Sam Waterston Exits ‘Law & Order’ After 400+ Episodes, Tony Goldwyn Set to Replace

District Attorney Jack McCoy is out. Sam Waterston is exiting “Law & Order” after more than 400 episodes. His last episode will air on Thursday, Feb. 22. Tony Goldwyn, best known for his role as Fitz in ABC’s “Scandal,” has been cast as the new district attorney.

Waterston joined the Dick Wolf mothership series in 1994. He remained a main cast member until the show’s original run came to an end in 2010. When the show was revived for its 21st season in 2022, he stepped back into the role. He’s also played the character on “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” and “Exited: A Law & Order Movie.”

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Following the news, Waterston shared a statement regarding his exit, beginning with, “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,” he wrote. “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 come-back, is all thanks to you and to 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.”

Waterston, who has been a mainstay in the entertainment industry for decades, earned three Emmy nominations for the role and 11 SAG nominations, winning one in 1998.

Ahead of the series’ return in 2022, Waterston opened up to Variety about stepping back on to set after more than a decade, calling the experience “totally surreal.”

“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,” he said, noting that the show is, once again, diving into timely conflicts. “It’s always been the goal of the show to get people throwing their shoes at the television… It feels, to me, like ‘Law & Order’ might have something to contribute to the general conversation because we’re all mad about something. We’re all mad as hell about something right now and mad at each other. For us to get these big issues aired, and to have not a conclusion but a resolution of some kind that you can chew on, might be a useful service.”

At the time, Wolf described Waterston’s character as “the ultimate conscience of the show,” adding, “I look forward to him emulating the career of New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who served until he was 90.” Waterston responded, “I don’t know how long I’ll be on ‘Law & Order.’ But if my career lasts as long as Robert Morgenthau’s, I will have nothing to complain about at all.”

This isn’t the first cast change of Season 23 of “Law & Order.” Reid Scott joined the cast folowing the departure of Jefferey Donovan, who reportedly left due to creative differences.

“Law & Order” is produced by Universal Television and Wolf Entertainment. Rick Eid serves as showrunner while Wolf, Eid, Pamela Wechsler, Alex Hall, Arthur Forney and Peter Jankowski are executive producers.

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