Law & Order returns with all new episodes on Wednesday, February 4 at 10 PM ET with brand new episodes on NBC that get kicked off with a special guest star in Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls). McLanahan and Linus Roach, who portrays Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter, recently held a conference call to speak about this new episode, and here's what they had to say.
Your character is suspected of having an affair with a past president.
Rue McClanahan: Yes.
I was just wondering did you use any of Blanche Devereaux to play that character?
Rue McClanahan: No, no, I play a completely different character. She might have some of Blanche Devereaux's characteristics however that is to say well she's a coquette.
Linus, now most of the episodes are based on current headlines; what this one based on anything real?
Linus Roach: I think it does reference a story - I don't know which magazine printed it; I think it came out some time ago but - about someone who was claiming to be the illegitimate son of a famous president, yeah. But then, you know, like a Law & Order story it takes something real and then it starts to take it on a slightly different journey.
What do you like best about playing Cutter like since you started in - it was in January right that's when you started doing this?
Linus Roach: I actually started last season so this is my second season now. What I really love about, I mean, I love the show for a start; I love the formula of the show, I love the procedural drama and I love the moral dilemma that as ADAs we're always in these very challenging and difficult moral dilemmas that we have to work through for the audience. So what I loved about playing this character and the way they set it up and what they, you know, the writers have continued to push is that, you know, how far will someone go for the sake of justice and how strong is the tenant of the law because the law doesn't always deal with every single circumstance; it can't deal with it perfectly. But I play a man, who sometimes is almost willing seemingly to step outside of the boundary of the law to do something, you know, that's truly ethical. And I love that edge of constantly being challenged with what's appropriate and what's really ethical and in the pursuit of justice. So they started upgrading an edgy character and I kind of like to call him a little bit the Jack Bauer of the judicial system but that's what I enjoy playing in the character. And also what's developed over this period of time is the relationship with Jack McCoy which has been - working with Sam has been just a complete and utter joy and that relationship between us is a very interesting, complex dynamic that's continuing to grow throughout the time that I've been on the show; so that keeps it very alive.
Rue, for the character Lois what attracted you to her the most?
Rue McClanahan: Oh my goodness. I thought this was one of the most well written little scenes that I've been presented with in some time. It's a real cat and mouse scene - cat and mouse. It's, you know, the kind of thing I'd be proud to have written because it says a lot without saying anything, in other words she is a (clipper) little one. She leads them a merry chase. There's no moral dilemma in mine what so ever, you know, it's just comedy; it's just fun.
Linus Roach: Yeah, and that was - I've got to just add to that, it was a complete joy to play that scene with Rue that she's speaking about.
Rue McClanahan: Well thank you.
Linus Roach: Yeah.
Rue McClanahan: It was like a - I kept dangling, I kept dangling this carrot on a stick in front of them and I wouldn't ever quite get it.
Linus Roach: That's right. It was a dance, it was a beautiful dance.
Rue, what's it like playing opposite Christopher McDonald? What was he like?
Rue McClanahan: I had one scene and that was with Linus and his partner.
Oh okay. I thought you guys might have been together.
Linus Roach: No interestingly enough I don't think Rue and Christopher did have much. I got to play quite a few scenes with him; he's something, I mean, he's fantastic. He's also a very good casting in terms of being Rue's son because he had that - he was dangling a lot of carrots too and having a lot of fun with it. So it created a very sort of intriguing and I was going to say playful but just quite an electric dynamic and he's a wonderful actor; I think he did a fantastic job.
Rue McClanahan: You know what, Linus, I didn't ever get the full script, I only got through my scene which comes early in the show so I don't even know - I can't wait to see the show and see what happens.
Rue, Law & Order is like a who's who of New York based actors. You look in the playbill of the New York plays and everybody seems to have an episode - one of the Law & Orders on their credit list. How is it that the show has been on for almost 20 years and you're just now getting around to being part of it?
Rue McClanahan: Well I think I finally got something on them, you see. I didn't have anything on them before. No I think the truth of the matter is I kept wondering why I wasn't getting asked to do a Law & Order. And then when they finally asked me to do this one I said, oh, but this is such a perfect for me and I've been told that once they've hired you once they tend to ask you to come back and play a different role again, you know, so I'm hoping next time maybe I'll get to play a bag lady or a, you know, or a murderess or, you know, something entirely different. Because really I'll tell you something I do other roles than just coquettes; I don't just play coquettes. I've been known to play, oh you know, witches and I think I've even played a couple of murderers along the way.
