Why is Sam Waterston leaving Law & Order?

Law & Order is about to lose Jack McCoy. Why is Sam Waterston leaving the show? Is this a creative choice?
LAW & ORDER -- "Collateral Damage" Episode 22018 -- Pictured: Sam Waterston as D.A. Jack McCoy -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)
LAW & ORDER -- "Collateral Damage" Episode 22018 -- Pictured: Sam Waterston as D.A. Jack McCoy -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC) /

There is a huge change coming to the Law & Order franchise. It’s time to say goodbye to one of the actors who made this franchise so successful. Sam Waterston is leaving.

We know his last episode will air on Thursday, Feb. 22. However, fans are more concerned about why this exit is coming. After all, some shows are known for creative decisions that don’t always make sense. Look at FBI: Most Wanted losing two characters at the end of seasons for “creative” reasons.

Jack McCoy deserves better, doesn’t he? Fans may be happy with whose decision is was.

Sam Waterston has chosen to leave Law & Order

This is not a creative decision from the show. Instead, Waterston shared that he made the choice to leave Law & Order. This is a role he’s been in for 20 seasons and more than 400 episodes. Sure, there was a long break between NBC canceling the series and then reviving it, but it’s still been a pivotal part of his career.

Take a look at his statement via NBC News. Here's a snippet of it:

"It’s a pleasure to talk directly like this to the backbone of Law & Order’s absolutely amazing audience. The time has come for me to move on and take Jack McCoy with me. There’s sadness in leaving, but I’m just too curious about what’s next. An actor doesn’t want to let himself get too comfortable."

In a statement, he shared that he didn’t want to get too “comfortable” with the role. That’s something no actor really wants. It isn’t clear what he has coming next, and maybe he doesn’t either. However, he’s excited for something new. With his standard of work and dedication to the job, it’s not going to be hard to find another role!

This is the latest in a series of changes in the Law & Order universe. The flagship series saw Anthony Anderson leave after one season of the revival and then Jeffrey Donovan left before Season 23 premiered. It will be interesting to see how the loss of another main character will affect the overall series.

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Law & Order airs on Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC. Catch up the following day on Peacock.