Chris Noth returns to the cast for a two-hour movie

So much for holding grudges: Chris Noth, who was dismissed from the cast of NBC’s “Law & Order” by creator and executive producer Dick Wolf after the ’94-’95 season, resurrects his role as Detective Mike Logan this fall in a two-hour NBC movie based on the show, appropriately titled “Exiled.” Noth not only stars in the film, which began production in New York City last week, but codeveloped its story. (“Exiled” also includes series regulars Benjamin Bratt, Jerry Orbach, and Sam Waterston, with guest spots by Dabney Coleman and Ice-T.)

The return of Noth, 41, was unexpected, considering that his replacement Bratt (Det. Rey Curtis) was chosen to play a younger partner for Orbach’s character, Detective Lennie Briscoe. Even before being fired, Noth was publicly critical of the show’s creator Wolf and his revolving-door tactics with the cast. (“Law & Order” dismissed six stars in its first five seasons.) In a 1995 interview with EW, Noth said, “I think I’ve been a thorn in his side. I’ve been very outspoken about the cast changes and the direction of the show.”

This season, “Law & Order” proved to be a solid performer for NBC, ranking 24th overall in the Nielsen ratings. Even so, its 14 million average weekly viewers represents a 15% slide from last season. “It’s a bit surprising that Noth would be brought back in a TV movie since he was basically kicked off the show,” observes EW TV critic Bruce Fretts. “But his character was the heart and soul of ‘Law & Order,’ so Dick Wolf must have realized he made a mistake when he got rid of him.” — Gary Eng Walk

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