Linus, I wanted to ask you are you more involved, you know, with current events and cases now that you've been doing this role for awhile; do you find yourself kind of on the edge of your seat watching the real news develop?
Linus Roach: A little bit more than I used to, yeah, that's true. You know, you see headlines, you get in the car in the morning you see a headline on the paper and you think I wonder if that's going to end up in the show.
Yeah, doing a little research ahead of time.
Rue McClanahan: That's fun; that's fun.
Now do you watch any other, you know, law procedurals or anything like that?
Linus Roach: Definitely, I mean, I'm like Rue, I mean, I used to not watch TV hardly at all; I was just a movie buff. But then over the past, I mean, five, six years I've really got into TV and especially American TV which I think, you know, is really high quality. So the shows I watch haven't been law shows to be honest; I've been more into like some of the sci-fi things like Battlestar Galactica and 24 and, you know, that kind of espionage stuff.
Now do you find yourself, you know, having more empathy I guess for what attorneys or, you know, DAs have to go through on a daily basis?
Linus Roach: Yes I do, I mean, I'm - obviously I'm just acting; we're just playing, we're not anywhere near the real situation. But I did spend a little bit of time before I started this show with some ADAs in New York and just sort of followed them through their day and I came out with so much respect for what these people do. And there are times when you're on the show and you just - you're sort of reminding yourself that, you know, this is very intense dirty work a lot of the time and someone has to do it and it's ultimately about justice, it's not just about prosecution for the sake of prosecution. And there's so much responsibility inherent in the role that it's quite a burden these people carry. But the one thing that I was so impressed by every individual I met I looked in their eyes and there was a kind of burning integrity there, you know, they were there for something, it wasn't just a job, they were there for a reason and a purpose and that was very, very clear and I find that very inspiring. And I think it's wonderful that Dick Wolfe created a show that makes these people the heroes because usually it's always been the other way around, it's always the defense lawyers...
Yeah, they're kind of unsung heroes, you know?
Linus Roach: Yeah, that's right.
Rue McClanahan: You know what, I want to say something before I am off the line. I want you to know, Linus that I've done a lot of television and I've worked for a lot of producers and a lot of groups. And you have one of the nicest groups, one of the nicest producers and it always starts at the top.
Linus Roach: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right.
Rue McClanahan: You always know that; it starts at the top.
Linus Roach: Yeah.
Rue McClanahan: And that man is really sterling.
Linus Roach: Yeah, I agree.
Rue McClanahan: Yeah, you're lucky to have that job - well I don't mean that but I mean that's a great place to be working.
Linus Roach: And you know what Rue just to say that I think everybody who works on the show recognizes that too.
Rue McClanahan: I hope so. Boy, it ain't that way everywhere.
Linus Roach: No, I know that much.
Linus, I want to talk to you about the dynamic between Jack and Cutter; to me Cutter seems like just a younger version of Jack.
Linus Roach: Oh really? Okay.
Because I think they both sort of - always sort of twisted the law but what makes me laugh is that he always gets in trouble from Jack. You know, I was wondering if you see things the same way or...
Linus Roach: I suppose there is a similarly in terms of being, you know, I mean he said at one time I thought I was supposed to be the hard ass. You know, and I am playing a similar vein, if you like. But I think it's defined in different ways that Jack McCoy. And I think what's also emerging now which is very interesting because Sam has had to step into the role of DA and there's a whole interesting dynamic now of him as being a more political figure so you have these conflicting interests of I'm trying to prosecute the law and, you know, is he doing something for the sake of politics. And we're having this sort of back and forth on that level which is I think is like recreating something, well it's creating something very new between us. And the only other difference is I think Cutter, I mean, the way he started out, anyway was just kind of a little edgier than Jack, you know, he was kind of not comfortable in him, you know, but sort of like always on the edge with something which I think was just slightly different from the way Jack was more sort of like maybe an easy liberal in that sense. So but I think what keeps this show alive is the fact that we have different perspectives on things and you get this constantly sort of looking at things from different perspectives and then the audience has to decide, you know, in the end what is the way through. And I think the more we define those perspectives through the characters, you know, then - actually through the situations it really - that sort of brings the kind of situation to life. And it's growing - it's growing and that's what's great about it because how can something have longevity over this length of time is amazing because, you know, you hardly know anything about our personal lives.
You can see Rue McClanahan and Linus Roach when Law & Order returns on Wednesday, February 4 at 10 PM ET on NBC.