|The show will go on. |
That's the word from the producers of NBC's Law & Order: Trial by Jury after the death of star Jerry Orbach, who played wisecracking NYPD detective Lennie Briscoe on the new cops-and-lawyers drama.
Orbach, 69, died Tuesday at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center after battling prostate cancer since last spring.
His illness wasn't disclosed until just this month, however, when his manager, Robert Malcolm, told the New York Daily News that the actor had been receiving treatment for the disease and that his prognosis was good.
Upon news of his passing Wednesday, a publicist for Trial by Jury confirmed to E! that NBC would continue production on the series and will air episodes featuring Orbach. The actor appeared in three of the six episodes shot so far. The network has not announced an air date for the new show, but it is expected to debut in early 2005, most likely in late February or March.
The fourth edition of the Law & Order franchise, Trial by Jury costars Bebe Neuwirth, former Senator Fred Thompson (reprising his L&O role of D.A. Arthur Branch), Amy Carlson and Kirk Acevedo and devotes many of its ripped-from-the-headlines formula to the inner workings of the Big Apple's judicial system.
L&O mastermind Dick Wolf told the New York Times that Orbach's declining health was the main reason producers retired his tough-talking top cop from active duty on the original series after 12 seasons and transferred him to the new spinoff, where he would appear less frequently as an investigator for the district attorney's office.
Orbach agreed to the switch earlier this year to give him more time to focus on his recovery--the shooting schedule on Trial by Jury called for him to work the beat only two days a week. Wolf tapped Dennis Farina to replace Orbach on the original L&O this season.
NBC says it will soon begin the search for an actor to fill Orbach's slot on the new series.
Meanwhile, friends and former colleagues remembered the late TV star, who, before taking the L&O gig, was known for work on the big screen (Dirty Dancing, Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors) and stage, where he got his start as a song-and-dance man and eventually headlined hit musicals and won a Tony Award.
Chita Rivera, who costarred with him in the original Broadway production of Chicago, in which Orbach created the role of slick lawyer Billy Flynn, considered him one of her best musical partners.
"Jerry's strong spirit will be with me forever," she told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "He was an anchor who brought style, security and razzle-dazzle to our original Chicago company. He was a swell guy, and I'll sure miss him."
Wolf said Orbach's "loss is irreplaceable" and called the actor "a legendary figure of 20th-century show business."
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also paid tribute to Orbach, hailing him a "friend to all New Yorkers" and a "devoted ambassador of the city."
And S. Epatha Merkerson, who acted alongside Orbach for years on Law & Order, told USA Today, "He was always such a feisty and strong character and person. It never occurred to me [his cancer] would go this far."
Broadway marquee lights were dimmed for one minute Wednesday night in tribute to Orbach, who was survived by his second wife, Elaine, and two adult sons from his first marriage.