season four to season 20. Merkerson declined to return because she is currently starring in Chicago Med, which, like Law & Order, was created by Dick Wolf.

Manheim is no stranger to the Law & Order franchise. Not only has she guest-starred, but she did so three times. The first was, as mentioned, in 1991. She played a character called Leila in an episode called “Life Choice,” in which a women’s rights advocate died in a bombing at an abortion clinic. Her next appearance was as Martha Rollins in a 1993 episode, “Benevolence.” That episode solved the murder of a young hearing-impaired girl. Her most recent episode prior to being cast as a regular was in 1994. She played an uncaring foster mother named Beatrice Hines in the episode “Nurture.”

Interestingly, Manheim joins a long line of actors who became regulars after guest-starring.

‘Law & Order’ Casts Familiar Faces

Notably, actress Kelli Giddish followed a similar path to joining the series. The actress first guest-starred on SVU in 2007, followed by another guest spot on Criminal Intent that same year. Four years later, Giddish returned to SVU as yet another character, Detective Amanda Rollins.

While her character was only meant to stick around for one episode, the audience responded well to her. The ratings went up, so she was added to the main cast. Giddish has been on the show since season 13.

Fans may not realize just how many Law & Order actors started off in different roles. Even Jerry Orbach appeared as another character named Frank Lehrmann in a 1991 episode. He joined the show in its third season. Other stars who did guest spots before becoming regulars include Courtney B. Vance, Diane Neal, Tamara Tunie, Raul Esparza, Peter Scanavino, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Bebe Neuwirth.

As for the Law & Order revival cast, the only character officially slated to return is Detective Kevin Bernard, played by Anthony Anderson. Fan-favorite Sam Waterson is reportedly in talks to make an appearance, however, no official announcement has been made. Newcomers, aside from Manheim, include Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan and Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy.

Law & Order returns to NBC on Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. eastern.