From 1994 to 2010, Sam Waterston helped make the original “Law & Order” one of the most iconic procedurals of all time. Going from the Assistant District Attorney to the District Attorney, Waterston’s character Jack McCoy had a lot of responsibility. And interestingly, the actor and his character disagreed on some major issues relating to law enforcement.
Part of what makes acting such an art is the ability to completely embody someone else. Whether that someone else is a real person, or in the case of “Law & Order,” a fictional DA, the actor and their character are two very different people.
Sam Waterston played the Jack McCoy role in iconic fashion during the years he spent on “Law & Order.” But the nature of the show saw the characters dealing with some heavy stuff every week. And among the topics that divided opinion for those on the show and the population as a whole was capital punishment.
During a 2009 interview with The Paley Center for Media, the longtime “Law & Order” actor was asked if there were any episodes that challenged his own outlook on the world. His response?
“Well, you know, all the shows about the death penalty challenged my own thinking because I thought differently than my character. But you’re paid to care,” said Waterston.
As the District Attorney, it was Jack McCoy’s responsibility to prosecute criminals according to their crimes. Occasionally, that meant dealing with the death penalty. Sam Waterston doesn’t necessarily agree with that as a form of punishment. But his character did. And that’s where the challenge came into play.
Like all humans, both Waterston and his character are complex. Rarely, if ever, are someone’s views entirely consistent with a certain way of thinking. Waterston captured that part of the human condition perfectly.
When The ‘Law & Order’ Star Faced Off With Christopher Meloni On ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’
Back in 2006, both “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU” were in full swing. A byproduct of the two shows’ success was appearances from their cast members on programs like “Celebrity Jeopardy!“
Sam Waterston appeared on an episode of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” alongside Elliot Stabler actor Christopher Meloni and Alexandra Earnes actress Katie Erbe. The showdown came back in the day of longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.
In a recent interview with Interview Magazine, Christopher Meloni recalled the game he played against his “Law & Order” universe co-stars.
“One time it was a ‘Law & Order’–themed thing, and Katie Erbe and Sam Waterston thought I was playing possum because I was horrible in the warmup round,” Meloni said. “And then when it was time to really play and Alex Trebek came out, I kicked their ass. It felt good.”
So Christopher Meloni may be the most dominant “Jeopardy!” player from the Dick Wolf-produced franchise.