New Law & Order to Go On, Minus Orbach

New Law & Order to Go On, Minus Orbach
Everett Collection

updated 12/30/2004 at 08:00 AM EST

originally published 12/30/2004 08:00AM

On Wednesday, as Broadway dimmed its lights in tribute to Jerry Orbach after the announcement of his death, NBC said it would proceed with plans to introduce the new series Law & Order: Trial by Jury despite the loss of one of its leading stars.

The new series, a third spinoff of the popular franchise, is to begin in the spring and was to feature Orbach as the fast-talking Detective Lennie Briscoe, the character he played for 12 seasons.

Orbach, 69, died Tuesday at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where he was being treated for prostate cancer.

A spokesman for Law & Order producer Dick Wolf tells The New York Times that Wolf was aware of Orbach's illness last spring, which accounted for Orbach's being moved off the original series. The new show, according to The Times, is to feature Bebe Neuwirth and Candice Bergen, and its plots focus on the New York jury system.

A spokeswoman for the show confirmed that episodes already taped with Orbach will air in the upcoming midseason.

"The producers are deeply saddened," according to a statement from the show, Reuters reports. "While Jerry is irreplaceable, Law & Order: Trial by Jury is an ensemble and will continue in production. A new member will join the company. Announcements will be forthcoming."

Six episodes of Jury have been taped, according to the spokeswoman, with Orbach having appeared in as many as half of them.

A new character will replace Lennie Briscoe, but NBC declined comment on what actor might be tapped for the role or how he will be written off the show.

Meanwhile, one of Orbach's former stage costars, Chita Rivera, remembered Orbach on Tuesday, saying of the actor who played with her in the original 1975 production of Chicago (as the lawyer Billy Flynn): "Jerry's strong spirit will be with me forever. He was an anchor who brought style, security and razzle-dazzle to our original Chicago company. He was a swell guy and I'll sure miss him."

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