He brings a little chaos to 'Order'
NEW YORK - "Poppa don't take no mess!"
The outburst comes from Anthony Anderson, who is describing the essential qualities of Kevin Bernard, the latest detective to join NBC-TV's long-running "Law & Order." The fun-loving and funny Anderson debuted last season as Bernard and resumes busting bad guys on Wednesday with the season opener.
If Anderson has an off-camera "off switch," it's nowhere to be found this day as he shoots scenes inside Silver Screen Studios at Chelsea Piers, which houses the crime drama's precinct, district attorney's office, courthouse, prison, and morgue. He bellows throughout the day, at one point jokingly scolding a crew member, "Get off the telephone, woman!"
Anderson's outsize personality doubtless proved a draw for show creator Dick Wolf, who cast him as the partner of Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto). Wolf hand-picks each police detective and prosecutor on "Law & Order," and deemed Anderson a "natural" successor to Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), citing his comic timing, screen presence, and acting chops.
Another factor? Youth.
Anderson, 38, follows Sisto, 34, and Linus Roache, 44, as the third in a succession of young actors - well, young by "Law & Order" standards - recruited by Wolf for the 18th season, which concluded in May. The venerable series is a recent victim of near-cancellation, and fresh blood could be just the bait needed to lure the younger viewers that advertisers love and keep the show going.
But it remains to be seen whether the cast reshuffling will achieve Wolf's greatest ambition: to surpass "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running prime-time drama in television history.
Wolf, 61, has long wanted to overtake the classic Western, which ran from 1955-1975 on CBS; Wednesday's season premiere will herald 19 years for "Law & Order."
But the TV mogul, who oversees the spinoffs "Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," nearly lost his chance for the record when NBC threatened to cancel after a sharp ratings drop last season.
If "Law & Order" has a weakness, it's that its core audience - boomers who value a good whodunit - skews outside the target 18-49 demographic coveted by advertisers.
Despite cast turnover, "Law & Order" has retained its tradition of using real-life headlines and twisting them into dramatic plotlines. Wednesday's show delivers a thriller of messy elegance as the detectives and attorneys clash over a bold move to classify a bloody street fight as a terrorist attack.
The first victim: A stockbroker beaten to death in broad daylight. "In this economy, this is the kind of thing that might catch on," quips Anderson's character upon inspecting the body.
Wolf likened Anderson to the late Jerry Orbach, who delivered one-liners with a wink as Detective Lennie Briscoe from 1991-2004.
"He has the ability. in terms of his wry observations, to bring the same type of rhythm to certain scenes that Jerry did," he said.