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Why Did Jesse L. Martin Leave Law & Order?

Detective Green was a Law & Order fan favorite for over 150 intense episodes until his shocking departure. 

By Jessica White

Ed Green, played by Jesse L. Martin, was a beloved member of NYPD's 27th Precinct for several seasons of Law & Order.

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Green holds the honor of appearing in all four New York-based Law & Order series, with 200 episodes total under his belt. Green's Law & Order journey had many twists and turns before his departure after Season 18. 

His character's backstory is fascinating, to say the least. Below, find out what happened to Detective Ed Green on Law & Order:

What happened to Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) on Law & Order?

Detective Ed Green was a fan favorite investigator from Seasons 10-18 of Law & Order, replacing former Detective Rey Curtis (Benjamin Bratt). Green's police style was fast, loose, and no-nonsense, as he put dozens of horrific criminals behind bars. Green was formerly a detective within the Gang Intel Unit; he worked closely with Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) until his retirement in Season 15, leading him to partner up with Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina).

​​​​In Season 15 of the show, fans were floored to see Green get shot while escorting a witness to court. Green thankfully recovered, but his injuries were so severe that he was temporarily assigned desk duty until he could get back into the field. Upon his return in the premiere of Law & Order Season 16, Green's valiant efforts earned him a promotion to Senior Detective. 

Why did Detective Ed Green leave Law & Order?

Detective Green leaves Law & Order in Season 18 after he becomes the center of a troubling murder investigation.

After Green shot a murdered a suspect, the subsequent investigation unveiled several damning details from the detective's past, notably his former gambling addictions. At one point, Green owed money to the murder suspect, and it was revealed that he only killed him to defend others. Although he was within his legal rights to do what he did, Green left the force out of shame for his actions. Throughout the courtroom chaos, viewers were introduced to Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson)


Why did Jesse L. Martin leave Law & Order?

While a seedy history of gambling and a mess of legal madness led to Green's departure from Law & Order, Martin's reason for leaving the franchise was significantly less scandalous. Martin broke into fame as a stage actor, so he left Law & Order to return to those roots.

Jesse L. Martin on Law And Order

(Fun fact: Green was shot in Season 15 to give Martin time to film the movie adaptation of Rent after originating the role of Tom Collins on Broadway.)

"It was pretty much time for me," Martin told Entertainment Weekly following Green's final Law & Order episode. "I need to get back on stage before I get too scared to do it again. And with [the Law & Order] schedule, it would be really difficult for me to ever really get to do anything like that."

Since Green's departure, Martin has starred in several stage, film, and television projects.This fall, he'll put a remix on the Law & Order formula in NBC's new crime drama, The Irrational. We can't wait to see what the Law & Order legend brings us next!