|It's nothing new when an actor leaves one of the Law & Order shows. It is when he says goodbye a second time.|
Chris Noth, whose Detective Mike Logan was an original character on Law & Order, will depart Sunday from his second L&O series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent (USA, 9 ET/PT).
In a franchise famed nearly as much for its acting turnover as for its on-screen drama, Noth and Dann Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen on L&O and now on L&O: Special Victims Unit, both NBC) are the only actors to have been series regulars on two of the three police-lawyer dramas. In between his L&O terms, Noth returned as Logan in Exiled: A Law & Order Movie in 1998.
The comings-and-goings of Noth, who re-created his character from another series, Mr. Big, in this summer's Sex and the City: The Movie, have "always been sort of a mutual thing," says Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order shows. In Sunday's "Last Rites," Logan doesn't leave in a body bag, as some exiting characters have, but in what Wolf describes as "a soul-searching episode."
"He did the mother ship, he did the movie and he did Criminal Intent. God knows, he'll probably do whatever the future show is," Wolf says. "I can always see Chris coming back. How shall I put it? He's not the prodigal son, he's the wandering son."
Noth wasn't available for comment, but Wolf says he had expressed frustration as an actor on CI, as he had on L&O. "Unfortunately, I don't think I ever took that stuff that seriously. It's just part of his persona. … A lot of actors get frustrated, and I can understand why. One of Jerry Orbach's phrases was, 'Dick, can't somebody die in my arms so I can get an Emmy nomination?' "
On the original, where Noth served from 1990-95 (111 episodes), Logan teamed with three men: Detective Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza), Detective Sgt. Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino) and Detective Lennie Briscoe (Orbach), his longest-running partner. (L&O's Orbach and Fred Thompson also starred on another Wolf series, the short-lived L&O: Trial by Jury.)
On 37 CI episodes starting in 2005, the Manhattan detective has worked with women: detectives Carolyn Barek (Annabella Sciorra), Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson) and short-timer Nola Falacci (Alicia Witt). Jeff Goldblum will fill Noth's spot on CI, which began on NBC before moving to USA. He'll team with Nicholson's Wheeler.
The temperamental Logan exited L&O after punching a councilman, resulting in his being "exiled" to Staten Island. The character is combative in his CI swan song, too, going up against an overzealous prosecutor who had put the wrong man behind bars.
The departure of Noth is "in the great tradition of (franchise) leave-takings, not on the same drop-your-teeth level as some have been, but I think it's pretty satisfying," Wolf says.
Following that tradition, regulars left the other two L&O shows this year: Jesse L. Martin from L&O and Diane Neal from SVU. "That's part of life. That's part of showbiz," Wolf says. "I'd like somebody to come up with the first indispensable person, let alone actor."