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Law & Order’s Odelya Halevi Has Been "Crying for Days" Over Sam Waterston's Departure

“I don’t see a world where that man is not in my life," Odelya Halevi said of her former Law & Order co-star Sam Waterston.

By Jill Sederstrom

The loss of Manhattan District Attorney Jack McCoy on Law & Order is not only being felt by the fictional prosecutors in his office — but the actors who play them.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 24 premiere of Law & Order Thursday, October 3 at 8/7c on NBC

Sam Waterston stepped away from the iconic role, which began in 1994, after appearing in Season 23, Episode 5 of the crime drama, titled "Last Dance." In an emotional storyline, McCoy sacrificed his legal career in exchange for being able to put a prominent killer behind bars, resigning from the post.

RELATED: Sam Waterston's Final Law & Order Episode Reveals Why Jack McCoy Has to Leave

Odelya Halevi, who portrays Assistant District Attorney Samantha Maroun, spoke to NBC Insider about what she called the “very emotional” departure of Waterston, and what’s next for the district attorney’s office as they grapple with the loss of their fearless leader.

What did Odelya Halevi say about Sam Waterston leaving Law & Order?

“I mean, I’ve been crying for days,” Halevi confessed of how she felt about Waterston leaving the show. 

Halevi, who joined the show in Season 21, said she didn’t realize the full impact of Waterston’s decision to step away from the show, until she saw him film his final line. After announcing he’d just resigned, McCoy told Executive Assistant District Attorney Nolan Price (Hugh Dancy) that it's “been a hell of a ride.” 

“I just remember walking in there because I was going to shoot the next scene and everyone is just weeping and crying,” Halevi said.

DA Jack McCoy sits at a desk in court on Law and Order Episode 2305

Odelya Halevi grew up watching Sam Waterston on Law & Order

McCoy's iconic "hell of a ride" line had personal meaning for Halevi, who grew up in a small town in Israel, where she watched Jack McCoy deliver his powerful summations on Law & Order in the 1990s. 

“We didn’t have cable, so we had Law & Order or cartoons,” she said. “So I would watch Law & Order on repeat with my mom and this was before I could speak English, before I could read subtitles, but I fell in love with that man, his charisma, his heart and I said I want to be that.”

RELATED: Reid Scott’s Character on Law & Order Has a Dark Past That Was Just Revealed

“When he said, "It’s been a hell of a ride, it wasn’t just for him, it was for me and for all of the fans that have been there for years and years and years just watching him,” Halevi added.

Although Halevi initially believed she wanted to be a lawyer after watching McCoy, she later realized what she really wanted was to play a lawyer on television. She called the full circle moment of getting cast opposite her childhood hero in Law & Order a “mind blowing” experience. 

“At first, I was so intimidated,” she said. “He is... like the grandfather that I wish that I had because he’s so smart. The conversations with him taught me a lot. He’s just funny, loving and warm and when he’s around you, you feel his energy and it makes you feel good.” 

A.d.a Samantha Maroun on Law And Order episode 2306

Odelya Halevi kept in touch with Sam Waterston after his Law & Order departure

Although Waterston may have left the show, Halevi said she’s stayed in touch with the veteran actor. 

“I don’t see a world where that man is not in my life,” she said.

Waterston has certainly left some big shoes to fill on the show as well. Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn will take over as district attorney. 

RELATED: Reid Scott Made Law & Order Debut as Det. Vincent Riley With Deadly Consequences

What has Odelya Halevi said about Tony Goldwyn joining Law & Order?

Halevi told NBC Insider that Goldwyn — whom she called a “legend” in the industry — will bring a “totally different dynamic” to the district attorney’s office. 

“I will say, like, his character is very political and just a different dynamic. (He is) very self-assured, very confident, sort of shaking things up in the office, you know, making us question ourselves even more,” she said of their characters.

While the new DA, Nicholas Baxter. may be ruffling some feathers in the future, Halevi had nothing but praise for Goldwyn himself after filming one episode with him.

“I love that man,” she told NBC Insider. “He is just so grounded and he’s a hard-working actor and he just brings so much to the table and is very challenging."

Tony Goldwyn attends the tony awards in a beige suit and bowtie

Nolan Price and Samantha Maroun try to hold up without Jack McCoy

Following their boss McCoy's resignation, attorneys Maroun and Price were forced to adjust. Episode 6 of Season 23 saw Price (Hugh Dancy) step into the temporary role of acting District Attorney in Season 23, Episode 6.

“As far as I’m concerned, the governor can’t name Jack’s replacement soon enough,” a frazzled Price admitted as he juggled job responsibilities.

Price and Maroun were already clearly feeling the pressure as they handled their first case together since McCoy left office.

RELATED: A New Detective in Town! Reid Scott Plays Vincent Riley on Law & Order Season 23

The duo was tasked with prosecuting grieving father Kenneth Cartwright, who was charged with storming into a hospital and fatally shooting a doctor. The doctor had treated Cartwright’s pregnant wife, but after a six-minute assessment, he sent her home. She died the next day of preeclampsia, a condition that his attorney noted was misdiagnosed more often in Black women.  

During the emotional case, Cartwright’s attorney surprised Price and Maroun by arguing that his client was not guilty by reason of insanity as a result of race-based traumatic stress. Police reports showed that he was racially profiled five different times and suffered years of race-based abuse before his wife’s condition was misdiagnosed.

As a result, Maroun convinced Price to offer him a plea in a diminished capacity because he had been suffering from the pain of losing his wife and unborn child at the time of the shooting.

Det Jalen Shaw on Law And Order episode 2306

“I think that’s Maroun’s power,” Halevi said. “She brings empathy to the table and Price always looks at facts and she goes, ‘Hey this is a person who just lost his wife and a baby and has had a really tough childhood and really tough life’ and there are cases where we should... consider the person’s past and what they’ve been through.”

Cartwright ultimately turned down the plea offer because he wanted to show his surviving teenage son that he fought to stay out of prison. It proved to be a costly gamble and Cartwright was found guilty of second-degree murder.

RELATED: Check Out Who's in the Law & Order Cast for Season 23

What’s next for Samantha Maroun on Law & Order

Over the past few seasons, fans have seen Maroun evolve as she gains more confidence in her role at the district attorney’s office and has become more willing to speak her mind.

“There’s a lot of personal growth whether it's in the writing or whether it’s something that I’m comfortable bringing to the table as Odelya as an artist,” Halevi told NBC Insider

Samantha Maroun in Law And Order

According to Halevi, fans have gotten to see more “personal stories” and an evolving dynamic with Price — which will continue in the episodes to come.

“I think at first there was a lot of fear,” Halevi said of her character’s arc over the seasons. “Maroun was really new to this job and she had to be careful and now I feel like, she dares to really say what she thinks without boundaries. So I think we’re going to see more personal stories.”

Halevi even teased that the writers were going to “challenge” her character in an episode later in Season 23, with a storyline that will push Maroun out of her “comfort zone.” 

“I’m just so excited for that and can’t wait for everyone to watch,” Halevi said. 

To keep up with all the latest, watch Law & Order Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC or stream episodes the next day on Peacock.