|Dick Wolf has always said his shows can go on regardless of cast changes. Time (and ratings) will tell if that approach remains true with his latest iteration of the franchise. “Law & Order: Los Angeles” is losing Skeet Ulrich, who plays Detective Rex Winters.|
In a casting shakeup designed to revamp the NBC drama, Ulrich and actresses Regina Hall and Megan Boon will leave the series. Alfred Molina, who previously played deputy district attorney Ricardo Morales on the show, will return to his roots as a detective. Terrence Howard, who traded episodes with Molina as deputy district attorney Jonah Dekker, will now appear in every episode.
“We have the fortune of two world-class actors…and it was frustrating to have one on the bench each week,” Wolf said in a statement. “It would be like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as your quarterbacks, playing alternate games.”
The “Law & Order” franchise has weathered casting shakeups in the past. Wolf is legendary for devising storylines that can make even the biggest-name exits plausible. NBC thought the original legal drama wouldn’t survive without Michael Moriarty as executive assistant attorney Benjamin Stone. But after disputes led to the actor’s departure, writers created a plot that had Stone promise to protect a witness, only to have the Russian mob rub him out. Stone resigned, Moriarty was gone, and the show went on for 16 more seasons.
Ulrich will leave the series after episode 14. Viewers will learn that Molina’s attorney spent 15 years pounding the pavement as LAPD. He’ll reach a breaking point with his position as a prosecutor and be forced to return to the cop side of the bifurcated drama.
With around 9 million viewers, “LOLA” (as the Los Angeles edition is commonly known) has fared better than any other new NBC drama, but faces the challenge of a new night and competition from midseason premieres.