Tony Goldwyn previews his “Law & Order ”debut following Sam Waterston's exit

Tony Goldwyn previews his “Law & Order ”debut following Sam Waterston's exit

The “Scandal” star takes over as the new District Attorney on tonight’s episode.

Tony Goldwyn  has some big shoes to fill.

The Scandal alum is taking over as District Attorney on Law & Order following Sam Waterston’s departure from the show. In a clip from his debut as D.A. Nicholas Baxter on Thursday’s episode, Goldwyn’s character introduces himself to Detectives Shaw (Mechad Brooks) and Riley (Reid Scott) at a crime scene. “I was just walking uptown and I saw the swirling lights and I got excited,” he says. “Thought I’d pop my head inside. Haven’t been to a crime scene in over 30 years — couldn’t help myself.”

“I want you all to know that I’m going to do everything in my power to create a constructive and transparent relationship with the police,” Baxter continues. “That’s it.”

Ahead of tonight’s episode, Goldwyn spoke with EW about (re)joining the Law & Order universe.

<p>NBC</p> Tony Goldwyn as District Attorney Nicholas Baxter


Tony Goldwyn as District Attorney Nicholas Baxter

EW: How did your time on Law & Order initially materialize?

TONY GOLDWYN: Well, a couple of months ago I just got a call that they were thinking about me to replace Sam, so I met with the showrunner and he described the character that they were thinking of, Nicholas Baxter. It was really interesting to me and I really admire the cast that's currently on the show, and know a couple of 'em. I thought it sounded like a really fun opportunity.

You directed an episode of Law & Order in 2006. What was your initial impression of the show?

I mean, I'd been a big fan of the show and it first aired in 1990. It was a very groundbreaking show when it started. There was nothing ever like it. And over the years, they've really maintained exactly what it started out as. And Sam, for so many years, was the sort of cornerstone of that. So maybe what most impressed me as I stepped into this is... that it really hasn't changed. But that doesn't mean it's gotten stale. They just really maintain the integrity of the show and always have the highest caliber actors on it. The writing is always intelligent, the issues are always contemporary, topical, and compelling, and it's just a really well-run operation.

You were in a few episodes of the spinoff Law & Order: Criminal Intent in the mid-2000s. How does this experience differ or compare to your time on that show?

Well, it's very different when you're the central character in it. I had a really fun guest part. I played Vincent D’Onofrio’s crack-addicted brother. So I think I did four episodes in one season and that was great. But it is just a completely different experience, even though it's the same Law & Order universe. It just feels different when you're a central character on the show.

How does your work here compare to something like Scandal?

I'm still just discovering it. There are certainly similarities to playing the President of the United States and the District Attorney of New York, since they're both very powerful executive positions and they're in charge of a system and solving  intractable problems — and they both wear a lot of blue suits. The difference seems to be that Scandal is much more outrageous and operatic in the storylines, and subsequently we got into Fitz's crazy personal life more than we, I'm sure, ever will on Law & Order. That's just not what the show is, since it’s more focused on the work of the characters.

What were your initial impressions of the cast of this iteration of Law & Order?

Everyone is great. My very first scene was with Reid Scott and Mehcad Brooks, who I really admire. And working so closely with Hugh Dancy and Odelya Halevi has been really fun. They were both wonderful and I'd known Hugh a bit and had really admired his work for so long. It has just been easy and terrific and super professional and they're all just really good.

What should Law & Order fans expect from your time on the show?

I think that Law & Order fans should expect someone who brings a very different vibe to the D.A.’s office. There are similarities between Jack McCoy and Nick Baxter — they’re both men of integrity and they're both incredibly competent, but Baxter is just a different kind of person. He's someone who takes more of a holistic view towards things and takes in political considerations and social considerations to decisions he makes, whereas McCoy was more in the tradition of sort of an Atticus Finch, old-school lawyer — where the law determines everything and there's no other factor. So there's some, in a sense, I think Nick Baxter would see himself as a more modern kind of D.A. than Jack, and that's going to create some tensions and problems in the office.

Tony Goldwyn debuts on Law & Order on NBC on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Watch the full preview clip above.

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