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Everything to Know About Sam Waterston's Talented Family

The Waterston household is a gifted crew of industry icons — and the Law & Order legend couldn't be prouder.

By Jessica White

While many know Sam Waterston for his justice-serving role as Jack McCoy in Law & Order, the actor's children know him as simply as "dad."

How to Watch

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

Waterston has now spent decades portraying prosecutor Jack McCoy, but revealed in a New York Times interview that he was cast as Law & Order legend McCoy just as he was beginning to contemplate financing his four children's college educations. But with a dad like Waterston's, it's no wonder that Waterston's children have followed in his show business footsteps: All four have embraced careers around the camera.

RELATED: After More Than 400 Episodes, Sam Waterston Announces He's Leaving Law & Order

Read on to learn more about Waterston's family, wife, and children. 

How many children does Sam Waterston have?

Waterston is the proud father of four children: James Waterston, Elisabeth Waterston, Katherine Waterston, and Graham Waterston.

Waterston welcomed his first child, James, in 1969 alongside his ex-wife, Barbara Rutledge Johns. The couple divorced in 1975.

Waterston married model Lynn Louisa Woodruff in 1976, and the pair now have had three children together: Elisabeth, born in 1977; Katherine, born in 1980; and Graham, born in 1983.

Waterston also has six grandchildren, according to a 2022 Parade interview.

D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) appears in Season 23 Episode 4 of Law & Order

Who is Sam Waterston's wife, Lynn Louisa Woodruff?

Waterston is happily married to former Vogue model Lynn Louisa Woodruff. The couple tied the knot in 1976 and have been hitched for over 50 years, sharing three children. The pair met while Waterston was performing in a Shakespeare production in Central Park, as Waterston revealed in a 2022 interview with Parade

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“She would say that Shakespeare had nothing to do with us getting married!” Waterston teased. As for Waterston's secret to a happy marriage, he embraces an old-school approach. 

“I think it’s true that a happy wife is a happy life," Waterston said.

Sam Waterston Lynn Louisa Woodruff on the red carpet together at the Oceana SeaChange Summer Party

Who is Sam Waterston's son, James Waterston?

Waterston's eldest child, James Waterston, was born on January 17, 1969. Like his father, James was bitten by the acting bug at a young age, making his film debut as Gerard Pitts in the beloved 1989 drama Dead Poets Society.

James has joined his father on a Law & Order as a guest star in Season 9, Episode 23 ("Refuge (Part II)"). James also had two xciting guest roles in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, appearing in Season 9, Episode 14 ("Inconceivable") and Season 18, Episode 17 (“Real Fake News”).

Aside from his status as a seasoned Law & Order franchise guest star, James has appeared in ER (2002), Six Feet Under (2004), and The Good Wife (2010). James also made guest appearances on NBC's The Blacklist and Chicago Fire.

James has also taken his talents to the stage to snag numerous exciting theatrical credits, including appearing in the Broadway production of An Enemy of The People in 2012. In 2015, the Boston Globe reported Waterston and Woodruff attended the opening-night performance of the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Private Lives, in which James appeared.

Sam Waterston and his son james pose together at a play rehearsal

Who is Sam Waterston's daughter, Elisabeth Waterston?

After Waterston and Woodruff were wed in 1976, the couple welcomed their first child together, Elisabeth, on March 30, 1977.

Like her siblings, Elisabeth eventually came to love show business, making her acting debut in Law & Order Season 10, Episode 22 ("High and Low") as Penny Rollins. Elisabeth then shifted her focus to the big screen, appearing in the films The Prince & Me (2004), The Girl in the Park (2007), Good Dick (2008), and Please Be Normal (2014).

As for her television credits, Katherine guest starred in The Practice (2003), Season 1 of The BlacklistQuantico (2017), and the 2021 reboot of Gossip Girl.

RELATED: Your First Look at Sam Waterston's Final Law & Order Episode Is Here

Over a decade after her first Law & Order guest appearance, Elisabeth returned to the franchise in Law & Order's Season 22 finale as Rebecca McCoy, the dedicated D.A.'s daughter and defense attorney who made her way to the Manhattan courtroom to duke it out against McCoy during an action-packed case. Waterston was ecstatic about the opportunity for his real-life daughter to play McCoy's on-screen counterpart.

“That topped everything,” Waterston said while applauding Elisabeth's performance. “She’s a beautiful actress, quick to react, full of intelligence and ready emotion. I have three actor children, and there isn’t anything more fun than acting with them.”

Sam Elisabeth Waterston

Who is Sam Waterston's daughter, Katherine Waterston?

Waterston's youngest daughter, Katherine, was born on March 3, 1980, and has been acting since 2007. She made her big-screen debut in 2007 with roles in Michael Clayton and The Babysitters. Katherine has since appeared in over 30 films, becoming a fixture within the Harry Potter prequel series Fantastic Beasts, starring in three films as former Auror Tina Goldstein. 

Some of Katherine's other noted films include Inherent Vice (2014), Alien: Covenant (2017), Mid90s (2018), Babylon (2022), and 2023's The End We Start From.

In terms of television credits, Katherine has guest starred in numerous episodes of Boardwalk Empire, appeared in the 2020 miniseries The Third Day, and landed a main role in Season 2 of the rebooted Perry Mason.

RELATED: Sam Waterston's Best Law & Order Episodes as Jack McCoy

“My wife and I tried to distract [the kids] from acting, but the trouble is that we were getting away with it,” Waterston told Parade. “It eventually became hard to change the subject.”

Sam and Katherine Waterston pose and smile together at the Annual SeaChange Summer Party

Who is Sam Waterston's son, Graham Waterston?

Waterston's youngest child is Graham, born April 29, 1983. Unlike his thespian siblings, Graham has preferred to spend time behind the scenes as a producer, writer, and crew member for several television and film projects.

According to his IMDB, Graham broke into the industry in 2005 as a member of the production team for The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Graham was also a production assistant on the 2007 film Blackbird.

In 2015, Graham made his directorial debut after writing and producing the short film And It Was Good, a romantic drama following a couple getting married. Graham's siblings Elisabeth and James appeared in the film, and Waterston also starred as the judge officiating the marriage for the protagonists.

Sam Waterston poses with his son Graham and wife Lynn Louisa Woodruff