Sorry, Mariska Hargitay, but former “Law & Order” star Milena Govich has a unique distinction of being the first and only female detective on the show.
Govich played Detective Nina Cassady in 2006 for one season (22 episodes), taking over for Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina) at the start of Season 17. She worked with Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin’s).
According to Looper, Govich’s character marked a turning point for the series, but she didn’t stay on the show long.
Govich went to other top shows like the FX series “Rescue Me,” where she played Candy for 16 episodes. She also worked in “Finding Carter” for 24 episodes.
The actor, producer, and director went on to work with series creator Dick Wolf again. She’s been a producing director on CBS’ “FBI” and directed for “FBI: Most Wanted,” “Chicago Med,” and “Chicago Fire.”
“Law & Order” Star Was A First
While other strong, compelling women starred in different spinoff roles, Milena Govich was the first woman detective for the original series.
Sure, S. Epatha Merkerson’s Lieutenant Anita Van Buren played the boss to Govich and many other male detectives over 20 seasons. Plus, a few assistant district attorneys like Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon) or Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Röhm) got some time on the show.
But that was it for the original series.
Other show’s spinoffs like ” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” had detectives like Kathryn Erbe’s Alexandra Eames, Julianne Nicholson’s Megan Wheeler, and Annabella Sciorra’s Carolyn Barek.
“Law & Order” Female Detective’s Short Time
Govich’s Cassady was known as “Detective Beauty Queen.” That nickname came from a take-down in a beauty salon. While Detective Green played a mentor role, Cassady’s inexperience often worked against her. She became a thorn in Van Buren’s side from the beginning for her methods. The lieutenant wanted someone else to take Fontana’s job, but her superiors wanted Cassady. Also, Cassidy didn’t take advice well. That won’t keep you in your job for long.
In another episode called “Fear America” during the season, her character defended racial profiling by law enforcement, and a few scripted lines over racism got her into trouble.
That year’s season finale seemed to be the last straw with her police bosses. She messes up an interrogation of a former senator after losing her cool. The senator she coerced was close to a confession. The suspect loses it and throws a chair through a glass window. Bye, bye Detective Cassady.
For Season 18, Jeremy Sisto’s Detective Cyrus Lupo takes over, and there’s no explanation for Cassady ever again on the show. Who knows? Maybe the show’s writers took too many risks.
But Detective Olivia Benson’s predecessor deserves some respect for holding her own with the boys.