'Law & Order' : Beloved Characters Return and New Faces Emerge in Dramatic Season 21 Premiere

Law & Order first premiered in 1990 and completed its 20th season in 2010

Sam Waterston
Photo: Michael Greenberg/NBC

Law & Order is back!

During Thursday's premiere of the NBC legal drama, original cast members Anthony Anderson (Kevin Bernard), Sam Waterston (Jack McCoy) and Camryn Manheim (Kate Dixon) were joined by newcomers Hugh Dancy (Nolan Price), Jeffrey Donovan (Frank Cosgrove) and Odelya Halevi (Samantha Maroun) as their characters worked together in solving the murder of alleged serial rapist Henry King.

Throughout the episode, detectives Cosgrove and Bernard struggled to get on the same page when it came to their policing methods.

After questioning a suspect, Cosgrove — who was being filmed by multiple onlookers — expressed his frustrations with modern technology and how it has affected modern-day life.

"These young kids, they have no respect," he told Bernard. "They get to do and say whatever they want, it's like a free pass. I'm white. He's Black. I say the wrong thing and my career's over."

"You came at him hot, man," said Bernard, who is Black. "Maybe you should've treated him a little more polite like a law-abiding citizen minding his own business."

"The truth is, these damn phones ruined everything," said Cosgrove.

"That's one way of looking at it," responded Bernard. "Or they hold us accountable."

"I know we haven't been working together very long, but if we're going to keep this thing going, you should know something," said Cosgrove. "I speak my mind. probably about things I shouldn't speak my mind about but it's just how I'm wired."

In the meantime, the duo put aside their differences and nailed down a promising suspect who was responsible for the shooting of King. The suspect was King's alleged first victim.

Camryn Manheim, Anthony Anderson, Jeffrey Donovan
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Cosgrove was able to get a confession from the suspect after falsely promising her immunity if she confessed.

District attorney Nolan Price went head to head with Waterston's character Jack McCoy about the proper way to approach the case — and whether or not the confession would be admissible in court.

"When you asked me to come here, you said you need someone who sees the world through a different lens. Someone with the guts to make hard decisions," he said.

"I still feel that way," said McCoy. "But it's a legal confession, Nolan. Cops are allowed to lie."

"They are, but it makes the confession less reliable. Less ethical," said Price. "In this case, it wasn't one little lie or embellishment. Cosgrove spun the suspect upside down."

In the end, the confession was not admissible in court. However, the victim was still found guilty of shooting and killing her alleged attacker.

After more than a decade off the air, NBC announced in September it was ordering the 21st season of Law & Order. Recently, the show's stars spoke to PEOPLE exclusively about the exciting return at the Law & Order press junket.

"I feel great being back within the Wolf Entertainment family and being on the mothership," Anderson, 51, previously said. "I think had we not been unceremoniously canceled 10-plus years ago, I think the show would still be on the air and we'd be going into our 31st, 32nd season. That's what I like to think and believe and it feels great to be back."

"I feel privileged honored, really excited and terrified," said Manheim, 60, of her return while Waterson, 81, shared, "It feels absolutely great. Better than I could have ever imagined."

Anderson said the series "is going to reflect what's going on in today's world" in season 21, adding that "it's going to be [a] truer reflection of what's going on between police and community and reform and all of that."

"It's shown truthfully and honestly — good, bad and indifferent. You have bad apples in every barrel, no matter what it is. I think our show is going to deal with that," he continued. "We scratched the surface of with the relationship of [my character] Kevin Bernard and [Jeffrey's character] Frank Cosgrove and his dealings with [the] community and Cosgrove, and how he was investigated by Detective Bernard while he was in Internal Affairs. So we see that and there's a little bit of friction, to begin with, but then they grow to have this admiration and respect for each other but neither one is going to let the other cross the line and that's where we are."

Law & Order airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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