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Actors You Didn't Know Directed Law & Order Episodes

 Many onscreen performers make their living solely through acting, bringing complex characters to life for decades. However, some actors expand into filmmaking and television directing. These performers often use their experiences in front of the camera to help guide their directorial instincts. Their ability to see productions from both sides can make for a very powerful finished project, even in a straightforward series like "Law & Order." Although most of the franchise's directors have a long history of honing their craft, the crew list also contains a surprising number of actors who have taken their turn at the helm. 

Of the actors who have transitioned into directing episodes of the enduring procedural series, many previously appeared as supporting characters. Others have a long history of working on other projects with the franchise's creator, Dick Wolf. Some have directed multiple "Law & Order" episodes, while others have lent their filmmaking skills to just one. Regardless of the extent of their directorial relationship with the series, each actor-turned-director has left a distinctive mark on one of the most recognizable crime dramas ever made. Today, we're taking a look at the actors you didn't know directed "Law & Order" episodes.

Mario Van Peebles

Mario Van Peebles has starred in films and television series across virtually all genres. Soap opera aficionados know him as Samuel Woods from "All My Children," while comedy lovers recognize him from "Rude Awakening." Van Peebles also has an extensive list of directorial credits, such as the classic '90s movie "New Jack City" and episodes of "Empire," "Damages," and countless other television programs. He has also lent his directorial talents to "Law & Order," directing one episode in each of the mothership series' last three seasons. All three episodes revolve around complex stories that explore dark corners of society.

Van Peebles' directorial debut in the series is Season 18's "Burn Card," which blends shocking violence with excellent character development. The episode is a fitting swan song for Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), who reveals his long-term struggles with gambling. In Season 19, Van Peebles returned to direct "Sweetie," a unique episode that takes audiences into the murky world of sex work and stolen identities. Finally, Season 20's "Doped" details a cover-up that results in a young whistle-blower's death. Like his other two episodes, "Doped" features tense scenes that immediately impact audiences, including a horrific car accident.

Leslie Hope

Leslie Hope has over 100 acting credits to her name. She's starred in television series including "The Strain," "Private Practice," and "Tyrant." She has also made multiple appearances in procedural crime dramas, including "NCIS," "Blue Bloods," and two episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Although her acting career began in the 1980s, Hope made her directorial debut two decades later. Her first short film, "What I See When I Close My Eyes," is a documentary in which Cambodian children talk about their life experiences. Since this debut, Hope has directed multiple TV movies and episodes of various series. For example, before settling into the "Law & Order" director's seat, Hope directed two episodes of the Syfy series "Aftermath."

In 2019, Hope joined the "Law & Order: SVU" crew as the director of Season 21's "Counselor, It's Chinatown." This action-packed episode takes the team undercover to dismantle a human trafficking circuit. Hope returned later in the season to direct "Dance, Lies, And Videotape," which follows a ballerina who learns someone in her life has been secretly filming her intimate moments. Two seasons later, Hope directed "Sorry If It Got Weird For You," a topical episode about a dating app developer who uses his digital creation for nefarious purposes.

Carl Weathers

Carl Weathers got his big break playing Apollo Creed in 1976's "Rocky." He's since become a regular fixture in films and television shows. Weathers reprised this iconic role in three more "Rocky" franchise films from the late 1970s and mid 1980s. The actor has also lent his voice to video game characters, and even appeared in a music video for James Brown's "Living In America" as Apollo Creed. In recent years, he's starred in multiple "One Chicago" franchise series, made a cameo as himself in "Arrested Development," and portrayed Greef Karga in "The Mandalorian."

In addition to acting, Weathers has also tried his hand at directing television  episodes. In 2022, he directed the "Law & Order" revival's Season 22 episode "Benefit Of The Doubt." This episode raises moral questions for Detective Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan), who realizes that his former mentor isn't the hero he believed him to be. The episode provides some much-needed character development for Donovan and has a satisfying conclusion. Before sitting in that particular director's chair, Weathers appeared in "Zero Tolerance," a 2018 episode of "Law & Order: SVU." This episode sees Weathers reprise the role of Special Agent Mark Jefferies , who hails from his time in the "One Chicago" universe.

Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay has spent over 20 seasons playing Captain Olivia Benson, star of "Law & Order: SVU," as well as other "Law & Order" and "One Chicago" series. Although the actress has taken on movie roles, sitcom cameos, and countless other projects, she's become synonymous with the brave and empathetic captain. Hargitay's tenure in the popular procedural franchise began in 1999, and Benson's complex storyline remains popular with fans. She has also become a fixture on "Law & Order: Organized Crime," which stars her longtime partner, Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). 

Since she's spent much of her career in the "Law & Order" universe, it's no surprise that Hargitay's repertoire also includes stints producing and directing the series. Hargitay served as a producer for Seasons 16 and 17 and has been an executive producer since Season 18. She has also directed multiple episodes, making her directorial debut with Season 15's "Criminal Stories." Since then, she has helmed at least one episode of every season, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. According to Hello!, Hargitay was hard at work directing an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" Season 24 in early 2023, while also celebrating her 59th birthday. 

