What happened to Cosgrove on Law & Order?

The Law & Order Season 23 premiere had Jeffrey Donovan no longer on the series. Just what happened to Frank Cosgrove?

LAW & ORDER -- "Private Lives" Episode 22019 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jeffrey Donovan as Det. Frank Cosgrove, Mehcad Brooks as Det. Jalen Shaw -- (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)
LAW & ORDER -- "Private Lives" Episode 22019 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jeffrey Donovan as Det. Frank Cosgrove, Mehcad Brooks as Det. Jalen Shaw -- (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC) /
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Law & Order kicked off Season 23 with a notable face missing as Frank Cosgrove was no longer on the force. Just what happened to Jeffrey Donovan’s character in the series?

Caution: This article contains SPOILERS for Law & Order Season 23 premiere. 

Law & Order fans are well used to the revolving door of actors coming and going from the series. While Sam Waterston has been a steady face on the show, other cops and prosecutors have made a habit of entering and exiting, some after just one season.

When the show was revived for Season 21 in 2022, Anthony Anderson reprised his role as Detective Kevin Bernard with Jeffrey Donovan as his partner, Frank Cosgrove. Anderson had only agreed to stay around for the revival season and departed at the end of the year. 

Bernard’s absence was brushed off as simply being transferred, with Mehcad Brooks joining in the Season 22 premiere as Jalen Shaw, who became Cosgrove’s new partner. They worked well together with both intense on the job, but Cosgrove had Shaw’s back, including clashing with some racist cops. 

During the long delay for Season 23 due to the Hollywood strikes, it was announced that Donovan was leaving the series. It appeared to be a creative decision for the actor and the producers, with Reid Scott (Veep) introduced in the Season 23 premiere as Detective Vincent Riley. But just what happened to Cosgrove?

Why Cosgrove was absent on Law & Order

Riley was introduced talking about working his first homicide case in 30 years, which was the murder of a college professor. This involved a complex case of free speech on a campus involving the Israel-Palestine conflict that got more intense.

Riley and Shaw had a rough start, with Riley getting in Shaw’s face about disarming a troubled suspect, hinting at something bad in his past. Despite that, they were able to handle things with Riley forced to shoot a gun-wielding man, the first time he’d ever killed in the line of duty.

It was about a third of the way through the episode when Riley and Shaw talked in the precinct, and Riley asked about Cosgrove, who he knew “back in the day.” Shaw replied that Cosgrove was a “great cop. He just got jammed up. Being too honest about things that people aren’t too honest about these days.”

Riley mused, “It is not a great time to have an opinion, is it?” Shaw agreed. Thus, it sounds like Cosgrove, who always had something of a temper, finally crossed a line in public and the department had to let him go.

It’s a shame Donovan couldn’t film a goodbye scene as Cosgrove and the character was brushed off like this. Yet it does make sense for Cosgrove to have gotten himself booted from the job to change Law & Order’s cast roster yet again.

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Law & Order Season 23 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC and streams on Peacock.