Friday, November 16, 2007

Sam Waterston vs. Jack McCoy: Who’s the real star?

Yesterday was Sam Waterston’s 67th birthday. I’ve always found Sam to be an interesting actor. His performance in the film “The Killing Fields” earned him an Oscar nomination. He also had a few Emmy nominations for his role as Jack McCoy on Law & Order, a role that now seems to have defined his career. He did have some missteps – like Capricorn One and, in my opinion, Mindwalk (which should have been named “Sleepwalk” because it was so dull.)

On the recent episode of Law & Order SVU (the episode was named “Blinded”), Sam appeared, for the first time, as Jack McCoy, district attorney. It was done with little – ok, with NO - fanfare or promotion on the part of the network. This is strange behavior for a network that should be kissing Sam’s feet for keeping L&O alive. In fact, to many people, Sam IS the show. (Jerry Orbach was another L&O staple, and in a way the show is still reeling from the absence of Lennie Briscoe.)

As I watched Jack sitting behind the big desk, it got me wondering. Do I watch the show because of Sam Waterston, or is it because of Jack McCoy? How much of Jack McCoy IS Sam Waterston? Is Sam a great actor, or is credit due to the creative team behind the show that has made Jack into such a compelling character? Was it because that in his first episode with L&O (“Second Opinion”, I think) he changed his pants in front of Claire in his office? I’m not quite sure.

Regardless of all the above, I’m glad Jack McCoy is moving up in the world. I’m saddened that it may mean less screen time for Sam. But maybe it will mean more time for him to do other things. Either way, I hope he enjoys himself!

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