Timothy Busfield

Fans of Timothy Busfield have no shortage of ways to enjoy their favorite actor's work. He's starred in numerous television projects since the early 1980s, including "Trapper John, M.D.," "The West Wing," and "For Life." Audiences can also catch him in many minor movie roles, and two different Marvel podcasts of the 2020s. Furthermore, the actor has a long history of playing supporting characters in procedural series, including the mothership "Law & Order" series and "Law & Order: SVU." Additionally, he's been a television director since the 1990s, starting with three episodes of the drama "Thirtysomething."

Over the years, Busfield has directed television episodes in multiple popular genres, including comedies and procedurals. His directing credits include both of the "Law & Order" series in which he appears, beginning with "Law & Order: SVU" in 2019. First, Busfield directed Season 20's "Facing Demons." The case featured in this episode becomes deeply personal for the detectives, which keeps audiences engaged from beginning to end. Next, Busfield returned to direct Season 21's "Down Low In Hell's Kitchen," loosely based on the controversial assault of a real-life celebrity. Finally, Busfield directed "The Land Of Opportunity" for Season 22 of the "Law & Order" revival. This episode presents thought-provoking questions about the rights afforded to different classes of people in America, including undocumented immigrants and homeless people.

Elisabeth Röhm

Many "Law & Order" mothership series fans may remember Elizabeth Röhm as ADA Serena Southerlyn, who first appears in Season 12 and departs mid-way through Season 15. Röhm also voiced ADA Southerlyn in three "Law & Order" video games that hit stores during her time on the show. Since the end of her tenure in the DA's office, Röhm has appeared in various films, television series, and TV movies. Many of her roles are still closely connected to law enforcement, such as Agent Aria Price of "The Oath." Fans of 1990s dramas may also recognize her as Detective Kate Lockley from "Angel," a popular spin-off of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

In 2022, Röhm rekindled her relationship with the long-running procedural series in a new role: She stepped behind the camera to direct the "Law & Order" revival episode "Only The Lonely." In an interview with TheWrap, Röhm explained that helping a whole new generation of "Law & Order" cast members was a rewarding and dreamlike experience. The episode follows the detectives and prosecutors as they work to expose a con artist who preys on wealthy women. The complex case unfolds slowly, and the prosecutors' victory is uncertain. However, the jury's decision brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Eric Stoltz

Eric Stolz started acting in the late 1970s, taking on small parts in television shows and movies when he was still a teen. Fans of Quentin Tarantino may remember him as Lance from "Pulp Fiction," while those who love medical dramas have likely enjoyed his portrayal of Dr. Robert Yeats on "Chicago Hope." The actor's television work spans multiple genres, including sitcoms like "Mad About You" and procedurals such as "Homicide: Life On The Street." In 2002, Stolz made a single-episode appearance on "Law & Order: SVU" as Michael Sweeney, a Catholic priest whose terrible secret becomes the key to solving the case in Season 3's "Silence."

In addition to starring in several crime dramas, Stolz has also directed episodes of various series in this genre. For example, he directed four episodes of the well-known legal drama "Private Practice" and helmed a single episode of "How To Get Away With Murder." In 2005, Stolz reentered the "Law & Order" universe to direct "Tombstone," a Season 15 episode of the mothership series. This episode starts with the murder of a prominent corporate lawyer and ends with a near-fatal injury for Detective Ed Green. The story has a fair balance of intrigue and tension, which makes it among the best of its season.

Tony Goldwyn

Tony Goldwyn has been a star of the stage and screen for decades. Many viewers will recognize him as President Fitzgerald Grant from the hit series "Scandal." He got his start long before that, however, playing Darren in "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives." He went on to appear in shows like "St. Elsewhere" and "Matlock" in the late 1980s. Within the "Law & Order" universe, fans may remember Goldwyn as Frank Goren, Detective Robert Goren's (Vincent D'Onofrio) wayward brother on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Although Frank only appears in a handful of episodes, he's a crucial piece of Detective Goren's backstory and helps humanize the sometimes cryptic character.

Goldwyn has some impressive television directing credits on his resume, taking the helm in episodes of "Dexter," "Justified," and several other popular dramas. Although he previously starred in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," Goldwyn stepped in as a director on the mothership series instead. He directed the Season 16 episode "Thinking Makes It So," which tackles the issue of police brutality and presents a compelling moral conundrum. Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina) stands accused of using excessive force against a suspect, but his tactics save a young kidnapping victim. The prosecutors are left to decide whether or not they can justify Fontana's actions based on this positive outcome. Impressively, the episode leaves plenty of room for viewers to form their own opinions.

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu has been a familiar face in Hollywood for three decades, taking on roles like Alex in "Charlie's Angels and Ling Woo on "Ally McBeal." Television viewers may also recognize her as Dr. Joan Watson from the series "Elementary," a modern reimagining of the classic Sherlock Holmes tales. Liu also serves as an accomplished voice actress in television shows, movies, and video games. In addition to her acting credentials, Liu has several directorial credits on her resume and has served as a producer for several projects. In 2019, Liu entered the world of directing procedural television with "Dearly Beloved," an episode from "Law & Order: SVU" Season 20.

