Actor Steven Hill became mainstay of 'Law & Order' series

Hill starred as district attorney Adam Schiff on the long-running NBC program 'Law & Order' as well as appearing in other programs such as 'Mission Impossible' and on Broadway in productions including 'The Country Girl.'

Jessica Burstein/NBC/AP
Steven Hill appears on an episode of 'Law & Order' in 1998.

Steven Hill, an actor who is likely most familiar to viewers for his role as district attorney Adam Schiff on the long-running NBC TV show “Law & Order,” has died.

Mr. Hill also appeared for one season as Daniel Briggs on the TV show “Mission: Impossible." 

Hill starred on “Law & Order” from 1990 to 2000.

“Steven was not only one of the truly great actors of his generation, he was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met,” "Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf told the Associated Press. “He is also the only actor I’ve known who consistently tried to cut his own lines.” 

Hill became the actor from the original ensemble to have appeared longest on the show. He also appeared in such films as “The Firm,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” and “Heartburn” as well as appearing in Broadway productions of “The Country Girl” and “A Far Country,” among other work.

The show on which Hill appeared for so long, “Law & Order,” of course became a huge hit for NBC, with the original program airing from 1990 to 2010 and becoming the source for multiple spin-offs, including the still-on-the-air program “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

What caused the series to become popular?

TV Guide writer Sadie Gennis writes that the stories on the “Law & Order” shows are easy to guess in a good way.

“The ‘Law and Order’ franchise is known for its last-minute twists, but even these fit into a set of easily recognizable patterns,” Ms. Gennis writes. “Do you spot a celebrity guest star? They did it. Was the perp arrested in the first 15 minutes? They didn't do it.... No matter the episode or how many twists it may feature, it never strays too far from the formula.” 

And New York Times writer Charles McGrath points out that with few overarching plots, viewers can turn on an episode without worrying about having seen the previous ones. “The original episode, like almost every one that has followed, was entirely self-contained, with no loose ends, no continuing plot threads,” Mr. McGrath writes of the show. “This is the key to the Wolfian philosophy – stand-alone episodes that can be rerun over and over.... You don't have to worry about keeping track of the back story – the details of the characters' personal lives, as you do on '’N.Y.P.D. Blue,’ say – because there is none.”

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