(NBC) — Tonight, after the season 22 premiere of “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC will air an hourlong special, “The Paley Center Presents Law & Order: Before They Were Stars,” celebrating one of the most iconic brands in television history.
For decades, the “Law & Order” franchise has been a stepping stone for some of the most lauded stars in Hollywood. Taking on guest roles as attorneys, victims, perpetrators, witnesses, kids, suspects and police officers of the week, these once up-and-coming actors have now become household names.
“Law & Order is one of television’s most legendary brands and has served as a springboard for so many talented actors,” said Maureen J. Reidy, the Paley Center’s President & CEO. “We’re honored to partner with our friends from NBC to present this entertaining look at where some of today’s biggest stars got their first big break.”
This special presentation will feature interviews with actors whose roles on “Law & Order” played an instrumental part in shaping their careers, including Ron Cephas Jones, Chris Sullivan and Susan Kelechi Watson (“This Is Us”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”), Michael Imperioli and Aida Turturro (“The Sopranos”), Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”), Abigail Breslin (“Zombieland”) and S. Epatha Merkerson (“Chicago Med”).
Also, several prominent actors who have a “Law & Order” credit or two on their resume will be part of the special, including eight-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper.
For many actors, “Law & Order” was a way to earn their SAG cards. Some played multiple guest roles on the series before becoming famous and will explain what the experience on set meant to them at the time.
Members of the “Law & Order” ensembles will recount the experiences of working with the great actors before they were famous. Some “Law & Order” cast members discuss appearing on “Law & Order” as other characters before landing a spot in the main cast. For example, Peter Scanavino appeared as double assailant Johnny Dubchek before he took the role of Sonny Carisi on “SVU.” Kelli Giddish played a victim before she joined the force as Det. Amanda Rollins.
With over 1,200 episodes from the “Law & Order” library to date and tens of thousands of roles for actors, it’s no surprise that many of them have gone on to incredible careers. This insightful look back is a celebration of 30 years of a legendary franchise and the stars who have helped pave the way.
Watch “The Paley Center Presents Law & Order: Before They Were Stars” tonight on NBC4 at 10 p.m. following the season premiere of “Law & Order: SVU” at 9 p.m.