Our Favorite (Now) Famous Law & Order Guest Stars

This year marks the 20th season of Law & Order, the long-running NBC crime drama that's played host to hundreds of guest stars over the years. Many of those guest stars were relative unknowns when they appeared on the show, but went on to become household names. Here are some of our favorites.

Cynthia Nixon

Role/Episode: Laura Di Biasi in Subterranean Homeboy Blues (1990)
Most Famous Role Since: Miranda Hobbes on Sex & the City
Everyone remembers Nixon's recent Emmy-winning role on Law & Order: SVU, where she played a crazed Russian woman, but her relationship with the show started long ago. Nixon first appeared on Law & Order in 1990, when she played a manipulative murderer in the show's second-ever episode. Her character claimed self-defense after shooting two black men on the New York City subway.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Role/Episode: Steven Hanauer in The Violence of Summer (1991)
Most Famous Role Since: Truman Capote in Capote
Before Capote, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and even Scent of a Woman, Philip Seymour Hoffman played a drug dealer accused of raping a celebrity journalist on Law & Order. Hoffman's role on the crime drama marked his first-ever on-screen performance, according to IMDB.

Julianna Margulies

Role/Episode: Lt. Ruth Mendoza in Conduct Unbecoming (1993)
Most Famous Role Since: Nurse Carol Hathaway on ER
Before going on to earn Emmy and Golden Globe recognition for her work on ER, Margulies played a one-time part as a lieutenant on Law & Order. In "Conduct Unbecoming," the team investigates the death of a female Naval officer during a party in a Manhattan hotel.

Allison Janney

Role/Episode: Nora in Star Struck (1992), Ann Madsen in Old Friends (1994)
Most Famous Role Since: C.J. Cregg on The West Wing
Before she advised the President on The West Wing, Janney played two parts on Law & Order. In her 1994 appearance, she played a reluctant witness against a member of the Russian mob.

Jennifer Garner

Role/Episode: Jamie in Aftershock (1996)
Most Famous Role Since: Sydney Bristow on Alias
For her 1996 appearance on Law & Order, Garner played the college-aged mistress of a police detective. She later moved on to guest spots on shows like Spin City before landing the lead role on the spy drama Alias.

Ellen Pompeo

Role/Episode: Jenna Weber in Savior (1996), Laura Kendrick in Fools for Love (2000)
Most Famous Role Since Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy
Before she became a TV doctor, Ellen Pompeo played two not-all-that-different roles as a girl complicit in the murder of her mother and a girl complicit in the murder of her sister.



Law & Order airs Friday nights at 8 pm on NBC.

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Seeing David Boreanaz mentioned here reminded me Keith Szarabajka was also on Law & Order in that same 3-parter with Lauren Graham. I mean, I know he's not super famous, but he's had a pretty extensive career including playing David's nemesis Daniel Holtz on ANGEL for a whole season and most recently was in The Dark Knight as Det. Stevens. Also Maggie Grace was on SVU before she did LOST and so was her co-star Ian Somerhalder (different episode, though). Also minor nitpick, I think Milo Ventimiglia did SVU after he did Gilmore Girls and developed a fanbase, but his Heroes costar Hayden Panettiere did SVU before her big break.
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Emily Deschanel was on Law and Order SVU during it's third season. Now, she's the star of Bones alongside David Boreanaz (who hasn't been on Law and Order).
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Spencer Breslin played a sociopathic little boy in one episode, great performance from a child. Amanda Peet played a woman who was accused of commiting a series of crimes with a man who she claimed kidnapped her. Kevin Smith had one scene as a witness to an element of a crime. Milo Ventimiglia was on SVU as a man kidnapped by the step-father he falsely accuwed of molesting him. Brittney Snow was on SVU as a teen who stopped medicating her bi-polar disorder because a celeb. spoke out against it. And Amanda Seyfriend was on SVU as a young rape victim who kept protecting her rapist.



There's been many more. These are just the ones I can remember who did not become famous until after.
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The actors guest starring on Law & Order who immediately come to mind when you say "before they were stars" for me are Maura Tierney in "Performance" in season two, as well as Jude Cicollella as a jailhouse snitch in the episode where Nancy Marchand played a matriarch whose son accused of bludgeoning his adulterous wife. The episode was so long ago, it took me a minute to realize he was the same actor who played Mike on 24.
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I was watching "Dallas" on a DVD (From my mother!) and I saw a guy who looked exactly like Sam Waterstone Stealing Sue Ellen's car (A few episodes after JR got shot)



So he has a little dark secret....hmmmm....maybe that's how he paid his studies...
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Didn't know they were in Law and Order.
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dont forget Lauren Graham. she was in a 3 parter episode where Briscoe & Curtis go to Hollywood. Curtis & her almost had an affair.
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Chankson.... robert patterson? blake? seriously? is that what you consider 5 star talent? how are all these weak?

there all have a very long list of projects.
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I had no idea those people were in L&O episodes. Anyway I watch the show not because of guest stars.
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Awesome list. That must've been really hard to compile simply because after 20 years, Law & Order's had just about anybody who's anybody on as a guest star. And Philip Seymour Hoffman was awesome in that episode, as for films though, before he got all serious and award nominated it's all about his role as Dusty in Twister. Great stuff. Anyone reading this, if you haven't seen this guy in anything, get out from under the rock and run to the video store and get everything he's been in (not including Along Came Polly), you won't reget it! Also, thumbs up on Jennifer Garner, she's fantastic. I think if we're talking Law and Order, SVU's gotten the meatier guest roles because they aren't a slave to the half-and-half formate of the original L&O and can expand characterization. It's also newer too so if you were to mention Martin Short, Lou Diamond Philips, and Robin Williams in their outstandingly creepy performances (or anyone, really) they're already pretty well known. Still I think my all time favorite guest star on a cop show was Steve Buscemi as Gordon Pratt on Homicide Life on the Street (1995).
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Honestly? I vote for Hoffman



XO XO



:):):):)
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great list tv.com
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We still miss you Jerry
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Unemployed, Chankson? Cynthia Nixon is of Sex and The City fame, currently filming the 2nd movie. Ellen Pompeo is currently on Grey's Anatomy, Julianna Margulies is on the new show The Good Wife. Jennifer Garner was in several movies. Allison Janney granted, I don't know what she's doing, but she is very talented. But I give you the Hoffman guy. Haven't a clue who he is really. Robert Pattinson and Blake Lively are fabulous.. but new. And apparently not cool enough to be asked to guest star on Law & Order.
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lame future stars, i mean i thought it was gonna be like robert pattinson or blake lively, these guys are realy weak , mostly unemployed "stars"
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