A hero is only as great as his villain. And “Law & Order: Organized Crime” pitted everyone’s favorite Elliot Stabler against one for the ages. Dylan McDermott plays Stabler’s nemesis Richard Wheatley on the show.
Wheatley is both the son of mafia member Manfredi Sinatra and a suspect in Stabler’s wife’s murder. Throughout the first season, Wheatley continued to cross paths with the seasoned detective. Rather than following separate stories, “Law & Order: Organized Crime” followed a consistent season arc. With season two on the way, Wheatley and Stabler’s game of cat and mouse is poised to reach new heights.
So as an actor, what inspired McDermott’s “Law & Order” character? In a recent interview with TV Line, McDermott says he found inspiration for the character from his youth. Growing up in New York, McDermott became well versed in the history of the Mafia.
“I love the crime world,” McDermott said. “I grew up in New York, and I was seeing the mafia around town, watching them. And I remember going with my dad to Umbertos Clam House, where Joey Gallo got killed in Little Italy. I remember when Paul Castellano got killed in front of Sparks Steakhouse.”
Eventually, McDermott came face to face while working in the city. Gang members would visit McDermott when he was bartending. The criminal world always intrigued the future actor, though he never wanted to be part of the mafia himself.
“So it was always the element of those guys. When I was bartending, these made guys would come in and make me keep the bar open for them. So, it was always some elements that I was around. I thought it was infinitely interesting, the social clubs where the mobsters would hang out. I liked that world. Something about that world really intrigued me.”
Dylan McDermott on ‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’
McDermott also discussed his “Law & Order” character in depth. The actor has enjoyed peeling back the layers and discovering what makes Wheatley tick.
“I love the diversity of the show, I love that Richard has a diverse family. I love that this guy is a mastermind in terms of being a criminal,” McDermott said. “And that his father was part of the mafia, the old mafia. I love that he changed his name, that he came up with this new identity. That he’s like an octopus, you know? I always try to find an animal when I decide on a character. What animal is he?”
According to McDermott, Wheatley’s spirit animal would be an octopus. So far, he’s made a formidable opponent for Stabler on the show.
“And I was like, oh, he’s an octopus, because he’s got his hands in everything. He’s always moving. He’s always changing shape and form…And then, obviously, the cherry on top is that he’s a sociopath,” he said.