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Why Dana Wheatley From Law & Order: Organized Crime Looks So Familiar

Unlike "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: SVU," the penultimate spinoff release from executive producer Dick Wolf, "Law & Order: Organized Crime," made clear from the beginning that it had no intention of offering up more of the same formula. While the majority of the long-running franchise has relied largely on an episodic structure with only occasional narrative through-line or call-back, "Organized Crime" went all-in on a season-long storyline more in the vein of a series like "Bosch" than its predecessors. This made it easy for recurring characters to evolve rapidly into well-known series regulars, rather than enjoying a one-and-done appearance on the show. It also allowed the new series to shower long-time fans with an abundance of much-needed new characters.

Season 1's Wheatley family accounts for several of those new characters, including veritable Bond villain and patriarch Richard (Dylan McDermott), his ex-wife Angela (Tamara Taylor), and their two grown children, Richard Jr., portrayed by Nick Creegan, and the business-savvy Dana Wheatley, portrayed by Christina Karis. Though Karis' career properly kicked off just a handful of years ago, there are at least a few pre-"Organized Crime" projects viewers may recall having seen her in. 

Christina Karis starred in two critically-acclaimed musician biopics

After appearing briefly as a nurse in two "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" reenactments and landing a lead in the small, independent film "Pieces of Easter," Karis landed on the big screen in Don Cheadle's partly fictitious Miles Davis biopic, "Miles Ahead" (2015). Four years later, she starred in a second film about an influential and legendary jazz player, portraying a character named Bernadette in Dan Pritzker's "Bolden." 

In the former, Karis portrayed Janice, Davis' (Cheadle's) lover from later on in his career whom he admonishes for throwing a party in his lavish suite around all his equipment. The scene is short, but since the film juxtaposes two different eras in Davis' life, it helps to establish how fame and wealth changed — and didn't change — the notoriously chaotic musician. The film — Cheadle's directorial debut — was met with an abundance of critical acclaim (via IMDb), and helped put Karis on the map. 

Like "Miles Ahead," Pritzker's "Bolden" takes artistic liberties with the life of its subject matter, Charles "Buddy" Bolden, in large part because very little is known about the man who would be dubbed The Father of Jazz (via Preservation Resource Center). The film weaves mythical dream sequences and flashbacks into its impressionistic storyline and is as much about the horrors of the era, some of which Karis plays a major part in depicting, as it is about Bolden himself.

Karis showed up in several popular TV series

Between 2018 and 2019, Karis appeared in a number of series that ran the gamut of genres and tones. Many may remember her for her role as Kate's (Chrissy Metz) oblivious wedding dress stylist in Season 2 of NBC's "This Is Us," but before she nabbed the popular primetime cameo, she'd already starred as a doctor in two episodes of Tyler Perry's daytime drama, "If Loving You is Wrong."

Following a small appearance in the 2019 film "Queen Sugar," Karis enjoyed a more pivotal role as an emotionally trapped sex worker who assists Alice Braga's Teresa Mendoza in Season 4, Episode 13 of USA's "Queen of the South." From there, the actor moved on to more light-hearted roles, with a small part in the "Mad About You" reboot and a two-episode arc as Cynthia Fizdale, a know-it-all patient who appears briefly in two episodes of "The Resident" Season 3. Karis didn't remain in the land of comedy or dramedy for long, however, as the following year saw her take on her biggest TV role to date, but in a decidedly different genre. 

Karis helped launch The Walking Dead: World Beyond

Though her role in the series exists solely in flashback form, Christina Karis' character in "The Walking Dead: World Beyond" is an integral part of two of the main characters' backstory and subsequent approach to life and to one another. 

The series revolves largely around adopted sisters Iris and Hope Bennett (Aliyah Royale and Alexa Mansour), two teens whose traumatic experience during a disastrous post-outbreak evacuation leaves them forever altered. In the first, second, and 10th episodes of the spinoff, audiences learn through a series of flashbacks that during the evacuation, the two sisters were separated, with Karis' Kari Bennett and her young daughter Hope (Samantha Lorraine) going in one direction, and patriarch Leopold (Joe Holt) and Iris heading in another. Amidst the chaos, a tense confrontation over a vehicle causes a pregnant woman to shoot and kill Kari, prompting Hope to point a gun at, and then accidentally shoot, her mother's killer. Though the sibling protagonists eventually reunite, it takes quite a while for the events of that evening to fully reveal themselves. 

Karis may not have enjoyed quite as much screen time in the AMC series as she eventually would in "Law & Order: Organized Crime," but her character looms large in the show's overarching narrative, and is all the more memorable for it.