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Meet the Man Behind Every Law & Order Voice Intro—And Hear His Incredible Story

Have you ever sat back and wondered who voicesLaw & Order’s iconic intros?

By Jessica White
Bensler Get Steamy and Almost Kiss | NBC’s Law & Order: SVU

You know it, you love it, you maybe even have it memorized. As soon as you hear that deep voice say, “In the criminal justice system…” that can only mean one thing: Law & Order is on! From the original Law & Order to the widely successful spin-offs Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime, every episode begins with a haunting intro detailing the crimes the squad covers, each ending with, “These are their stories.” 

How to Watch

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

With hundreds of episodes aired between these franchises, it’s safe to say that the Law & Order intro, and its iconic Dun-Dun, have left a permanent impression on television pop culture. While the intro is well-known and widely beloved, few are aware of who voices the tell-tale monologue. Read on to pull back the curtain and learn about the mysterious voice behind the fan-favorite intro.

Who narrates the Law & Order intros?

Steve Zirnkilton!

So, who is the man who's gifted the world with the intro of each Law & Order episode? That would be Steve Zirnkilton, a voice actor and former politician from Maine. While Law & Order is Zirnkilton’s claim to fame, he is far more than just the guy who kicks off each episode. He’s got quite a résumé, and his relationship with Dick Wolf goes further than his voiceover work. 

Zirnkilton has provided the voiceover for every Law & Order franchise, including Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent, Los Angeles, and Organized Crime. Outside of his relations to Wolf Entertainment, he has also provided voiceover work for numerous TV and film projects, such as The Rugrats Movie, Family Guy, and Netflix’s Murderville.

Zirnkilton landed his life-changing L&O gig in a surprising way: a mix of real estate and networking. In an interview with Backstage, Zirnkilton detailed how he managed to become the voice behind Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchise.

“Dick Wolf was buying a house up here in Maine, and at that time, I had my real estate broker's license and my insurance license. I approached him and asked if I could act as his buyer’s representative to make sure that everything would go smoothly,” Zirnkilton explained. “When the transaction was complete he said, ‘What do I owe you?’ I immediately passed him a cassette tape, which was my VO demo.”

Zirnkilton could be the poster child for putting yourself out there and it paying off. A few months later, Wolf approached Zirnkilton to do promos for a since-ditched NBC series Nasty Boys. The Nasty Boys series may have ended quickly, but those two boys were just getting started. “That lasted about six episodes. I figured I’d had my shot," Zirnkilton said. "Then I got a call from Mr. Wolf’s secretary saying that Mr. Wolf has a show called Law & Order, and he’d like you to play a detective in the show.”

In the pilot stages of the original Law & Order, Zirnkilton played a detective and was featured in a trailer for the series alongside William H. Macy. “Nearly a year went by, and then [former NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff  decided to give it a try," Zirnkilton explained. "Mr. Wolf’s secretary called me again and said, ‘Please meet Mr. Wolf at the recording studio. He has something he’d like you to read.’ And that was the opening. I had no idea if the show would have any legs, but happily, it hung around for a while.”

You could say that again.Thirty-three years later, Law & Order is still a widely beloved franchise, with Zirnkilton’s iconic voice at the helm of each and every episode

Watch Law & Order on NBC Thursdays at 8/7c. Law & Order: SVU airs after at 9/8c, and Law & Order: Organized Crime follows at 10/9c. Stream all next day on Peacock.

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