Exit Interview: Dick Wolf

The Penn grad and Law & Order creator debuts a new series

Who’s your favorite big-time actor who got started with a bit part on the show as a delivery guy or waitress?
I don’t know the exact number, but I think on Law & Order alone, there were over 15,000 speaking parts. I said for a long time that if you go to the theater in New York and get a playbill, if you come across an actor who doesn’t have a Law & Order credit, it means he just got off the bus or he’s not very good. [laughs] Sam Jackson, Laura Linney, Claire Danes, Philip Seymour Hoffman — there were so many.

Casting Ice T, the guy who wrote “Cop Killer,” as a detective was genius. Did you worry about that?
No. I’ve been on the streets with a lot of very famous actors. Nobody gets the response that Ice gets. I thought it was just in New York, but in Monte Carlo, in Paris — people come out of the woodwork. He’s unfailingly great with fans. Unlike his public reputation, he is one of the nicest guys.

In real life, he won’t put a cap in your ass?
No, he will not. [laughs]

Terrence Howard, one of the LOLA stars, has lived in Blue Bell. Ever consider a Law & Order: Philadelphia?
First of all, up until this [L&O’s cancellation], I probably would not have done cities the way CSI has done. I would rather come up with a new show set in a new city. Although I think Philadelphia is a terrific city to set a version of Law & Order in. If you pointed a camera in downtown Philadelphia, people would think they’re in New York.

You’ve said the biggest misconception about you is that you’re an asshole.
[laughs] [Publicist on the line: “Where would you have read that?”]

The Hollywood Reporter.
[still laughing] It’s just one of those things out in Hollywood. There is an assumption that if you get anywhere near the top of the pyramid, you must have gotten there over the bodies of lots of people. But people can get along for extended periods of time if there’s mutual respect and a mutual desire to do really good work. It’s like sticks and stones.

I think it’s Ivy League jealousy.
Ah! That could be. [laughs] There are a surprising number of people out here from Penn. What’s really irritating is that there are too many from Harvard.