Law and Order

“Law & Order” Seasons 11-20: Cast Faceoff

If you’ve been following along, we’ve been (scientifically) trying to determine the “golden season” of LAW & ORDER once and for all. We’ve already recapped seasons 1-10, and now we’re looking for a winner from seasons 11-20. By the second decade of LAW & ORDER no one remains from the original cast, but many of the fan favorites are going strong. Jack McCoy and Anita Van Buren anchor their respective domains, and Briscoe and Green stick around for a while. Did LAW & ORDER age like fine wine? This is the week to decide! Next week we’ll have the final face-off between the top seasons of all 20 years.

Season 11
DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) retired at the end of season 10, and liberal Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest) is hired on as first and only female DA. She’s got her hands full with maverick Jack McCoy and right-wing Abbie Carmichael, who departs at the end of the season. Briscoe, Green, and Van Buren hold the thin blue line.
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Angie Harmon, Dianne Wiest

Season 12
Lewin replaces ADA Carmichael with her polar opposite, the idealistic Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Röhm). Southerlyn hangs in for two and a half seasons despite being unpopular with fans. ADAs Briscoe, Green and Van Buren remain thick as thieves.
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Röhm, Dianne Wiest

Season 13
Ultra-conservative DA Fred Branch, played by real-life right winger Fred Dalton Thompson, joins the cast as post-9/11 New York’s tough new DA. He clashes big time with liberal Ms. Southerlyn and middle-of-road Mr. McCoy. Despite the tension, this is one of the most stable casts in the show’s history.
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Röhm, Fred Dalton Thompson

Season 14
No one leaves, but there’s plenty of friction between pro-death-penalty Branch and his more moderate underlings Southerlyn and McCoy. Sadly, this is the final season for beloved Lennie Briscoe, who departs after 12 seasons for the spinoff Law & Order: Trial by Jury. He dies after filming only two episodes.
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Röhm, Fred Dalton Thompson

Season 15
A lot happens this season. Green isn’t too thrilled with his new partner, flashy Chicagoan Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina). Branch fires Southerlyn midway through the season, and she point-blank asks if it’s because she’s a lesbian. Wait, she was a lesbian? Alexandra Borgia (Annie Parisse) fills the empty ADA seat. Meanwhile, Green gets shot (actor Jesse Martin took a leave to star in Rent), and Michael Imperioli (Nick Falco) fills in for a few episodes. Did you catch all that?
Cast: Dennis Farina, Jesse L. Martin, Nick Falco, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Röhm, Annie Parisse, Fred Dalton Thompson

Season 16
Green returns and bonds with Fontana and the rest of the cast stays put… but just for this season. Actors Annie Parisse and Dennis Farina want out, so in the season finale, Borgia is brutally killed off (making her the shortest-running ADA on the show), and Detective Fontana retires after only two years.
Cast: Dennis Farina, Jesse L. Martin, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Annie Parisse, Fred Dalton Thompson

Season 17
Ed Green—that’s Senior Detective Ed Green—gets promoted when Fontana retires. Nina Cassady (Milena Govich), the lone female detective in the series, fills the junior role—but only lasts the one season. Van Buren is not her biggest fan. Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) steps in as ADA alongside a shaken McCoy.
Cast: Jesse L. Martin, Milena Govich, S.Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Alana De La Garza, Fred Dalton Thompson

Season 18
Actor Fred Dalton Thompson decides to run for President (yes, of the United States of America), so veteran McCoy finally sits in the DA chair vacated by Branch. Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) fills the Executive ADA spot and Rubirosa hangs tight. Meanwhile, Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) is Green’s new partner, but Green exits before the end of the season. Anthony Anderson joins the ensemble as Detective Kevin Bernard.
Cast: Jesse L. Martin, Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, S.Epatha Merkerson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza, Sam Waterston

Season 19
Believe it or not, the lineup from the end of season 18 lasts until the end. Detectives Lupo and Bernard become the first team to shoot and kill a suspect while on duty. Jack Michael Cutter gives DA Jack McCoy more than a few headaches, but hey—they’re cut from the same cloth.
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, S.Epatha Merkerson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza, Sam Waterston

Season 20
And finally, Law & Order‘s final season. The show was supposed to be renewed for a record 21st season but was canceled suddenly, so there was no big series-finale sendoff. We’ll never know what becomes of our old friends Anita Van Buren, Cyrus Lupo, Kevin Bernard, Jack McCoy, Michael Cutter and Connie Rubirosa.
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, S.Epatha Merkerson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza, Sam Waterston

Not done voting? Cast your pick for your favorite Law & Order actress, and make sure you’ve voted for the best season 1-10 poll.


LAW & ORDER marathons air on SundanceTV every Thursday and Friday afternoon starting at 3pm.

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