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'Law & Order' cancellation hurts actors

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Kai Ryssdal: Bad news for devotees of a certain television show. NBC is ending "Law & Order." The network announced today that the police-courtroom drama is going to air its last episode on May 24th. It's been on the air for 20 years. Some "Law & Order" spinoffs will remain on the air, including a new one based in Los Angeles called LOLA -- "Law & Order Los Angeles." But for actors in New York City, today's news is most unwelcome.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports.


JEREMY HOBSON: Sometimes it seems like you can't walk down the street in certain areas of New York City without coming across a crew filming an episode of "Law & Order."

The city says the version of the show that's being canceled employs 4,000 New Yorkers. Think actors, grips, costume makers, even the people who feed the crew.

Today's news is especially tough on actors like Ivan Quintanilla who once appeared as a florist in an episode of the show.

IVAN QUINTANILLA: What you make in a week or two weeks doing a theater job, you can make that in one day. And then on top of that, you add residuals, which is a wonderful thing for actors, and you can end up making a nice chunk of money off one episode.

Just a few lines, he says, can earn an actor enough to pay a month's rent.

Quintanilla says that's a paycheck that's hard to come by in the Big Apple.

QUINTANILLA: There are not that many opportunities for television. "The Sopranos" was huge, "Ugly Betty" came and went in a year, and "Law & Order" really is important in employing a lot of actors.

Deborah Dixon is executive director of The Actors Studio, a large nonprofit organization where New York actors often gather between jobs. She says at least a quarter of the group's members have been in "Law & Order" episodes.

DEBORAH DIXON: You start counting the number of faces that you see in every single scene, in every single shot. It gives you the sense of the magnitude of how many actors that they have kept afloat.

She says NBC's decision to kill off the show will mean unwelcome drama in a lot of actors' lives.

DIXON: There are gonna be more hungry actors on the street. It's going to have a devastating effect.

The city estimates the local economy will take a $79 million hit without the show.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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