Orbach Dead at 69


Actor Jerry Orbach, who spent 12 seasons playing hard-boiled detective Lennie Briscoe on NBC’s Law & Order, has died of prostate cancer at the age of 69.

Orbach, who was a big-time Broadway and film star before making an indelible impression on the small screen, had been undergoing treatment, but had taped several episodes of NBC’s latest Law & Order spin-off, Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Those episodes will appear when the show premieres next year.

"I'm immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th Century show business," said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of Law & Order and its spin-offs, in a statement.

Briscoe was a secondary character in the new series, and Dennis Farina this year took over Orbach’s role as a New York detective partnered with Jesse K. Martin on Law & Order.

"The producers are deeply saddened. While Jerry is irreplaceable, Law & Order: Trial By Jury is an ensemble and will continue in production. A new cast member will join the company," said a spokeswoman for the show, adding that announcements will be forthcoming."

NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright said in a statement: "We are saddened by the passing yesterday of the legendary Jerry Orbach, who had an unforgettable presence on stage and screen for more than forty years. He was a man of extraordinary talents and personal grace. Suzanne [Wright's wife] and I and all of us at NBC Universal will miss him, as will his countless fans. Our hearts go out to Jerry's wife, Elaine, and to his family and friends on their loss. 

Long-time co-star Sam Waterston said: "Jerry loved his life and his work and we loved him right back. He was a wonderful actor and an extraordinarily good man. He made us laugh every day. I miss him."

In addition to his long run on Law & Order, Orbach was well-known for film roles in Dirty Dancing, Prince of the City and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

He also was a skilled song-and-dance man, appearing on Broadway in Carnival, Promises, Promises (for which he won a Tony), Chicago and 42nd Street.