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Sam Waterston to Leave ‘Law & Order’ After 19 Seasons

The longest-serving actor on Law & Order is set to work his last case.

Sam Waterston, who has been part of the NBC drama since 1994, is leaving the show. His final episode as Manhattan District Attorney Jack McCoy is set to air Feb. 22. Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, Oppenheimer) will then join Law & Order as the new DA.

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The 83-year-old Waterston joined L&O at the beginning of its fifth season. He’ll depart partway through his 19th season on the series, having appeared in more than 400 episodes as McCoy, who began on the series as an assistant district attorney. The character was appointed interim DA in season 17 and was revealed to have won the elected position of district attorney in the 20th and final season of the show’s original 1990-2010 run. Waterston reprised the character when NBC revived Law & Order in 2022, serving as a link to the original show.

In a statement directed at the show’s viewers, Waterston said, “Greetings, you wonderful people. It’s a pleasure to talk directly like this to the backbone of Law & Order’s absolutely amazing audience. The time has come for me to move on and take Jack McCoy with me. There’s sadness in leaving, but I’m just too curious about what’s next. An actor doesn’t want to let himself get too comfortable. I’m more grateful to you than I can say. L&O’s continuing and amazing long run, along with its astounding comeback, is all thanks to you and Dick Wolf, but for whose vision, patience, perseverance, and unique combination of creative and business talents, none of this would have happened. I feel very blessed. I hope to see you all on the flip side.”

Law & Order executive producer and Wolf Entertainment president and COO Peter Jankowski said longtime castmembers like Waterston, Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay and L&O: Organized Crime’s Chris Meloni have been invaluable in setting the tone on set over the years.

“There are all these incredible artists who also are tremendous leaders,” Jankowski told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the franchise’s season premiere in January. “You can’t make shows without people like that.”

Details on how Goldwyn’s character will be introduced are being kept quiet for now — though it won’t be his first time stepping onto the Law & Order set. He directed an episode in 2006. The part will mark his first series role since season two of Nat Geo’s The Hot Zone in 2021. In addition to Oppenheimer, his recent credits also include Murder Mystery 2 and The People We Hate at the Wedding. His most recent directing project was the feature film Ezra, which stars Robert De Niro and Rose Byrne and premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Goldwyn is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Schreck Rose.

Universal Television and Wolf Entertainment produce the Law & Order franchise.

Feb. 22, 12:52 p.m. An earlier version of this story misstated how long Sam Waterston has been part of the Law & Order cast. He’s been with the series for 19 seasons.

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