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Julia Roberts Plays Strictly by the Rules of 'Law & Order'

April 25, 1999|GREG BRAXTON

NEW YORK — During the last nine seasons of NBC's "Law & Order," there have been 7,000 speaking roles, give or take a few, according to show creator Dick Wolf's count.

But it's the role being played by a particular "pretty woman" in the 200th episode of the drama that has Wolf floating on a cloud.

When it comes down to it, there's something about Julia.

Julia Roberts is adding even more interest to the heavily promoted episode of the drama with her portrayal of a "high-class escort" who becomes involved with a murder.

"We've had so many great people appearing on the show, everyone from Samuel L. Jackson to William Macy, but Julia is really the ultimate," Wolf said. He is more than aware that just having Roberts on the episode will almost guarantee a huge audience, including many who have never seen "Law & Order."

Of course, it's more than good luck. The actress is a longtime fan of the show, and she is dating the drama's co-star, Benjamin Bratt.

But her guest shot on "Law & Order" has almost overshadowed the series' milestone. The set was closed to the media and outside observers while she was filming, and she is declining to do any interviews connected with the show, though she will promote two of her films opening this summer.

In the episode, Det. Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Det. Curtis (Bratt) investigate the fatal heart attack of a New York City corporate mogul caused by an overdose of a sexual performance-enhancing drug. The mogul, who is married, has also been seen in the company of an aggressive fund-raiser (Roberts), and Curtis winds up putting his professional and personal life on the line when he has to take the stand against her.

Just a few days before Roberts arrived on the set to film her scenes, an obvious buzz and tension were already in the air. There was some apprehension about how the star would react to the cast and crew, and vice versa.

"There were those who thought she would be the 800-pound gorilla. But she could not have been more courteous," said executive producer Ed Sherin.

Roberts approached producers last year about doing a guest turn. A script was developed with her in mind, but Roberts was not pleased with the result at first.

"She told us, 'This is not the 'Law & Order' that I know,' and she was absolutely right," Sherin said. "It was outside the feel of the show, and she was the first to spot it."

This will be Roberts' third appearance on network television since becoming one of film's most popular and highly paid actresses. She was a guest star on "Friends" in 1996, and she also did a turn on last year's finale of "Murphy Brown."

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