The Tragic Secret Jerry Orbach Kept For A Decade On ‘Law & Order’

Jerry OrbachIn 2004, he died after a lengthy battle with prostate carcinoma. The Broadway legend Law & OrderThe illness was a battle that he fought for much longer than many people realize. He fought valiantly through almost all of his time on the show.

Legend in His Time

Orbach was a Broadway star before he became Detective Lennie Briscoe of the NYPD. He was the son a vaudeville performer. He was a star in The FantasticksIn 1960, he received Tony nominations every year for the next decade. An appearance on The Golden Girls netted him an Emmy nomination, and he’s known to Disney fans as the voice of Lumière in Beauty and the Beast. Of course, he’s also beloved for playing Baby’s father in Ditty Dancing.

Orbach was approached by the board in 1992 to join after a previous guest appearance. Law & OrderFor its third season. He was replaced by Paul Sorvino, who was the head detective. Law & OrderOrbach received international acclaim for his performance, and he remained on the show for 11 seasons. His character, Lennie Briscoe, remains among the most loved characters in the show’s long history. Briscoe was also nominated for an Emmy Award in 1997.

Ill Nearly the Entire Time

1994 was not long after he began his tenure. Law & OrderOrbach was diagnosed with prostate carcinoma in 2009. For more than a decade, Orbach battled the disease on and off. Orbach was fighting cancer almost his entire life.

He chose to keep the news of his cancer diagnosis secret from the public. The news of his diagnosis didn’t arrive until just weeks before his death. It’s rather sad reading what folks like Dick Wolf were saying at the time: “We expect him to make a full and swift recovery, and while he is receiving treatment, we will work around his schedule.” That’s pretty tragic.

Orbach was getting ready for the spinoff show when he died. Law & Order: Trial By Jury. He’s interred at Trinity Church in Manhattan, the same cemetery as Alexander Hamilton. 

Tributes Pour In

Orbach was given the honor of being dimmed on Broadway, which is one among the highest honors the theater industry can bestow on an actor. He was posthumously awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award. Law & OrderIn 2005, his wife accepted his marriage. He even has a street named in his honor: a portion of 53rd St. in Manhattan was renamed “Jerry Orbach Way” in 2007.

Orbach received more tributes. Law & OrderIt ended its run in 2010. Many praised his mastery on the program. It is incredible to think he was able create such an iconic character while fighting cancer.

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