HomeEntertainment‘Law & Order: SVU’: Why Did Donald Cragen Actor Dann Florek Leave the Show?

‘Law & Order: SVU’: Why Did Donald Cragen Actor Dann Florek Leave the Show?

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)

Law & Order: SVU fans know that our favorite SVU detective, Olivia Benson has made the leap to become captain of the team.

But, the longtime Law & Order: SVU fans also know that before Benson became Captian of the SVU, the role was held by one of the series’s most memorable characters, actor Dann Florek’s Captain Donald Cragen.

For fifteen seasons Florek’s Captain Donald Cragen served the SVU as the incredibly loyal SVU captain.

Cragen’s focus was always on the well-being of the Law & Order: SVU team. And, the captain was also found it incredibly important to form relationships with the SVU officers.

So, when this series favorite eventually exited the popular show after fifteen seasons, fans were understandably surprised.

Florek’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Exit Came Down to Simple Realism

The unexpected exit was a shock to fans of the popular NBC show. And, it has been reported the reason for Florek’s SVU exit wasn’t sensational or controversial at all.

In fact, the reasons for the exit came down to simple realism showrunners were dedicated to keeping within the series. Dann Florek’s Captain Cragen had simply reached the New York Police Department’s retirement age. So, as any captain in a position such as Cragen’s would be required to do at that point, Cragen played by the rules, retiring from his role as SVU captain.

However, this wasn’t the only time Dann Florek’s Captain Cragen made an exit on a series.

Prior to taking on his captain position on Law & Order: SVU, Captain Cragen showed up on the original NBC series, Law & Order.

Captain Cragen Left the Original Series To Make Way For Big Changes

While Dan Florek did begin his Law & Order tenure on the original series, his time on the show was fairly short before he was written off. Florek’s Captain Cragen only lasted for three of the twenty seasons the series was originally on the air.

And, much like his exit from SVU years later, Florek’s exit from the original series wasn’t due to anything controversial. This is something for which many Law & Order fans are thankful because this allowed Florek to make the move to SVU.

According to reports, the decision to cut Florek’s Captain Cragen came from the network itself when NBC was looking to make some major changes.

What were these big changes that led the network to let Florek go?

According to Law & Order actress S. Epetha Merkerson, the departure was due to the network wanting to bring more female characters onto the series.

“They were going to cancel Law & Order,” Merkerson said in an interview with NPR. “Because NBC wanted women on the show.”

S. Epetha Merkerson says that rather than seeing his original series canceled, showrunner and Law & Order creator Dick Wolf let Florek and another actor go. He then brought in two female actresses to replace the open roles.

“That’s how Jill Hennessey and I ended up on the show,” Merkerson explains.

“Because NBC was going to cancel it if he didn’t bring skirts in,” the actress adds. “It was really that simple.”