|Ahem. Do we detect a bit of sexual tension on NBC's otherwise-sober drama Law & Order? |
Sam Waterston can't hide a smile as he pops another cookie into his mouth between takes on the set.
On last week's season premiere, he introduced us to assistant district attorney Jack McCoy, an aggressive, jeans-clad lawyer who is first and foremost described as having romanced all his female assistants.
Those who tune in tonight (10 ET/PT) also may notice that when McCoy confers with colleague Claire Kincaid (played by Jill Hennessy), it seems that something besides law is on his mind.
That's a departure for Law & Order, which is known for sticking to topical plots and not following characters' personal lives.
"I'm interested in not breaking this thing that I think is so good about the show, this business of it being about people engaged in their work," Waterston says.
"But without breaking that, there will be a continuing and.logical personal life," he says, raising his heavy eyebrows.
Of future plot lines for Kincaid and McCoy, Waterston is coy. He'll offer only that "if it works out the way I hope it does, you'll wonder what you saw."
An easier thing for viewers to discern: McCoy is nothing like Forrest Bedford, the consensus-building attorney Waterston played on NBC's acclaimed series I'll Fly Away.
"It's a whole different man and it's a whole different world," he says. "McCoy is very straight ahead, very aggressive, very optimistic, unapologetic and untroubled by doubts."
Shortly after being tapped to replace Michael Moriarty on Order, Waterston sat with the show's writers and helped develop his character.
"I can't remember the last time anyone ever invited me to help invent the person," he says, playing with his gold ring that bears McCoy's monogram, "JJM."
Waterston wrote for himself a back story to McCoy, the most extensive work he has ever done to sketch out a character. "There was a lot of wasted paper."
While he says he didn't model McCoy after anyone, he draws parallels to White House aide Bernard Nussbaum's testimony during this summer's Whitewater hearings.
"I was already doing McCoy when I saw it, but it was very affirming. He was very smart, very ahead of the conversation, very engaged."
Waterston, 53, who lives with his wife and four children in Connecticut, says he's thrilled that Law & Order is filmed entirely in New York.
In show business, "you can be on the road all the time," something Waterston did many years traveling to the West Coast and other locations for film roles.
Working close to home, he says, "is a very nice side benefit for me."