‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’ Star Dylan McDermott Reveals How He Reacted When First Approached for Role

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Dylan McDermott used to play a brilliant lawyer on TV. Now, his Law & Order: Organized Crime character needs a smart attorney to keep him out of jail.

McDermott portrays crime boss Richard Wheatley on Law & Order: Organized Crime. It’s the newest Law & Order spinoff. And it’ll start season two, Sept. 23, after a two-hour premiere of Law & Order: SVU. Wheatley is the nemesis of Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler.

Turns out, the 59-year-old McDermott always fancied himself playing a criminal. It’s literally in his family DNA. He recently talked about why he took the role in an interview with Parade.

Why did the former star of The Practice become a crime boss?

“Several things,” McDermott said. “I had grown up with these unsavory gangsters as a kid. My mother’s boyfriend was a bank robber, my uncles had dabbled in this and that. I had grown up with my dad in the Village, Little Italy, and had been around when Joey Gallo got killed, and Paul Castellano [was shot dead] at Sparks Steak House. I had waited on these guys as a bartender, as a waiter and as a busboy, so I knew the lay of the land.”

For reference, Gallo was a member of the Colombo crime family. “Big Paulie” Castellano died in 1985. John Gotti, who was watching nearby, ordered the hit. Who knows. Maybe some of these stories will show up on Law & Order: Organized Crime in future episodes.

Plus, McDermott said he took the role because he grew up in New York, where the show is set. He loves the style. So does his character.

McDermott Also Said He Took Role on Law & Order: Organized Crime Because He Loved NYC Style

“[In New York] there’s a sense of style that you don’t really get in too many places, maybe London and Paris. But in America, New York is the center of style and fashion. I had always watched. I’ve always been a great watcher and observer. So I think that the combination of having grown up that way, the clothes, the look, I think that all fell into place for me. And, certainly, the psychosis of this character being a malignant narcissist, I think all that stuff is really appealing to me. So it was an easy yes because I knew exactly who the guy was. By the time I stepped on set, I was more than ready.”

As Law & Order: Organized Crime begins season two, Wheatley is in jail, thanks to Stabler. He’s negotiating with the feds on what his charges will be. Maybe they’re dropped. Or maybe he’ll go to prison for a big chunk of his life.

Meloni’s Stabler goes undercover for season two. Early Saturday morning — like after 4 a.m. — Meloni tweeted a selfie from the set. He’s sporting a bloody lip, nose and forehead. Stabler got into with someone. We’ll have to watch and find out. Stay tuned.