15 Actors Who Appeared on Law and Order Before They Were Famous

I Spy: 15 Actors Who Appeared on Law and Order Before They Were Famous

In the past, getting a role on Law and Order was like a rite of passage for any actor who wanted to have a successful career. The show was one of TV’s most beloved with over 20 years running and three spin-offs. On any given episode you are likely to spot a few famous familiar faces before they got their big break.

See for yourself with our list of 15 actors who appeared on Law and Order before they were famous.

Chandra Wilson

Chandra Wilson Law and Order

By the time Chandra Wilson landed her multi-Emmy nominated role as Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy in 2005, she had already guest starred on 3 episodes of Law and Order. Her first appearance was in 1992 on the episode “The Lost Weekend” while her next two roles were on Law and Order: SVU on the episodes “Waste” (2002) and “911” (2005). “Waste (screencap pictured above) also featured an appearance from the next star on this list…

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson Law and Order

Rain Wilson went from being a janitor in the 2002 episode of Law and Order: SVU called “Waste” to being an expert paper salesman on The Office in 2005. Talk about a promotion!

Lance Reddick




Lance Reddick Law and Order

Lance Reddick is a veteran of Law and Order appearances! The actor, best known for his roles on The Wire and Fringe, held a recurring role on Law and Order: SVU as Dr. Taylor from 2000-2001, had a guest role on Law and Order: Criminal Intent in 2003, and two appearances on the original Law and Order series– one in 2001 and the other in 2004.


Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester Law and order


Well before she was Gossip Girl‘s breakout character Blair Waldrof, a 13 year old Leighton Meester was on an episode of Law and Order called “Disciple” back in 1999.

Kerry Washington

2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Beach

Photo: WENN

Long before she was Olivia Pope on Scandal, Washington appeared on an episode of Law and Order called “3 Dawg Night” in 2001, just 11 months after starring in Save the Last Dance.

Rooney Mara

Eooney Mara Law and Order

The girl with the dragon tattoo, Rooney Mara, played a character named Jessica DeLay on a season 7 episode of Law and Order: SVU called  “Fat.”

Isaiah Washington

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Photo: WENN

Isaiah Washington appeared in an episode of Law and Order called “Out of Control” back in 1991. He would later go on to play in movies like Love Jones, Bulworth, Out of Sight, True Crime, and Romeo Must Die, as well as his most popular role on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Preston Burke. In 2011, he appeared on Law and Order: LA.



Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel Jackson Law-and-Order-

The always-entertaining Samuel L. Jackson appeared on the 1991 episode of Law and Order, “The Violence of Summer,” as a defense attorney to a then-unknown (and nearly unrecognizable) skinny Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Though Jackson had already held small roles in several films and TV shows, it was before he landed roles like Jungle Fever and Pulp Fiction which gave him mass acclaim.

 Hayden Panettiere

HaydenPanettiere lAW AND oRDER

Hayden Panettiere appeared as a little girl neglected on the episode “Abuse” of Law and Order: SVU in season 2 of the show. She was already a working child actress at that time but wouldn’t hit fame until she saved the world on Heroes in 2006. She returned to SVU on en episode called “Hooked” in Season 6 just before Heroes premiered.

 Elise Neal

44th NAACP Image Awards - Arrivals

Photo: WENN

Elise Neal got her very first acting role on Law and Order in 1992. The episode was called “Cradle to Grave.”

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper Law and Order

Though he was already a working actor on the hit TV series Alias, before he hit mass popularity Bradley Cooper appeared in an episode of Law and Order: SVU called “Night” in 2005.

Gina Torres

Gina Torres WENN PF

Photo: WENN

Suits’  head-woman-in-charge got her start appearing on two episodes of Law and Order : “Skin Deep” in 1992 and “Purple Heart” in 1995.

Peter Facinelli

Peter Facinelli Law and Order

Everyone’s favorite vampire/doctor/father appeared on the episode “Performance” of Law and Order in 1995. It was his second role ever, and it came three years before Can’t Hardly Wait and thirteen years before his best known role as Dr. Carlisle Cullen in Twilight.

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried Law and order

Amanda Seyfried is Hollywood “it” girl now, but in 2004 she was playing a girl who cried wolf in the Law and Order: SVU episode “Outcry,” just six months after the release of her feature film debut Mean Girls.

William H. Macy

William H. Macy WENN PF

Photo: WENN
Macy played Assistant U.S. Attorney John McCormack on episode 6 of Law and Order back in 1990. He would later appear on the show again in 1992 as a different character named Jack Powell.
  • Dkixx

    Another actor y’all forgot Ian Somerhalder from the vampire diaries. He was in L&O:SVU in 2003.

  • Dee

    Zoe Saldana and Selita Ebanks were on there too.

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