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What Has Diane Neal Been Doing Since Leaving Law & Order: SVU?

From 2003 to 2012, Diane Neal portrayed the dogged and fearless ADA Casey Novak on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Novak appeared in over 100 episodes (per IMDb), and her initial tenure saw some of the series' most memorable and formative cases. From attempting to subpoena Donald Rumsfeld in "Goliath" to playing fast and loose with her career to keep a mentally ill defendant off death row in "Blinded," Novak was an absolute force whose shoes the series struggled to fill in her absence. 

After letting Neal go in 2008, the series went through ADAs like water (including Michaela McManus' ADA Kim Greylek and Christine Lahti's Sonya Paxton, both of whom frequently appear in "worst ADA" debates on the "SVU" subreddit) before finally asking Neal to come back, as she revealed recently on the podcast Somewhat Damaged.

Though initially reluctant to embrace her new unit, Novak quickly earned the trust and respect of the squad, and Neal, the love and respect of fans. Novak's passion rivaled that of Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy, while her wit and daring both matched and frequently surpassed that of Linus Roache's Mike Cutter and Raúl Esparza's Rafael Barba. She was far from the squad's BFF, but that very tension and refusal to bend the rules helped set her apart. So, when Novak broke the law and got herself suspended to keep a dirty cop from getting off, the Elliot Stabler-esque (Christopher Meloni) move came as a surprise to audiences, and Neal's departure, a shock to fans — many of whom still long for the ADA's return. Of course, considering the amount of work she's gotten since leaving the show, that return seems unlikely.  

Neal boarded rival network in 2010

In Season 7, Episode 18 (titled "Jurisdiction"), Diane Neal made her debut appearance on "NCIS" as CGIS Agent Abigail Borin, a character best described as the Coast Guard equivalent of Mark Harmon's Agent Leroy Gibbs, right down to her affinity for slapping her subordinates' heads. The resemblance isn't lost on Gibbs' team, and the comedic effect and opportunity for storylines involving squabbles over Coast Guard vs. Naval territory — and a potential will-they-won't-they for Gibbs and Borin (per TV Guide) — clearly wasn't lost on the writers. Neal began her stint on the series following her 2008 departure from "SVU," and continued it after she'd rejoined the latter for several episodes.

Borin makes her final appearance in Season 12, Episode 5 ("The San Dominick"). The episode includes pirates, a hostage situation, a ransom demand, a bomb, and a tense countdown scenario Michael Weatherly's Anthony DiNozzo refers to as "'Die Hard' on a ship." 

In the end, Neal's relationship with the franchise fared better than her character's relationship with Gibbs. In 2015, the actor appeared in three episodes of "NCIS: New Orleans," the second of which stars her former cast-mate B.D. Wong, and sees her character allude to potentially transferring from CGIS to NCIS. Neal has yet to reemerge in the "NCIS" extended universe, but she's remained a familiar primetime presence. 

Neal was no Casey Novak in Suits

Following her departure from "SVU" and during her time on "NCIS," Diane Neal appeared in a handful of independent and TV movies before stepping into the role of an entirely different kind of lawyer — one whose attire undoubtedly cost more than double Novak's paycheck. In Season 3 of "Suits," Neal portrays the admirably ruthless Allison Holt, a partner at Pearson Hardman's biggest competitor, Bratton Gould. 

In "Break Point," Holt is hired to represent her rivals in a fraud lawsuit but is ultimately let go when she butts heads with the attorney her deal would scapegoat to save the firm: protagonist Harvey Pearson (Gabriel Macht). She eventually gets back at her former clients and ongoing competition by stealing several of Pearson Hardman's senior attorneys. In "No Way Out," she plays a small by crucial role in the arrest of Michael Ross (Patrick J. Adams). 

In 2014, Neal left the courtrooms and boardrooms behind to star briefly as event planner Cynthia Sheridan in Season 1 of STARZ drug kingpin drama, "Power." Despite lackluster reviews early on (including critiques from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter), the show ran for six seasons.

Neal earned a different kind of following on Fox

In 2015, Diane Neal returned to law enforcement, portraying an FBI agent in Season 3 of Fox's "The Following." The third installment's narrative shift from Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and his Poe-obsessed cronies to a new collective of murderers prompted a handful of new characters, including Neal's Agent Lisa Campbell. Though Campbell is initially brought in to assist Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy in his quest to unravel a serial killer conspiracy, we learn in Episode 15 ("The Reckoning") that Campbell is a mole for the very people financing the network of sociopaths Hardy's become obsessed with taking down. 

The actor went on to appear in a Season 6 episode of "Blue Bloods" before landing a lead in Lifetime's made-for-TV murder mystery, "Circle of Deception," but "The Following" remains her most recent recurring role to date. The dark tone of the cult-driven series and Neal's nefarious agent were a far cry from the procedurals and (mostly) law-abiding and enforcing characters who made her a household name. Still, that distinction pales in comparison to the stark contrast between the roles for which Neal is best known and the genre closest to her heart. 

Before Neal was locking up predators, she was a standup comic. "Comedy is my favorite thing on earth," she told Nicki Swift in 2021, "Every time I see standup comedy [on stage], I'm like, 'Oh, let me up.'" The actor did eventually get (back) up on stage, but not before stepping off the set and into the political arena. 

Neal ran for Congress, returned to comedy

In 2018, Diane Neal ran for Congress in New York's massive 19th district against then-incumbent Republican John Faso. The race went to Democrat Antonio Delgado, but the final numbers (per The New York Times) don't reveal nearly as much as Neal did to Greg Alprin, Jon B., and Chase DuRousseau in a February 2022 episode of their comedy podcast, Somewhat Damaged

In her chat with the trio, the progressive Neal opened up about why she chose to run as an Independent (the district is 40% unaffiliated voters) and how that decision impacted (and inhibited) her campaign. Both the RNC and the DCCC fought hard to keep her out of the race, and though they ultimately lost their battles against her from a legal standpoint (via AP), they won the war by keeping her off the ballot — and out of the debates — until a mere month before the election. The harrowing experience was enough to turn Neal off from politics, and for now, she says, "[she's] sticking to comedy."

True to her word, Neal is a frequent guest on the podcast circuit and currently has her podcast (and YouTube channel) called Hear. Say. Diane Neal. She remains active on social media, responding recently on Twitter to John Oliver's criticisms of "SVU" and addressing what she calls "the chasm between how we BELIEVE #lawenforcement should function, and how it often does not." 

In 2018, Neal graduated from the Harvard Extension School, and her most recent stand-up special is available on Vimeo.