Sam Waterston is widely recognized for his portrayal of Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy on the long-running NBC series Law & Order. Though he was not a member of the original cast, he quickly became one of the central characters on the series, along with Detective Lennie Briscoe (played by the notable actor Jerry Orbach). To many viewers, Waterston and Orbach represented the show, which was the longest-running crime series in U.S. television history, as of 2008.
Waterston played District Attorney Forrest Bedford in the short-lived series I'll Fly Away before he began his long run on Law & Order. Before he focused on his television work, he appeared in dozens of movies. Perhaps his most famous role was journalist Sydney Schanberg in the 1984 film The Killing Fields. The movie focused on Schanberg's reporting during the 1970s conflict in Cambodia and on the efforts of Schanberg's Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran, to escape from the brutal Khmer Rouge. The film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and Waterston was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar award. The movie was honored with three Oscar Awards in 1985.
He has received multiple Emmy Award nominations for his performances on Law & Order and I'll Fly Away. Waterston has been active with several humanitarian causes, giving both time and money to organizations like Meals on Wheels and The United Way.