‘NCIS’ Star Rocky Carroll Also Played a Role in ‘Law & Order’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Rocky Carroll is a mainstay on NCIS. He’s director Leon Vance and he’s been the boss for more than a decade.

But Carroll also played a part in launching the original Law & Order, although he probably is a mere footnote to the show’s incredible history and staying power.

For perspective, think back to what you were doing in September of 1990. George H.W. Bush was president. Tennis upstart Pete Sampras, who was all of 19, won the U.S. Open, his first Grand Slam. Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. hit back-to-back homers in the first inning of a game. Murphy Brown and LA Law were the big Emmy winners.

And Law & Order premiered on NBC on Sept. 13. Here’s the plot summary for the premiere called “Prescription for Death”: “Greevey and Logan discover that a hospital is covering up an accomplished doctor’s mistake which resulted in a patient’s death. They later find out that the doctor might have been drunk at the time.”

Long Before NCIS, Rocky Carroll Had Doctor Cameo on Law & Order

A 27-year-old Carroll appeared in his first-ever TV episode. He portrayed Dr. Davids, a third-year medical student. The role for the future NCIS star certainly wasn’t major. However, it was a start to a career that’s touched five decades. Plus, no one knew that Law & Order, created by Dick Wolf, would run for 20 years and spawn six spinoffs. Plus, Law & Order, after a decade absence, is returning for its 21st season. The premiere is set for Feb. 24. And Carroll can say he was at the very beginning of it all.

It didn’t take Carroll long to gain a foothold on TV. By 1991, he played Joey Emerson on Fox sitcom Roc. In 1996, he joined the cast of Chicago Hope, where he played Dr. Keith Wilkes. Two other NCIS stars also were on the show. That’s where Carroll first worked with Mark Harmon (Gibbs). And, coincidentally, he worked with Lauren Holly. On NCIS, Carroll’s Vance took over as director when Holly’s Jenny Shepard died in 2008.

“I was pretty fortunate because I had a pretty long relationship with CBS before NCIS came on my radar,” Carroll told CBS-Los Angeles in an interview earlier in 2021. “I had worked on several CBS shows. (Mark Harmon) and I actually met on Chicago Hope back in the ’90s. We were both members of the cast of Chicago Hope for three seasons.”

Cliff Lipson/CBS. ©2008

Carroll said Harmon gave him the thumbs up for his NCIS tryout. “My audition had less to do with me auditioning and more to do with (Harmon) saying, ‘I know this guy, I like him, [and] you should hire him.’”

Carroll’s Vance still is going strong on NCIS. But he’s doing more for the long-time CBS show than playing a character. NCIS returns Jan. 3 with an episode called Pledge of Allegiance. And it’ll be Carroll’s 18th as a director. Here’s the plot summary from CBS: “NCIS is called in when Navy Chief Warrant Officer Rafi Nazar (Artur Zai Benson) is suspected of trying to sell stolen classified Navy software used to pilot combat drones.”

This also will be Carroll’s third directed episode of season 19.