Showrunner Rick Eid talks season 21, returning alumni, crossovers and what's in store for the series.
After making a long-awaited return to NBC, Law & Order is wrapping up its comeback season with three all-new episodes as it ramps up the “tension between the police department and the district attorney’s office,” says showrunner Rick Eid, adding that it’s all about the characters asking themselves, “What hard choices do you make? What are you willing to live with? What are your principles?”
While speaking to ET, the boss of creator Dick Wolf’s mothership series breaks down season 21’s ripped-from-the-headlines episodes, teases the upcoming finale’s mini crossover with Special Victims Unit and shares plans for what comes next.
Led by returning stars Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy and Anthony Anderson as Det. Kevin Bernard, the season 21 cast includes Camryn Manheim as Lt. Kate Dixon, Odelya Halevi as ADA Samantha Maroun, Hugh Dancy as ADA Nolan Price and Jeffrey Donovan as Det. Frank Cosgrove as the Manhattan unit and the DA office continue to investigate crimes and prosecute the offenders.
After a decade off the air, the main objective of the new season was “to have the show feel current,” Eid says, with episodes feeling “topical and like this is something that would happen in 2022 and not necessarily in 1997 or 2008.”
One of the ways the show achieved that was the many episodes that were ripped from the headlines, with cases inspired by the real-life legal issues involving Bill Cosby, Britney Spears, Elizabeth Holmes and Gabby Petito with one protagonist even inspired by the likes of Tucker Carlson.
When it comes to tackling those timely stories, Eid says it’s about having a conversation within the show and with the audience. “The murder investigation and the murder trial is a way to have a cultural conversation about what’s happening in society. And so we think about the headlines as a way to have that conversation,” he explains, adding that “it gives us an opportunity to explore the way people are thinking and different points of view on these issues.”
And those differing views often come through in the cast, with the cases often a way into the lives of the unit. Over the first few episodes, audiences have gotten to know the newbies -- Cosgrove, Dixon, Nolan and Maroun -- as certain cases hit close to home or challenged them in unexpected ways. “In terms of the character stuff, it’s still evolving,” Eid says, teasing that the series plans to “dig deeper into the characters and reveal more about them as time goes on.”
Between now and the finale, “we’ve got some good things coming,” the showrunner continues, revealing that the upcoming episodes will be a chance to learn more about Nolan, who finds himself butting heads with McCoy over how to prosecute certain cases. “We’ll see some personal stuff there.”
The finale, meanwhile, will see Cosgrove mourning the loss of a friend and turning to Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) for help. “There’s a potential suspect or witness that had crossed with Benson previously, so they need to get her input,” Eid says, downplaying Hargitay and Terry Serpico’s appearance as Tommy McGrath on the episode as a proper crossover. “I don’t want to call this one a crossover. Benson is in the show is a more accurate depiction of what happens.”
That said, it’s the first time audiences will see the new Law & Order cast share the screen with another spinoff. Since the series’ return, there’s been talk of a three-hour crossover event involving all three installments. While nothing materialized during season 21, Eid teases that there’s one planned for next year, assuming the series gets renewed. “There’s been some talk about a three-show crossover for next season. Whether it’s the first, second or third episode, I’m not sure,” he says.
Looking ahead, Eid is excited about where the show goes next and the potential of having more Law & Order alumni pass through. This season, Carey Lowell and Dylan Baker made one-episode appearances, while Jesse L. Martin made it clear that he’s open to returning. “I’m sure next season we’ll think about some of our alumni and how to bring them back and build an episode around someone,” Eid says, revealing that he’s “heard from a few people who have indicated they’d love to come back.”
He adds, “It’s a great situation to be in. There are so many people that have been on the show and played great characters, whether they were series regulars, a judge or a defense lawyer.”
No matter what, “I’m super excited about next year and learning more about these characters and telling more interesting stories,” Eid says.
Law & Order airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.