Actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sardonic, seen-it-all cop on TV's "Law & Order" and scored on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died of prostate cancer at 69, a representative of the show said today.
NEW YORK — Actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sardonic, seen-it-all cop on TV’s “Law & Order” and scored on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died of prostate cancer at 69, a representative of the show said today.
Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said.
When his illness was diagnosed, he had begun production on NBC’s upcoming spinoff “Law & Order: Trial By Jury,” after 12 seasons playing Detective Lennie Briscoe in the original series. His return to the new show had been expected early next year.
On Broadway, the Bronx-born Orbach starred in hit musicals including “Carnival,” “Promises, Promises” (for which he won a Tony Award), “Chicago” and “42nd Street.”
Earlier, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit “The Fantasticks,” playing the narrator. The show went on to run for more than 40 years.
Among his film appearances were roles in “Dirty Dancing,” “Prince of the City” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Orbach is expected to appear in early episodes of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” for which he continued as Briscoe in a secondary role, when the series premieres later this season, Davis said.
“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 the “Law & Order” series, in a statement. “He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable.”
In a 2000 Associated Press interview, Orbach said the role in the acclaimed “Law & Order” brought him “wonderful security” rare in the life of an actor.
“All my life, since I was 16, I’ve been wondering where that next job was gonna come from,” he explained. “Now I take the summer off, relax, and I know that at the end of July we’re gonna start another season.”
He said he didn’t know “where I stop and Lennie starts, really. … I know he’s tougher than me and he carries a gun. And I’m not an alcoholic.”
“I know I wouldn’t want to be him,” Orbach sums up. “I guess THAT’S where I stop and he starts.”
In 1987-88, he starred in the series “The Law and Harry McGraw,” a spinoff featuring a character he created in “Murder, She Wrote.” In 1990, a shot on “The Golden Girls” brought him an Emmy nomination as best guest actor in a comedy series.
“There’s a pace in TV I like,” he said in a 1993 interview. “I like to work fast. I don’t like to dwell all day over one scene as you do in a big feature. Big feature films are another world.”