Vincent D’Onofrio and Dick Wolf on LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT–Is Season 10 a “Swan Song or a Victory Lap?”

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT returns to USA Sunday, May 1 for its tenth and presumptively final season with the original team of Detectives Robert Goren and Alex Eames (Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe) back on the case. NBC Universal Chairman Bonnie Hammer and USA Co-President Jeff Wachtel pitched the idea of this last short stretch of episodes as a way to pay tribute to the show’s fans, something Law & Order uber boss Dick Wolf called “the best creative gesture that has ever been extended to me by any network in 30 years in the business.”

The fact that Goren was fired from the Major Case Squad for insubordination means that reinstating him will be no easy feat, so his redemption will factor heavily into this final eight episodes, hopefully giving them new layers of emotional resonance.

Daemon’s TV was there when Vincent D’Onofrio and Dick Wolf talked about how Vincent feels about playing Goren again, what Goren’s therapy sessions mean for the show, and whether there’s a chance this might not be the last season after all.

On playing Goren again

After joking that he didn’t have to think about coming back as Goren because his wife thought about it for him, Vincent said, “I was really ready after the time off to go back to the feeling, the tone that we had in the first four seasons. You know, I was really ready to do it and, you know, on the first day, you know, they think the first couple of scenes and interrogations. It wasn’t – you know, I just kind of – it was like I put the suit back on and I was rocking, you know. It just felt right. And, you know, the ideas keep coming suddenly again.”

The fact that Vincent both enjoys playing and is genuinely fond of Goren probably helped him get back in the groove. “It’s great to play Goren. It’s a really good character. He’s a – you know, we always talked about him, Dick and I and the original show runner, Rene Balcer as a Sherlock Holmes – a contemporary Sherlock Holmes.”

From what Vincent said, we can expect to see mostly the same Goren that we remember from the early CI seasons. “There’s fast paced, good storytelling, high stake stuff going on with Goren being his usual self that he was back in the day when we started doing this show. He’s thinking on the fly. He’s a bit quirkier than you would expect a major case squad detective to be but he’s coming up with the answers and it’s – so it’s, you know, highly dramatic in that way again.”

On working with Kathryn Erbe

As CI fans know, there is something special about the pairing of Goren and Eames and Vincent clearly feels the same about his work with Kathryn Erbe. “She’s great. You know, we work very well together and, we’re truly at ease with each other, been doing it for a very long time. Her work is exceptional. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing that part. It just works, hands down. It works. It never fails.”

Dick agreed and said, “And Vincent and Katie, there is not a missed stitch. I mean it just feels like, oh, thank God they’re back… I have to tell you, I don’t think Vincent and Katie have been any better ever in the series. I think it’s back to the real power of the first two seasons.”

On Goren’s psychological counseling

Part of the deal negotiated with new captain (and friend of Goren’s since the Academy) Joseph Hannah (Jay O. Sanders) for Goren’s return to the Major Case Squad is that he attend mandated therapy sessions with Dr. Paula Severin (Julia Ormond) According to Dick, those therapy sessions will “answer some questions that have been hanging out there since the first season. I think over the course of the eight episodes you’re going to see something of the redemptive power of psychotherapy as well as a conscious attempt to move Vincent over these eight episodes back to the psychologically complete or more wholesomely complete detective that he was in the first season of the show. I think that as a sub textual theme throughout these episodes it’s really interesting.”

Vincent thinks putting Goren in therapy is a terrific idea. “We’ve shot two of the shrink scenes already with Julia Ormond who’s just amazing in them. – I mean I was just floored by what she was doing. She showed up and did this stuff. And you’re getting an insight into Goren that you would have never gotten unless we did this so it’s very, very interesting stuff. It’s just Dr. Severin and Goren in a room and she’s getting to the bottom of Goren. I think you’re going to learn things, like Dick said, that have been hanging out there for a long time. And, you know, I don’t want to give any of them away, but some of it will be definitely entertaining and surprising I think.”

On the season premiere

Jay Mohr guest stars as a “rock star” fashion designer in the “Rispetto” season premiere, about which Dick said, “I mean the first episode is as good as episodic television gets,” calling Mohr’s performance “quite amazing. He is extraordinarily entertaining in this episode. It’s not outright comedy but it is a larger-than-life character. It’s kind of odd because he is known as a comic and this is a highly dramatic role that a lot of dramatic actors, I think, would have had a very hard time eschewing.”

According to Dick, the title is “the name that inspires a designer for a new line of very expensive dresses. And it’s a play off of the fact that essentially he hadn’t gotten any respect for many years”

Vincent is very happy with the premiere. “I think the aria [fourth act make or break interrogation scene] is really, really good because it’s really, really well acted by the guest star. There are a couple of interrogation scenes that reach back to how good or the best ones have been in Criminal Intent’s history.” Besides applauding Jay Mohr’s performance, Vincent said we should look for Neal Huff (The Wire) because he does “outstanding work.”

On the rest of the season

The scenes between Goren and Dr. Severin begin in the second episode, “The Consoler,” and will continue throughout the season.

Other upcoming guest stars include Neal McDonough, who will play a Monsignor who has many public good works to his credit but is much shadier in private. Jeri Ryan is on board for an episode where she is a former CIA agent who formed an extraordinarily successful private security firm but is hiding a big secret. Andrea Roth and Adrian Pasdar will also be appearing this season.

Vincent says that every episode they’ve shot so far has impressed him. “Dick always told me he can’t knock it out of the park every time but in this eight here, so far I mean, we’re knocking it out.”

On whether this really is the final season

When asked what he would tell the fans about the prospect of another season, Vincent said, “You can tell them that we have the same hope that they have.”

Dick made it clear that this really is supposed to be the last season. “There is no deal [for another season]. This was a one shot as far as USA is concerned. They have announced this is the last season of the show.” Of course, all things in business-and especially show business-are fluid, and Dick knows that USA could easily change its mind, so he made what he called “naked plea” directly to the fans “Being the unbridled optimist that I am, I still have hope that this is a victory lap, not a swan song. We have a date of execution, but it could be stayed. I know that if [CI] outperforms what they think the last season was going to do, they’re going to want more of them; it’s that simple. But people have got to show up.”

For fans to show up to watch, the episodes need to be good, something Dick didn’t see as a problem. “I think that a lot of our old audience is going to sample this when it comes back and if they do they’re not going to be disappointed. I think that based on the work that’s being done and has been done so far I think the audience is going to be very happy, relieved, and welcoming.”

The tenth season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent premieres on USA Sunday, May 1 at 9pm eastern/8 central.

You can read all our Criminal Intent coverage here.

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