‘Law & Order’: Why Did Denis Leary Leave the Show as Frank Donnelly?

by Shelby Scott

Law & Order: Organized Crime” just concluded its second season earlier this month. Altogether, the second installment of the show was, again, a major hit with fans. However, audiences said goodbye to one cast member, and that’s “Law & Order” actor Denis Leary. Leary’s exit from the show was shocking, to say the least. So now, as we anxiously await “Law & Order: Organized Crime’s” third season, we’re wondering exactly why the Detective Frank Donnelly actor left.

Season Two of ‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’ In Review

Express provided a quick summary of “Organized Crime’s” second season, therefore giving us perspective regarding Leary’s departure. Per the outlet, the main plot of the show’s second season saw franchise favorite Christopher Meloni’s character Detective Elliot Stabler going deep undercover.

In penetrating the depths of the criminal world, Stabler finds that Frank Donnelly (Denis Leary), a friend of the detective from 20 years ago, has traded his place in law enforcement for a life of corruption. The outlet reminds us Leary’s character became the leader of a corrupt NYPD ring called The Brotherhood.

Stabler’s character works his way up The Brotherhood’s chain of command, soon becoming one of Donnelly’s highest-ranking officials. So when the truth came out during the “Law & Order: Organized Crime” season finale, Leary’s character met a tragic end.

Donnelly alerted The Brotherhood to Stabler’s actual identity, with members of the group trying to kill him. Frank escapes amid the assassination attempts. Later, when Stabler catches up with him, he offs himself, stepping in front of a speeding train after telling the detective, “You broke my heart, pal.”

Denis Leary Planned on Leaving ‘Law & Order’ From the Start

Although we didn’t know it heading into the second season of “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” Express reports Leary’s exit from the show was planned all along. Although, as of right now, he hasn’t offered any explanation in particular as to why he decided to leave.

What we do know is that Frank Donnelly was introduced to “Law & Order” fans as a recurring character. And as such, his role in the legal drama was never a fixed position. In addition, the outlet reasoned that Meloni’s character Detective Stabler could not remain undercover forever. That would divert away from the storyline that follows the character as a detective overall.

That said, “Law & Order” writers needed to give Stabler an out somehow. Hence, the decision to kill off Denis Leary’s Frank Connelly. Overall then, fans were shocked at his character’s sudden death. But it seems Frank Connelly’s death had been in the cards for “Law & Order” all along.

Meanwhile, fans of the legal drama mourned the character’s death in a way, especially as Meloni’s Stabler became ridden with guilt following his friend’s death.