After a fan-led Twitter account posted a video of Liu hard at work on the set, fans replied with excited support.  Their enthusiasm was justified. "Dearly Beloved" centers around a woman who crashes her own therapist's wedding and makes a stunning assault accusation. Liu's directorial choices in the opening church scene get the episode off to an intriguing start, and make it a memorable highlight of the season. The case is ambiguous from the beginning, leaving viewers unsure whether to believe the accuser or the accused. However, in true "Law & Order: SVU" fashion, the detectives don't stop hunting for answers until they uncover the truth. 

Dann Florek

Dann Florek was part of the cast that started it all on "Law & Order." He portrayed Captain Donald Cragen from the pilot episode until the beginning of Season 5, and made two single-episode appearances in later seasons. Captain Cragen lives on through 15 seasons of " Law & Order: SVU," and has continued to resurface since his departure. Even before becoming Captain Cragen, however, Florek was familiar with crime dramas and procedurals. For example, before his time in the New York-based Dick Wolf universe, Florek starred as Dave Meyer in "L.A. Law," a drama that follows the attorneys of a well-to-do Los Angeles firm.

In addition to his steady stream of acting roles, Florek briefly gave directing a try in the early 1990s. The actor directed three episodes of "Law & Order" while still an active cast member, pulling double duty twice in Season 4 and once in Season 5. His directorial debut was "The Pursuit Of Happiness," which features a case in which a mail-order bride is a person of interest in her husband's murder. Florek's second Season 4 episode, "Big Bang," has a decidedly gritty tone and follows detectives through a complex story of double-crosses and radioactive mail bombs. Finally, Florek directed "Bad Faith," arguably one of the season's strongest episodes. This harrowing story starts with a police officer's death and later uncovers molestation accusations 30 years in the making.

Chad Lowe

In one of Chad Lowe's earliest roles, he joined his brother Rob Lowe as a cast member of the 1984 film "Oxford Blues." Since then, he's built a steady career by portraying supporting characters in movies and television shows. Lowe commonly appears in dramas; viewers may recognize him as Carter Gallavan from "Melrose Place" or Reed Pollock from "24." One of his other prominent television roles is Professor Byron Montgomery from "Pretty Little Liars." Lowe has also starred in a handful of procedural shows, including "CSI: Miami," "Without A Trace," and a Season 2 episode of "Law & Order: SVU."

Lowe's directing credits include several series he previously worked on as an actor, including "Pretty Little Liars" and "Rizzoli & Isles." He also directed the coming-of-age film "Beautiful Ohio," which stars William Hurt and Michelle Trachtenberg. One year after appearing on "Law & Order: SVU," Lowe returned to direct Season 4's "Soulless." This alarming episode tells the story of a young assault victim who ultimately dies at the hands of her attackers. The suspects are young men who seemingly committed this terrible crime out of boredom. In the end, a mother has to testify against her own son for the prosecutors to secure a conviction.

Milena Govich

In 2006,  Milena Govich made history when she took on the role of Nina Cassady, the first female detective on "Law & Order." The hardheaded detective only sticks around for one season, but Govich left an indelible mark on the series. The actress has a long history of appearing on procedural television shows, including "Conviction" and the short-lived "K-Ville." More recently, she appeared as Lori Stevens on the intense drama "Finding Carter." The actress has also spent her post-"Law & Order" years building a successful career as a television director.  

In 2022, she returned to her procedural alma mater to direct two episodes of the "Law & Order" revival. First, Govich directed Season 21's "Filtered Life," a topical episode involving the disappearance of a social media influencer. Later, she returned for the beginning of Season 22 with "Battle Lines," which covers a complex case involving a politician's daughter. In an interview with Wolf Entertainment, she detailed her long relationship with Dick Wolf and the surreal experience of being back on a "Law & Order" set. Blending elements from the mothership series with fresh new material were among the most rewarding parts of her directorial experience, she noted.

Eriq La Salle

Eriq La Salle made a major splash as Peter Benton on "E.R." Fans may also remember him from "Jacob's Ladder," "Coming To America," and "Logan." Since the 1990s, La Salle has also served as a producer and director for various projects, including several Dick Wolf series. For example, La Salle worked as a producer on four seasons of "Chicago P.D.," and has directed two dozen episodes within the "One Chicago" franchise. 

When it comes to "Law & Order," his directorial influence is present across three different series. La Salle directed his first episode for the franchise in 2007, in "Law & Order: SVU" Season 8's "Burned." This episode puts Benson and Stabler at odds with each other over a woman's assault accusations. Later, La Salle directed Season 10's "PTSD," which follows the disturbing story of a murdered pregnant soldier. After his time with "Law & Order: SVU," La Salle applied his craft to the "Law & Order: Organized Crime" Season 1 episode "Inferior Product." This installment balances the characters' personal stories with ever-rising professional tensions. La Salle's most hard-hitting directorial effort came in 2022, with the revival series' "Black and Blue." Tellingly, showrunner Rick Eid told Give Me My Remote that he was excited to have La Salle at the helm for this powerful finale, which explores the murder of an off-duty police officer.