‘Law & Order’: How Fred Thompson Transitioned Back Into Acting After Senate Term

by Jacklyn Krol

Only one person could have ever said that they starred in Law & Order and were a Senator in real life. Fred Thompson starred as District Attorney Arthur Branch on the flagship series. His made his first appearance in the Season 13 episode “American Jihad.” He exited the show during Season 17 and his final episode was “The Family Hour.”

Thompson was an attorney in real life, he graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1967 with a law degree. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he serves as a United States Senator from Tennessee between 1994 and 2003, when he began filming the series during his second term.

He is actually the only actor to be a series regular on two separate Law & Order series at the same time. Thompson starred as his character in the 2005-2006 season of Trial By Jury.

Guest-Starring on the Other ‘Law & Order’ Spinoffs

Furthermore, he appeared as a guest star on other spinoffs. In total, he appeared in eleven episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. His first appeared on the show in a Season 4 episode titled “Fallacy.”

His last appeared on the show in the Season 7 episode titled “Gone.”

Additionally, he appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as well as the pilot episode of Conviction.

According to Variety, Thompson was brought on board in 2002 because Dick Wolf saw a shift in the political winds after 9/11. This “likely made him the first sitting U.S. senator to portray someone other than himself on television.”

He asked to be let go from his Law & Order contract to run for president. Thompson would later become a candidate in the 2008 presidential primaries. NBC actually did not air reruns during the time of the primaries because of concerns about the equal time rule. However, TNT still aired some of his episodes during that period.

Fred’s Career Before ‘Law & Order’

Thompson first joined the acting world with his notable appearances in 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October” and “Die Hard 2.”

Thompson previously chaired the International Security Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of State. In addition, he was a member of the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Back in 1973, he made headlines when he was appointed minority counsel to help aid the Republic senators during the Senate Watergate Committee. This was a special group convened by the United States Senate to investigate the Watergate scandal. He was reportedly the person who told Republican Senator Howard Baker’s question regarding what and when did the President learn of the actions.

He passed away in 2015 after battling a recurrence of lymphoma.