How Jack McCoy comes out – The Hollywood Reporter


(This story contains spoilers for the February 22, 2024 episode of Law“Last Dance.”)

Jack McCoy left the world of Law the way it came to this: in a courtroom.

Sam Waterston bid farewell to the long-running NBC franchise on Thursday’s episode, ending his 19-season, 405-episode run as New York County prosecutor-turned-district attorney Jack McCoy. In Waterston’s final episode, Jack returned to the courtroom to finish trying a murder case in which the defendant is a billionaire with close ties to the mayor of New York.

The episode, titled “Last Dance” and written by showrunner Rick Eid, builds a strong but not definitive case against Scott Kelton (Rob Benedict), accused of killing a former employee, Veronica Knight (Shay Guthrie), who was about to of going public with an accusation that he had sexually assaulted her several years earlier. McCoy orders prosecutor Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) not to accept a plea deal with a sentence of less than 10 years, the defendant and his attorney (Tawny Cypress) respond with an offer of a five-year sentence on a lesser charge, This then generates pressure from the mayor (Bruce Altman), who threatens to withdraw his support for McCoy in the upcoming district attorney election and then order the new district attorney to fire Price.

Jack learns of the mayor’s plan and takes Price off the case, returning to the courtroom for the first time in years.

Waterston said he had shared some ideas with the Law writers about how Jack should leave the series, but Eid’s script “erased it.”

“I had ideas, which Rick listened to and entertained, and then presented a much more elegant and heroic exit than anything I would have suggested,” Waterston said. The Hollywood Reporter. After receiving the script for “Last Dance,” she said, “At first I thought, ‘Well, why doesn’t he love my idea?’ Then I thought, ‘Oh, thank you very much.'”

Jack summarizes his long-held ideals in his closing argument, saying: “When I was elected district attorney, I promised the citizens of New York to act fairly and ethically, without bias or favor, and to always act with integrity. During my time as district attorney, I did everything I could to uphold that sacred oath in the pursuit of justice. “Now, members of the jury, it is your turn to act fairly and ethically, without bias or favor, and find the defendant guilty of murder.”

The jury does just that, and in the next scene, Jack tells Nolan that he has resigned so that the governor can appoint a new district attorney (Tony Goldwyn will play the new district attorney later in the season). “It’s time. It just is,” he says. “…It’s been an incredible journey.” The episode ends with Jack looking at the courthouse where he tried hundreds of cases and walking into the Manhattan night.

Waterston spoke with THR about leaving Law as the longest-serving cast member of the original series, why he returned when the show was revived in 2022, and why he’s not in a big hurry to find his next acting job.

It seems fitting that this is the way Jack McCoy’s career in the district attorney’s office ends, with him entering the courtroom for the last time.

It seemed completely appropriate to me. You asked me to tell you what our alternate plot was. I don’t even really remember it. This deleted it.

What was it like going back to those test scenes and flexing those muscles again?

I think Hugh has the beauty role on the show. There are a lot of other great parts, but only the DA can kill the bull. Good? It’s endless fun. And it’s like a little play within a play. That’s why I always felt very stimulated. That’s why I’m smiling, because Rick gave it back to me.

When did you decide this would be it for you? Law?

I think I always knew there was a timestamp, an expiration date, on the return. I didn’t want to turn on the TV and not see myself on the show when I got back, but at the same time I knew I didn’t want to be there long-term again. It’s been like this from the beginning. And then before this season, it became clear to both of us Law and for me this would be a very good time to leave. Then Rick Eid wrote this really classy outing.

Did you hesitate to join the revival a couple of years ago?

Of course. It’s really good to find your rhythm, but you don’t want it to become a routine. So that was a concern. And then I had the feeling that I had already been there, that I had already done that. But I really think it’s a great show and I really wanted to be a part of it to see if I could give it an edge to come back. Because who does this? Dick Wolf never left the program. And all thanks to his perseverance and perseverance this came back. (Law) was a great episode in my life. I’m not sure exactly how many seasons I’ve done. (Editor’s note: Waterston has been a regular since season five), but I think 400 episodes is about right. And it is over a period of 30 years. It’s a huge part of your life. So I wanted to be there.

Law is a show and a franchise that has been characterized by cast rotation. You’re the longest-serving cast member on this series and one of the two or three best in the entire Dick Wolf universe. What do you attribute that to, other than perseverance and the desire to keep doing the work?

I think there is that. And like I said, it’s wonderful work. One of the difficult things is that it makes many other things in life easier: paying for your children’s education, putting on a play on short notice. I once did a play The long journey from day to night, on short notice, with my son (James) playing my son, and Elizabeth Franz and John Slattery in it. Everything was put together in five minutes. The theater made a bid to maintain last season when its subscribers no longer had tickets, gave up all their vacations, and sold out the theater for the entire performance. And guess why? Because Law. He made all kinds of wonderful things possible; that’s just one example. What you want to avoid is that it is so comfortable that you never want to leave.

Law It’s also famous for not focusing much on the characters’ lives outside of the jobs they do. Is that a help or a hindrance to playing a character for so long?

Well, it might have been painful if it hadn’t been for the fact that the stories themselves were so compelling, so contemporary, so hot, and, as I said before, if McCoy hadn’t killed the bull every time. But that was the case. For me, not having my entire emotional life drained into the show meant that there were many aspects of what I think I can do as an actor that weren’t being drained.

And then you could apply them elsewhere.

Like in The long journey from day to night with Elizabeth Franz, John Slattery and my son.

You did a lot of work between the two eras of this show, especially on grace and frankie. Now that this has come to an end, do you have anything else on the horizon? Are you going to take some time off?

This is the strangest thing. Maybe by training, but I would even say that by nature, I am a rigid worker. For the last 60 years or as long as I have been doing this, I have always been working or looking for work with a lot of energy and focus. Those have been the two gears I’ve been on my entire career.

Jerry Orbach used to say that no one should abandon an ongoing program. And he would add to that, unless you leave him to join another program that is running. If the program closes, then you are looking for another program to do. But this is the first time I left without having a clear idea of ​​what I was going to do next, or even what I really wanted to do next. And I’ll tell you what, it’s surprising how much mental space work and job searching take up without you realizing it. This happened the day after I left the program. I got out and suddenly there was a lot more room in my head for all kinds of things. I think my wife would back me up on this: we talk about different things, we think about different things. I’m never going to retire. Showbiz will have to retire me, or health will have to intervene. But I’m not in as much of a rush to end this little hiatus as I thought I would be.

What I want to do next is live theater and I have an idea. It’s something that Joel Gray and I have wanted to do for quite some time, ever since we worked on it together a few years ago. That would be my option. But if it takes a minute, it will be fine.

What was the last scene you filmed?

It was in the courtroom and everyone showed up, including Dick. They couldn’t have given me a nicer farewell. He was really lovely.

You and Jerry Orbach were designated “living landmarks” in New York for your long association with Law and the city. Does that give you any special privileges, better tables in restaurants or something?

I do not think. And anyway, I’m only half a living landmark. Jerry Orbach is the other half. Most of the time when they named living landmarks, they only gave it to one person, but they gave it to us as a duo. I am completely happy with that. Any association with Jerry Orbach is fine with me.

Edited and condensed interview.

Law airs Thursdays at 8 pm on NBC.

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