Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Waterston: New Guy on `Law & Order'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Waterston: New Guy on `Law & Order'

Article excerpt

THERE IS a subtle slouch to Sam Waterston's shoulders when he stands on the set of NBC's "Law & Order," doing a somber scene in the character of Assistant D.A. Jack McCoy.

With nary a twitch or bobble, sad-eyed Waterston has taken over from Michael Moriarty in the critical prosecutor's role on "Law & Order" (9 p.m. Wednesdays on Channel 5). His scene ends and Waterston strides off. The slouch is gone and Waterston's good cheer emerges.

"I thought what Michael did was perfect in this show," said Waterston, sitting back and relaxing in his dressing room. "I'm filling his position, but I'm not playing the character he devised and I'm not trying to be him."

"There's no competitive thing here, although I'm sure there will be small-minded and mean-spirited people in the press" - here he regards a reporter with merry twinkle in his eyes - "who'll say `HE was better at THIS than HE was.'

"But I don't read reviews, so I won't see all that."

Reviews weren't the problem with Waterston's last series. He played another lawyer in "I'll Fly Away," one who lived in the Deep South of the 1950s, when the civil rights struggle began in earnest.

"I'll Fly Away" was cherished by critics but doomed by its failure to deliver big ratings. In its waning days, Waterston personally lobbied reporters to build support for the show. Alas, in vain. He took it hard.

"Yeah, it was a hard thing. Stupid, too," he said. "Stupid that television is set up in such a way that it can't sustain these things. But it was great." To his great pleasure, the series later was rerun on PBS.

It's a long way from the emergent New South of lawyer Bedford Forrest in "I'll Fly Away" to the mean, Manhattan streets of ADA Jack McCoy's "Law & Order."

"In `I'll Fly Away,' in this much more comfortable world, (Forrest) was very sober; where he could have gone along very easily with a very easy life, he put himself in the way of hard choices," Waterston said. …

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