‘Law & Order’: Sam Waterston Opens Up About Returning to His Jack McCoy Role After More Than a Decade

by Leanne Stahulak

The original “Law & Order” show returned after a 12-year hiatus this past February, and star Sam Waterston also returned to play his iconic character, Jack McCoy.

Waterston starred in nearly 400 episodes of the hit NBC procedural, beginning in 1994 and concluding in 2010 when the 20th season wrapped up. When he first started with the show, Waterston was only 50 years old. Now, he’s resuming his role at 81, but he doesn’t plan on letting his age slow him down.

“Time does take its toll, but working keeps you young,” Waterston told NPR earlier this week. “It helps to have a job because you have to show up. Somebody is expecting things of you and you need to deliver. So it works for me.”

That’s part of the reason why Sam Waterston decided to return to “Law & Order” as Jack McCoy. He’s kept busy in recent years with roles on “Grace and Frankie” and “The Dropout.” But coming back to this show also feels a lot like coming home.

“It looked exactly like the same old sets, the same furniture, the same books, the same linoleum on the floor,” Waterston said. “I [had] wondered whether to do it or not do it … but the minute I was back there, I thought, ‘What a fool I would have been to have missed this.’ It’s been fabulous.”

Waterston also opened up about returning to the show in a recent interview with Variety. Once again, the set work really seemed to get to the veteran actor.

“It was totally surreal. Unbelievable,” Waterston told Variety. “It’s a step back in time. They built the 42 sets in every detail, down to the books on the shelves to the linoleum on the floor. You know perfectly well that it wasn’t all being done for you, but you can’t escape the feeling that you’re being given this opportunity to step back in time in your own life.” 

‘Law & Order’ Star Sam Waterston Reveals That Dick Wolf Really Wanted Him to Return as Jack McCoy

So far, five episodes of the revived “Law & Order” have premiered on NBC, with another one coming this Thursday, April 14. Some fans have wondered why “Law & Order” decided to come back now, 12 years after the end of the series. Sam Waterston actually answered that question during a press day panel held by Wolf Entertainment.

“I don’t think Dick [Wolf] has ever stopped talking about it!” Waterston revealed. “One of the reasons we are back is because of his persistence. We stopped making the show, but the audience never stopped watching them!”

Waterston also said, “Dick, from the day that they suspended the show — I guess it’s fair to say a suspension because it’s coming back — he’s been saying that that was a terrible mistake, and they should bring it back. And every time I’ve seen him, he’s said that. Five years ago, he almost did it. He really is perseverance personified because he never gave this up. Having people like that involved in your career, I don’t know how you have a career without them.”

Now that the show has returned, what do you think of it? Tell us your thoughts, “Law & Order” fans.