No one does legal drama like Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.
WHEN DICK WOLF CREATED the original Law & Order in 1990, the writer/producer likely had no idea that the based-on-real-events crime-solving show would blow up into a multiseries franchise that would last 19 years (and counting), go into endless syndication, and inspire overseas incarnations. Though the Law & Order: Trial by Jury spin-off made it only one season and the documentary series Crime & Punishment ended after three seasons, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent have both found their footing, with Special Victims Unit currently in its 11th season and Criminal Intent heading toward its ninth. We caught up with Wolf to get the inside scoop on the shows and the secret to their success.
You have had many characters come and go, but you rarely kill anybody off. Why is that? Because you never know when you might want them to come back.
Do you ever receive any backlash about stories taken from real-life headlines? Yeah, but what Ive said for years is that we take the headline, not the body copy. You may think that its that story, but it very rarely is. The one I use as an example is an episode that suggested it was the Martha Stewart story, and Martha is a friend of mine. She thought it was very amusing, but shes never killed anybody, [while the character on the show did].
Some people worry that Elliot and Olivia will hook up on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Will that ever happen? I can definitively state it never will. Every time its ever happened on a show, thats the end of the show. Look at Moonlighting. Subliminal sexual tension is great. Having that actually happen destroys the illusion. Its everybodys nightmare. What are they going to do now? It takes away the mystery.
The late Jerry Orbach visited police stations to do research. What about the other actors? They all do. Its not a requirement, but youd be worried about an actor who didnt want to do it. It doesnt hurt to have just that level of exposure, because the cops love it and the prosecutors love it. Oh, I get to go around with this guy, and hes going to be playing me. Its mutually beneficial.
What do you miss the most about Orbach? I miss him every day. He was a terrific actor, and he had the ability to give a zinger and not have it look forced. But basically, I miss him as a person. He was just a terrific guy.
Why do you not use establishing shots in any Law & Order episode? We dont have time. If we did what other shows do with establishing shots -- people driving up and getting out of cars and getting into elevators -- each half hour would be enough for either a cop show or a legal show. Theres no time. It works better. When was the last time you saw a movie that moved too fast? Thats the bottom line. You want to keep going and going and going.