Law & Order Returns for a 21st Season

A guest star during the show's original run, Camryn Manheim takes the lead when the original Law & Order returns, 12 years after cancellation

A guest star during the show’s original run, Camryn Manheim takes the lead when the original Law & Order returns, 12 years after cancellation

When Camryn Manheim says that joining the revival of Law & Order brings her “full circle,” she really means it.

The Emmy winner for The Practice had several of her earliest television roles—three different ones, in fact—as a guest star on executive producer Dick Wolf’s long-running, franchise-spawning drama. She returns to it as a regular for what NBC is calling not a reboot, but rather the 21st season of a show that was unceremoniously cancelled back in 2010. It joins an all-Law & Order night on the peacock network that also includes the Special Victims Unit and Organized Crime spinoffs.

Merging returning cast members and fresh faces, Law & Order now casts Manheim as Lt. Kate Dixon, boss of NYPD detectives played by returnee Anthony Anderson (fresh off his run on ABC sitcom black-ish) and new recruit Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice). Sam Waterston reprises his role as District Attorney Jack McCoy, flanked by fellow prosecutors Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) and Odelya Halevi (Good Trouble), who are also new to the franchise.

“I’d just gotten my master’s degree from New York University,” the friendly Manheim recalls, “and like every New York actor, it was my dream to get a guest shot on Law & Order. I did a lot of Off-Broadway theatre, and everyone would write in their program bio who they wanted to thank… and at the end, they would write how many times they’d appeared on Law & Order. For several years, I couldn’t say that, and it was probably one of my proudest moments when I could add, ‘Law & Order: One episode.’ And then, ‘Two episodes.’ And then, ‘Three episodes.’”

Now, Manheim says, “I’m not going to lie, I’m still in a little bit of shock. I’m moving from Los Angeles to New York, and I would not have done it for any other show. Law & Order has such a special place in my heart, and it’s not just me, but all of New York. Actors dream to be on it, crew members’ lives were made by it and the city was vitalized by it. It’s very profound for me.”

Manheim’s Dixon follows in the footsteps of many other precinct bosses from the show’s storied history—including, most pertinently, Lt. Anita Van Buren, played by S. Epatha Merkerson (now a regular on Wolf’s Chicago Med). “I think it takes a certain kind of woman to hold down this fort and make sure that everything works in tandem,” Manheim notes, reasoning that Dixon “has to keep the D.A.’s office happy, she has to keep the police chief happy and she has to get her detectives to do the work. And I think that with how bossy I am in general, they sensed that I could bring her to life.”

Law & Order returns Thursday, February 24th at 8 p.m. on City & NBC