This year, Law & Order franchise rolled out its newest spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime, continuing the story of beloved former SVU star, Elliott Stabler. Over the course of its first season, the NBC series has followed Stabler's story upon his return to the NYPD where he's now fighting organized crime in the city alongside his new partner, Sgt. Ayanna Bell (played by Danielle Moné Truitt).
Fans of Law & Order know that the show is well-known for its depictions of various sectors within law enforcement. Though the franchise has always taken a traditional approach to its storytelling methods, viewers have witnessed the shift in its longest-running series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, most recently as a result of last summer's widespread protests against racial injustice and police violence. Like many shows that chose to portray our nation's most current events, Law & Order also took note of the current social climate and incorporated that into the new series.
Ahead of the show's season finale, Shadow and Act caught up with series stars Truitt and Tamara Taylor (who plays Angela Wheatley) to talk about how the franchise is now tackling issues with law enforcement and creating more nuanced storylines after a year of social and racial reckoning.
"It's a great dynamic that's literally speaking to what's going on right now," Taylor tells us of the show's progress. "The old is being outmoded and the [characters] are having to relearn. I think the [writers] have been handling this [season] with grace and have been open to the dialogues and questions that we've all brought up. I think they're walking a tightrope pretty well so far."
Truitt echoed her co-star's sentiments, stating that the franchise has now tailored its storyline to be more inclusive this go around and also sensitive to all perspectives on the show. "I think they're trying and listening and we're definitely having conversations with [the writers] as well," she says. "Whether it's about law enforcement or about being Black period, we [speak up]. We're a collective, we're a community and we listen to each other and honor each other's perspectives."
According to both stars, show creator Dick Wolf has always made the series about honoring the "boys in blue" but now the narrative is more nuanced in its dialogue – especially for characters like Stabler who's realizing he has to "relearn" new ways to be a better cop thanks to Truitt's character, Sgt. Bell.
Truitt, who's no stranger to the blue uniform on TV, spoke about her experiences with portraying a cop as a Black actress and how her roles have never changed her personal beliefs. "This is actually my third series being in law enforcement," she shares. "I keep getting [these roles] but I have very strong opinions about what's going on socially in our country, so I honestly see it as an opportunity for me, through my art, to shed light on the situations that we've all had to experience."
Previously, Truitt has played similar cop characters on crime dramas like Deputy and Rebel. In her current role, she stresses the fact although she's portraying a certain character in uniform, she still uses the opportunity to speak up for Black police officers who tend to get a bad reputation considering the distrust between cops and communities of color.
"I know there's a lot of police officers of color and a lot of times their stories aren't told in the media about how the things we're going through in the world affects them being Black and Blue at the same time," she says. "I'm very grateful that through these roles I'm able to speak to that. I never play a role where I'm just a Black cop and I'm with the Blue and that's it. I'm always playing that socially-aware Black [woman] detective/ sheriff/ cop who has a heart for social justice and what that really means. I feel very grateful that I'm able to do that and also still have a voice in my community and speak against injustice. Me playing a Sergeant on television is never going to keep me, Danielle Moné Truitt, from speaking to what is right."
Both stars shared that they're very optimistic about how the show will continue to reflect progressive ideas moving forward as it looks ahead to its second season. As far as the finale goes, Truitt and Taylor warn fans that the shocking final episode is must-see TV and will surely leave them on the edge of their seats until next season. "People are not going to be able to wait until season 2, and I credit that to our writers," Truitt says. "They know how to do a plot twist and string people along and then some. There's a lot of action and a lot of 'oh my gosh' moments, but you guys are going to love it."
The season 1 finale of Law & Order: Organized Crime airs on Thursday, June 3 at 10 pm ET on NBC.
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