Former Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson once described how the show was almost canceled. Merkerson made an important mark on the show with her role as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the original Law & Order series, which aired from 1990 to 2010.
If you’ve seen Law & Order from the beginning, you may have noticed that there were a lot of men on the series the first season. In fact, it got to the point where they weren’t pulling in the demographics they needed to.
“NBC was going to cancel the show because they felt it was too testosterone-driven,” Merkerson explained in an Academy of American Television interview. “They needed to bring in women and so Dick [Wolf] decided to make the commander of the precinct a woman and then to bring in a young ADA female and that’s how Jill Hennessey and I got on the show.”
“It was literally because they were getting ready to cancel [Law & Order]. And that change in the show after that first season… the numbers were incredible and the demographic changed exponentially,” she added. “Women started watching the show and that’s what they really wanted. They wanted to change the demographic.”
But the decision to add more women to the show also went beyond that. Right when Law & Order hit TV screens, what people expected to see on TV was changing.
“The times were also changing,” Merkerson explained. “I think before that we had only seen like Cagney and Lacey and Van Buren was also the precursor to a lot of females coming in after that as figures of authority.”
Merkerson Enjoyed Her Time On ‘Law & Order’
And once she was cast, Markerson loved her time on Law & Order.
“It was an honor to be on a show I was a huge fan of.”
Merkerson was such a fan that she wouldn’t read parts of the script her character didn’t need to know so she’d continue to be surprised when watching. Law & Order went on for two action-packed decades. NBC canceled the show in 2010, but it still has two surviving spinoffs and a third spinoff on the way.
But even with Law & Order over, Merkerson is still working with Dick wolf. Now, Merkerson is on another Dick Wolf Series, playing Sharon Goodwin on Chicago Med. She just renewed her contract as well, so fans will be able to spot her on the show for at least the next couple of years.
Merkerson helped Law & Order become the infamous show it is today in a big way. Her work on the series was groundbreaking for the time. Now, her work on Chicago Med never fails to impress audiences. Chicago Med will be back this fall.
Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: For The Defense, and Law & Order: Organized Crime will all air on Thursday nights this fall, making Dick Wolf one of the most dominant show creators of the year.