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Law & Order's Elisabeth Röhm Defends Her Character's Abrupt Exit

With how long the show has been been running for, it's no surprise that many "Law & Order" actors leave the franchise after a certain amount of time. That being said, some farewells have been sweeter than others. Elisabeth Röhm, who starred between Seasons 12 through 15 as ADA Serena Southerlyn had one of the most shocking exits on the show. In her final episode, the attorney was fired from the office for getting too emotionally involved in a hot-button case, to which she reacts with a bombshell reveal: "Is it because I'm a lesbian?"

Röhm's exit garnered criticism among some viewers who felt that "Law & Order" went too far by using a very sensitive topic for a last-minute attempt at shock value. Others panned the series for revealing that a long-standing character was actually representational of a marginalized group and then immediately writing her off. Despite the frustrated sentiments from fans, Röhm has tried to set the record straight on why she and the team felt that Serena's exit was a fitting end to the character.

Röhm wanted to go out in a big way

Nearly a decade after Elisabeth Röhm's shocking departure from "Law & Order" in 2005, the actress spoke about her exit in an interview with HuffPost. Per Röhm's account, "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf consulted her about how she wished for Southerlyn to go out on the show. "When I was leaving, Dick Wolf said, 'Do you want a splashy ending or a typical 'Law & Order' ending?'" the star recalled. She presumably opted for the former.

As for the last-minute confirmation that Southerlyn was a gay woman, Röhm felt it was intended to be a culmination of prior hints. "It was exciting to have them acknowledge, for me, things I had been playing secretly as a character throughout the years because it was so personal," Röhm told The Wrap in 2022. "My sister is gay and many of my friends are also and so at that time, going back to the zeitgeist, gay marriage was a really big issue. And nationally, it was front and center. So, that was true to 'Law & Order.' It was gritty, it was current."

Southerlyn hasn't reappeared since that fateful episode, but Röhm did return to direct an episode of "Law & Order" Season 22. It's clear that the actress and Southerlyn are important components of "Law & Order's" lengthy history, but whether fans and Röhm will ever see eye-to-eye on her departure is another story.