How The Law And Order Revival Is Balancing The Absence Of S. Epatha Merkerson's Anita Van Buren

camryn manheim in the practice
(Image credit: ABC)

The revival of the original Law & Order is just a few months away, and star Anthony Anderson already confirmed that filming has begun. That means that some new actors will be settling into their roles to join the returning cast members, and one of those newcomers will have to replace S. Epatha Merkerson’s Anita Van Buren, who was a figure on Law & Order for well over a decade. And the show has cast an actress with extensive experience in a legal drama to occupy the role as a series regular: The Practice alum Camryn Manheim.

Camryn Manheim has joined the cast of Law & Order Season 21 to play a character by the name of Lt. Kate Dixon, according to Deadline, which reports that Dixon will function as a successor to Lt. Van Buren. No further details about Dixon’s character have been released at the time of writing, but S. Epatha Merkerson was a longtime member of the cast as Van Buren during its original run on NBC. She started in Season 4 and carried all the way through to the initial final season in 2010.

Kate Dixon is needed to fill Lt. Van Buren’s due (at least in part) to S. Epatha Merkerson’s unavailability to reprise her role, which isn’t the case for some other Law & Order stars who are returning for the revival. Merkerson is currently a series regular on another show set in the same universe as Law & Order, thanks to her longtime role as Sharon Goodwin on Chicago Med, and Med is just a few degrees of separation away from Law & Order under the Wolf Entertainment banner

In another fun twist, Kate Dixon for the Law & Order revival isn’t Camryn Manheim’s only appearance in Wolf Entertainment to date. In her post on Instagram celebrating the news that she has joined the cast of the upcoming revival, Manheim wrote: 

I am over the moon to be joining the cast of Law & Order as Lt. Kate Dixon. My very first job on television was on Law & Order, so it feels like I’m coming home. New York, here I come!

Camryn Manheim is credited with not just one, but three different characters on Law & Order prior to the news of her revival role as a series regular. Her first was in 1991, followed by her second in 1993 and her third in 1994. This is far from unprecedented, and not just because of S. Epatha Merkerson’s role as Van Buren followed by her role as Goodwin. 

Law & Order as well as SVU have been running for such a long time that there are bound to be examples of actors returning for different parts. DeMore Barnes is another notable one, as he appeared in One Chicago as one character before joining SVU as a different series regular. 

Manheim is best known for her role on ABC’s The Practice, where she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She also shared the screen with Dylan McDermott for seven seasons of The Practice, and McDermott has gone on to land a prime role in Law & Order: Organized Crime

See how Camryn Manheim fits into the Law & Order cast as Lt. Kate Dixon when the series returns after more than ten years in 2022. For its premiere date (which may be bad news for another show), as well as the other Law & Order shows, be sure to check out our 2022 winter and spring premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).