The Law & Order Death Index

Running from 1990 to 2010, Law & Order boasted one of the longest tenures in television history. Here are several notable actors from that Dick Wolf production who have passed on.

Steven Hill (Photo by NBC)

Steven Hill

District Attorney Adam Schiff

Hill (Feb. 24, 1922–Aug. 23, 2016) played the role—based on real-life Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau—for 10 years (1990-2000). Hill was also one of the 50 original actors who were accepted at the legendary Actors Studio in NYC, along with Marlon Brando.
A fixture during the so-called Golden Age of television, Hill was cast as Dan Briggs, the original team leader on the series Mission: Impossible. A practicing Jew, his refusal to work on the Sabbath reportedly led to his dismissal.

Hill took a 10-year break from acting starting in 1967. He appeared in such 1980s films as Yentl, Legal Eagles and Heartburn.

Jerry Orbach (Photo by NBC)

Jerry Ohrbach

Detective Lenny Briscoe

Born Jerome Bernard Orbach (Oct. 20, 1935–Dec. 28, 2004), he played the world-weary, wisecracking detective from 1992-2004. His character was named by TV Guide as one of the Top 25 TV detectives of all time.

A star of musicals on Broadway, where he won a Tony, Orbach worked in movies and television later in his career, and was known for his versatility.

The actor battled prostate cancer for more than a decade, and had begun work on a spinoff, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, when he died. He appeared posthumously in two episodes.

Orbach has both a Broadway theater and a portion of 53rd Street near Eighth Avenue named after him.

Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson

District Attorney Arthur Branch

The baritone voiced Thompson (Aug. 19, 1942–Nov. 1, 2015) was a U.S. senator from Tennessee (1994-2003) and a 2008 Republican presidential contender. His other career was in acting, where he had a long list of credits both in movies and TV.

Thompson appeared in 116 episodes of Law & Order from 200-07 and a further 25 in three different spinoffs and a pilot. Thompson was conservative in his politics and so was his character, a foil to liberal assistant DAs such as Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy.

Thompson was in his final months of his term as retiring senator when he began appearing on the series in 2002—the only pol to play someone other than himself on a series.

Dennis Farina (Photo by NBC)

Dennis Farina

Detective Joe Fontana

Playing law enforcement figures was second nature for Farina (Feb. 29, 1944–July 22, 2013), who spent 18 years on the Chicago police force. A stint as consultant to director Michael Mann led to a second career on the screen. He acted in more than three dozen movies and an even longer list of TV shows.

Along with two seasons on the groundbreaking ’80s series Crime Story, Farina’s Fontana was his other major recurring role, with 46 episodes. Fontana’s background echoes Farina’s in numerous ways. The character stood out by wearing expensive clothes and driving a Mercedes Benz.

Farina’s final television appearance was playing himself on the cartoon series Family Guy.

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Frank Rizzo
Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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