‘Law & Order’ Star Jerry Orbach Could Only Whisper During Final Episode Before His Death: Here’s How Writers Responded

by Katie Maloney

Actor Jerry Orbach is one of “Law & Order”‘s longest-serving regular cast members on the show. Orbach played New York City police detective Lennie Briscoe for 12 years (1992-2004) before he passed in 2004. His final scenes came with the second episode of the spin-off series, “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” However, Jerry Orbach had been diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly before filming started for the new series. By the time the cast and crew showed up for the second episode, Orbach was extremely ill. During an interview in 2018, “Law & Order” writer, Walon Green talked about Orbach’s final moments on set.

Green said that Orbach was so sick during his final scenes that he couldn’t speak above a whisper. But the cast and crew didn’t want the whisper to spoil Orbach’s final moments on set. So, they decided to get creative.

“He was losing his voice and the day we were shooting his last scene in the show he couldn’t speak above a whisper,” said Green.

Green added that “Law & Order” producers were concerned about how the editors could make the whisper work.

“So, they said ‘Well, what do we do? How can we do this? He might not be around to loop him,'” said Green.

However, Orbach believed he’d be around to re-record the audio (loop) at another time.

“And Jerry said, ‘Well, my voice might come back.’ But nobody thought it would,” said Orbach.

How the ‘Law & Order’ Crew Worked Around Jerry Orbach’s Whisper

Sadly, the crew wasn’t too sure that Orbach would be able to record audio on a future date, so Green came up with a solution.

“So I said, ‘Just shoot it.’ And I said, ‘Don’t worry about it Jerry, it’ll be fine.’ So he did, he shot the scene and he finished the show And then he died,” said Green.

Green did not want Orbach to worry while filming his final scenes. So, he came up with the idea to have the rest of the cast re-record their audio later.

“So, then I got the scene and I knew what I was going to do at the beginning. But I got the scene. And it was in a hallway outside a courtroom. So I thought, legitimately, everybody could be whispering in that scene,” said Green. “So I said, ‘Let’s get everybody back and loop the scene so that everybody whispers.’ And it worked.”

Jerry’s Legacy Lives On

Jerry Orbach passed away shortly after filming those scenes. He was 69 years old. The episode of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” aired in 2005, after Orbach’s passing. However, the spin-off series only lasted one season. And we can’t help but feel that its lack of success was largely due to Orbach’s absence. Even after over a decade since he last appeared on “Law & Order”, fans still fondly remember Orbach as a pillar of the show.