Exit Interview: Dick Wolf

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

When NBC announced that Law & Order would end its epic 20-year run last season, series creator and superproducer Dick Wolf was not a happy man. And with good reason — his franchise defined the “crime procedural” genre and became a network cash cow. But as the 63-year-old Penn grad mourns the passing of the original, he’s excited about the newest incarnation, Law & Order: Los Angeles. Wolf called during a brief break from the set to discuss his own run-in with crime in West Philadelphia, his favorite gangsta rapper, and his tough Hollywood rep.

 

Please tell me that Law & Order was inspired by a trip to the Philadelphia lockup while you were at Penn.
[laughs] No, not quite. But West Philly wasn’t law-abiding when I was there. Sophomore year, I had been at a party on the Main Line and came back around 2:30 in the morning. I walked into my apartment building and was slammed up against a wall and had a gun at my head. It was two cops. They said there was a murder upstairs that night. I think it was 42nd and Chestnut. Not a good area.


You were also a writer for Miami Vice. I learned about pastel suits and narcotics way too young because of that show.
I had been a screenwriter for years, and my agent called and said, “Would you want to do a TV script?” I said no. He said, “It’s Hill Street Blues.” I said, that I’ll do. I went on staff at Hill Street, and then I ran Vice for two years, then started doing my own shows. Vice looks kind of ludicrous, but it sure was redolent of that era.

Do you have a nickname for the Law & Order “chung-CHUNG!” sound?
That all depends on which producer you talk to. I say “chung-chung,” but it could be “ching-ching.” A lot of people go “duh-duh.” People have their own personal interpretations of it.

I guess you know Richard Belzer calls it the “Dick Wolf Cash Register Sound.”
[laughs] Well, he is a stand-up comic.

With the original series ending after 20 years, do you feel like you got Conan’d by NBC?
No comment. [laughs] I would stand by my previous statements. It was a great run. It was a business decision. Obviously, I would have liked the show to go 21 years. At the same time, we’ve got a new show that is incredibly exciting, and a lot of the people who were on Law & Order will be on LOLA.

1 2 Next >View as One Page

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.