Law & Order slate

In the world of television, there is one television program that has been entertaining people for fourteen seasons and has attracted a wide following, hooked on the self-contained stories, doses of New York cynicism, and fight for justice in this crazy world, with some fans veering on the obssessive. This is a story about two of obsessive fans who got to visit the set of Law & Order.

Gothamist, wearing our love for Dick Wolf's wonderfully formulaic NY cop and lawyer show on our sleeves, was lucky enough to be invited to the Law & Order set by our friend, Bill Klayer, who is one of the show's cinematographers, as well as head of the electrical department. (Bill humored our earlier questions about playing a corpse or one of those bickering sets of friends - "I thought you had the tickets..." "No, you said you had the tickets..." "I never had the tickets!" - who stumble onto the body, but broke the news to us that we'd need to be SAG.) We went to visit in the evening, in the middle of the cast and crew's 14 hour work day. As we walked through the halls to the set, Gothamist paused to notice a rack of clothes.

Clothes for Lennie Briscoe and Jack McCoy

Oh my God! We love it when Lennie Briscoe goes undercover!

Bill introduced us to the crew, who were all really nice and welcoming, and probably amused by our starry eyes ("You mean, this is where the actors get their hair and make-up? Cool!") The offices's halls are lined with maps of the city, and not surprisingly, Law & Order has the most extensive source of information for New York city shooting locations. When new shows come to film in NY, they will go to the L&O's locations department for help. We also passed by the room of "background talent" - aka extras - for various scenes. They were a mix of police officers and regularly dressed actors.

Court hall

Today was a police day, where they would be shooting police scenes, so when we checked out the court set, it was quiet. This set has the courtroom and hallways outside where the lawyers chat, witnesses mill around, and detectives linger, to bust the ADA's balls, before and after a trial. [Actually, at the same time, in Brooklyn, another crew was filming the lawyers for ANOTHER episode.]

Judge Jen

Inside the courtroom, Gothamist got to sit at the judge's bench, witness stand, and in the jury box. "Your honor, we have reached a verdict..."

A.D.A. Southerlyn's office

Then we walked through the D.A.'s offices, which is a bank of wood paneled and windowed offices, with two real offices: Jack McCoy's and Arthur Branch's. The set is built so walls can be broken away to create new spaces and then reassembled again - like many other TV shows. Sometimes the D.A.'s offices turn into a judge's chambers. McCoy's was broken down and in disarray, but Branch's was pretty much in tact, aside from the furniture being cleared away.

Jake pretends to be Jack

We did find Jack McCoy's motorcycle helmet, though, and we couldn't help but put it on. And it's good to know that McCoy passed the bar.

Downtown skyline

Bill pointed out that the skyline outside of McCoy and Branch's offices was actually a vinyl sheet with an incredible panorama of the downtown New York on it. It's the largest of its kind, and there are daytime and nighttime versions. The photograph was put together from three photographs taken on an 8"x10" camera. It's a recent addition - another crew member, John, explained that the older version had the World Trade Center in the background.

Actors chairs

Next, we headed to the squadroom to see where the action would be taking place, but not before passing some very special directors' chairs.


Ah, the 27th Precinct. Gothamist tried to stay out of the way, as the crew was setting up shots, but we did get to see that the detectives were looking for bakeries and keeping up on their personal appearance.

Jake waits on the bench

Gothamist wandered around and admired how the set is as dingy as it looks on screen: A rundown, working police squadroom in that clinical green. Brilliant.


We rooted around desks (half-eaten donut? packs of mustard for Lennie's dogs?), but they mainly held extra bulbs and gels - no space goes to waste on the set. And that Detective Green - he likes to doodle.

Lieutenant Van Buren's desk

The Lieutenant's desk, where the filming would take place. Now, when Briscoe and Green come in, it's either to debrief the Lieutenant, or get dressed down.

Jesse L. Martin shows S. Epatha a file

This time, it was a debriefing. When Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, and S. Epatha Merkerson came to the set, they were all singing and happy and it seemed to pump up the crew. Bill said, "When the three of them get together, it's the best time." He also mentioned the Epatha was filming an HBO movie with Macy Gray, so she was singing a lot. Jerry and Jesse both are Broadway musical veterans. After they finished their scenes in the squadroom, Bill introduced us to the actors who graciously agreed to take a picture with us. Jerry said, "Ladies in the middle," and Jake was besides himself because he got to touch Jerry. They laughed at how we had many cameras and a tripod. Yes, we're huge geeks. Then they ran off to get ready for their next scenes.

Crime Lab

Then next scenes were at the Police Crime Lab. These sets can also double as a hospital. Unfortunately, M.E. Rodgers wasn't around.


Of course, the evidence that you see on the show has to be created. It's just that we never stop to think about it's creation. For instance, in this episode, the murder weapon is a liquor bottle. The props department had to shatter and put together three bottles.

Orbach and Martin get direction from David Platt

Director David Platt was walking the actors through the scenes. There's a female police forensics expert (think the character's name is Figueroa) who explains how she got the latents off the bottle. As the actors were running through their lines and finding their marks, the rest of the crew was bringing in the cameras and other equipment from the squadroom set.

Quarters were tight, the hour was late, and there were photos to be downloaded and posted, so Gothamist left then, walking on air.

Our friend, Bill Klayer

Thank you, Bill, and the rest of the Law & Order crew for welcoming us and showing us around, as well as for all your hard work (it's about a 105 hour work week that goes into one 1-hour episode) that goes into our viewing enjoyment.

More photos in the Bluejake gallery.

The Law & Order page from Universal Studios (you can hear the Chung! Chung! when you load the page!). And episode guides of various kinds: TV Tome and The Ledger.