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Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched through the Law & Order: SVU episode titled "The Undiscovered Country."
Law & Order: SVU threw a wrench in the works with "The Undiscovered Country," which featured a major casting addition, a major casting exit, and a major returning guest star. Fans watched as Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy returned to the franchise alongside Philip Winchester's Chicago Justice prosecutor Peter Stone, while A.D.A. Rafael Barba jumped ship. Some fans were hoping Peter's arrival would mean Law & Order vet Michael Moriarty might return as former A.D.A. Ben Stone. When CinemaBlend spoke with Winchester ahead of the premiere, I asked him if anyone had reached out about getting Moriarty for a cameo. In his words:
I think there were discussions about it, but I think that stuff's above my pay grade. I'm not sure how [his return] would have washed out. We talked about it on Justice, too, but for whatever reasons, it didn't work out. I don't know the ins and outs of that. But he was a legend.
Upon entering the Chicago-verse ahead of Chicago Justice's sole season, Peter Stone became a huge piece of connective tissue between that franchise and the Law & Order franchise, and there was always the distant hope that Dick Wolf and other producers could reach out and convince Michael Moriarty to slap on a suit to return to the courtroom. And according to Philip Winchester, it appears more than one attempt was made to appeal to the actor, both for Law & Order: SVU and for Chicago Justice. Of course, we no longer need to worry ourselves with such things, since this most recent episode started off with Jack McCoy giving the eulogy at Ben's funeral. But I mean, a flashback could still happen, right?
No one should be too surprised that Michael Moriarty remained steadfast in his decision to stay away from any of NBC's multi-show franchises. The actor's time on Law & Order came to a controversial end in Season 4, with various accounts offering different reasons behind it. Back in 1994, Moriarty publicly opposed then-Attorney General Janet Reno speaking out against the violence on Law & Order and other shows, and the actor asserted at the time that Dick Wolf and other NBC execs were siding with Reno on the issue. Meanwhile, Wolf and other producers claimed that wasn't the case at all. Not only did they reportedly not water down the show's violence, but it was stated that Moriarty's consistently erratic behavior on the set is what put him in the hot seat.
Regardless of what went into the split between Michael Moriarty and Law & Order, nothing can take away from his performances during those first few years. And during our talk, Philip Winchester told me how he used the Ben Stone character to inform his own, and why his death is actually a great way to get Peter into Team SVU's sightline.
I watched those when I was developing this character, because I thought [Peter's] got to have a little of that in him, he's got to have a little of that Ben Stone. But it's a smart road in, because we can't use him, so it was a great way to get Peter back to the city. And then obviously Sam Waterston gives the eulogy at the funeral and something kicks off, and they need Stone's type of legal mind, and that's what keeps him in New York.
Though he was the lead protagonist on Chicago Justice, Philip Winchester's Peter Stone has some work to do in winning over SVU fans after that debut. To oppose Benson bad enough, but to be partly responsible for sending Barba out the door is just criminal. Still, we can't wait to see what'll get shaken up next.
Now with Peter Stone taking on a major role within the Law & Order: SVU ensemble, fans can catch new episodes on Wednesday nights on NBC at 9:00 p.m. ET. (Though be warned that Olympics coverage is pushing new episodes back a couple of weeks.) To see what other new and returning shows are on the way, head to our midseason premiere schedule.