Why Did Sam Waterston Leave ‘Law & Order’? And Who's Replacing Him?

After 400 episodes, Sam Waterston bids adieu to his role as the no-nonsense district attorney Jack McCoy.

Sarah Kester - Author

Feb. 21 2024, Published 6:03 p.m. ET

Sam Waterston on Law and Order
Source: NBC

It’s time to hit the road, Jack. At least, that’s what Sam Waterston’s doing after 30 years of playing Jack McCoy on NBC’s Law & Order.

The 83-year-old recently announced that he’s stepping down from the show he’s been a part of since 1994. So, why did Sam decide to leave Law & Order? And who is replacing his role as the strict distinct attorney (DA)?

Article continues below advertisement

Why did Sam Waterston leave 'Law & Order'?

Sam explained the reasoning behind his departure in a letter addressed to fans.

"Greetings, you wonderful people," he wrote. "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.”

While he’s sad to be leaving, Sam explained that he’s curious about the next stage of his career. “An actor doesn’t want to let himself get too comfortable," he wrote.

Sam Waterston on Law and Order
Source: NBC
Article continues below advertisement

He ended his note by expressing his gratitude to the fans and the show’s producer, Dick Wolf.

“I’m more grateful to you than I can say,” he shared. “L&O’s continuing and amazing long run, along with its astounding comeback, 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."

Even if you’ve never seen Law & Order, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the actor’s face before. He has appeared and starred in several hit shows, such as Grace & Frankie, The Dropout, and The Great Gatsby.

In his personal life, Sam is married to Lynn Louisa Woodruff and they have three kids: Elisabeth, Katherine, and Graham.

Article continues below advertisement

This isn’t the first time Sam has stepped away from 'Law & Order.'

In 2010, the original Law & Order came to an end. But, thanks to the show being rebooted in 2022, he came back to reprise his role as the no-nonsense district attorney. He’s now starred in over 400 episodes.

Sam has earned several accolades for his work on this show, including a SAG award and Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.

Source: Twitter | @lawandordertv
Article continues below advertisement

Who is Replacing Sam Waterston on 'Law & Order'?

Whoever replaces Sam’s role has some big shoes to fill!

One actor who’s up for the challenge is Tony Goldwyn of Scandal and Oppenheimer fame. In an Instagram post, Tony shared that he recently finished filming his first episode as DA Nicholas Baxter.

This isn’t his first foray into the world of Law & Order. He previously played Frank Goren on the Law & Order spinoff, Criminal Intent.

Source: Instagram | @tonygoldwyn

Sam gave Tony his stamp of approval.

Sam has no qualms about Tony taking over the role of DA.

"I think he’s going to be great. I think my reputation is in terrible danger because I think just he’s going to be wonderful and I’ll be watching,” Sam said on TODAY. “It’s going to be big trouble. It’ll be what the DA is, demanding and a lot of fun to watch.”

Sam’s final episode will air on Thursday, Feb. 22 on NBC.

More from Distractify

Latest Television News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.