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Image: Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Marco Grob  /  USA Network
Kathryn Erbe, who plays Det. Alexandra Eames, and Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays Det. Robert Goren, are still trying to understand the cancellation of their long-running show "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
updated 6/24/2011 1:07:42 PM ET 2011-06-24T17:07:42

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent" star Vincent D'Onofrio didn't mince words.

"It's odd," he said when asked about the decision to cancel the long-running police procedural. "The fact that we had so many viewers, more than other cable shows, it's odd to see the show end."

It's an assessment the actor shares with fans of the long-running series. "They don't understand. It's all very interesting," D'Onofrio told Today. "You never know what's going to happen in this business."

After 10 seasons and nearly 200 episodes on two networks (NBC and later, USA), "CI" officially comes to a close Sunday night. For D'Onofrio, who played the quirky and complex Det. Robert Goren, the demise of the legal drama is still something of a shock. "There is no obvious reason," he said of the show's end.

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Kathryn Erbe, who starred as Goren's partner, Det. Alexandra Eames, echoed the sentiment. "The show was doing so well, we are happy to be here and the fans so obviously overwhelmingly supported us. Who knows?" she told TODAY of the cancellation.

Stars couldn't save 'Criminal Intent'

Prior to D'Onofrio and Erbe's return this season (both of their characters were written off at the start of season nine), the show had been falling in the ratings. Season nine averaged 3.6 million viewers, which was down from about 5 million in season seven, which was the first year the show aired on USA. 

Since its debut in 2001, "CI" stood apart from the rest of the "Law & Order" franchise, primarily because of the two main characters who — working the Major Case Squad — pursued and ultimately outwitted psychopaths, serial killers and assorted villains.

Erbe said both she and D'Onofrio brought out the best in each other as their roles as Eames and Goren.

"He and I really work well together, we balance each other well," she said. "We really got enormous pride out of turning an informational scene into something more. We're both emotionally complicated people and we're emotionally invested in what's going on, and it comes across.

"I think we both respected each other, "D'Onofrio said of his on-screen partner. "She's such a great actress."

D'Onofrio also credited his character's "cerebral" quality with connecting with the audience. "The trick was to create a modern day Sherlock Holmes, and every scene to show a duality of his work and emotional state," he said of his role as Goren. "That as the task, to show his dedication to his work and his state of mind. And that's Sherlock Holmes."

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As for the future of "CI" both actors are keeping their fingers crossed. "The way we did the last show, we didn't say goodbye," D'Onofrio said. "We say goodbye for now. So you never know."

"Maybe there will be more," Erbe added.

Watch: Sneak peek of the series finale

D'Onofrio and Erbe did have a personal message they wanted to give to the fans who have tuned in since 2001.

"Thanks for sticking with me for all those years," D'Onofrio told Today. "I am not your typical actor. The best part of my fans understood what I was doing as an actor and the role that I was playing and that's what made it special."

Erbe wanted the viewers to know that she was thankful "from the bottom of my heart."

"Their support is what made (the show) happen and made it possible," she said. "And we are all incredibly grateful and we hope that we will make some more, but until then just know that we are really, deeply filled with gratitude."

Will you miss "Criminal Intent"? Which "L&O" spin-off do you think was best? Tell us on the Facebook page for our TV blog, The Clicker!

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Behind the scenes at ‘Law & Order’

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  1. A closer look

    Fans have been watching detectives and lawyers roam the squad room and courtroom and boardroom halls of the “Law & Order” set for nearly 20 years now, but there’s rarely a chance to truly inspect these walls, which would surely have much to say if they could speak.

    Take a trip with production designer Gary Weist through the industrial-green corridors and wood-paneled walls of the show's set, which is housed at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. -- Randee Dawn

    (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 27th Precinct squad room

    These are the desks for the lead detectives on the show; currently that’s Detectives Lupo and Bernard. According to Weist, the squad room set has virtually gone unaltered since the start of the show. “(Creator) Dick Wolf does not want the squad room touched, he told me that,” he said. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Judge’s bench, courtroom

    Here come the judge, and this is where he -- or she -- sits. Weist has lost count of how many nameplates they have for judges, and notes that a doorway to the left of the judge’s bench leads to a finished corridor in the courthouse used in select scenes. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jury box, courtroom

    Here’s where the jury will sit for every trial, in seats that are guilty of looking pretty darned uncomfortable. But the jury isn’t always in every time a courtroom scene is in session.

    The wall behind the jury panel can be removed to allow for different camera angles, and there isn’t always a need to have the actors in place if they’re not being filmed.

    “We’ve done a lot of changes in the courtroom over the years,” Weist said. “We use this place for arraignment and other courts, so it has to have a lot of different looks.” () Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The morgue

    If the morgue tables look familiar here, it probably means you were a fan of “Oz.” Weist worked for the HBO show and when it shuttered, he bought the tables for “L&O.” When he joined the show eight years ago, this was one set he completely revamped, expanding it and adding a desk for the medical examiner.

    To the right of the morgue are some Venetian blinds that cover the “morgue boxes,” ostensibly for bodies. Open the right one and you’ll get a view of the Hudson River. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Plaque for the fallen, courthouse

    This list is meant to indicate individuals who are no longer with the justice system. After Jerry Orbach’s (Lennie Briscoe) death in 2004, his name was also added.

    “It’s not something you’ll ever see on TV, it’s just a lovely idea,” Weist said. Along those lines: The late Gregory Hines, who appeared in 2003, has a plaque on the courtroom floor dedicated to him for a tap dance he did one time when he arrived on the set. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. District attorney’s conference room

    Weist is behind the revamp of the district attorney offices, which are modeled on New York County’s real-life Hogan Place DA digs.

    “Before, this was a real white-shoe looking law place, and the real Hogan Place space looks more like this, chaotic and paperwork everywhere,” Weist said. They ditched the law books “because everyone uses Westlaw online now,” he added. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Hallway, 27th Precinct squad room

    While the soda machine “maybe” works -- “we’ve gotten sodas out of it on the show,” Weist said -- for a long time not many of the electronic devices around the station house really functioned. Now that the show shoots on digital video, and computers use LCD screens, the machines can function, up to a point.

    "There used to be light boxes because every time in the past before the advent of LCD screens and before we went to shooting video on the Genesis system you’d get a roll bar, and you’d have to sync all those CRTs to the camera," Weist explained. "We shoot at a different frame rate per second, and it was very time consuming and an elaborate problem for computers. As soon as we switched to LCD screens, they all run off a server wirelessly and we put on them whatever we want them to do."

    And as for that staircase, it doesn’t really go anywhere, though it’s meant to leave the impression that there are more cops just upstairs. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lt. Anita Van Buren’s desk, 27th Precinct

    She’s been at this desk for 17 years, but not much has changed in all that time. Actress S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Van Buren, has never asked Weist to change her office. “The only changes now are we gave her an updated computer and a TV in her office, since she watches a lot of surveillance video and news there,” he said. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. District Attorney Jack McCoy’s office

    “Boy, what a mess!” Weist said. But that’s intentional, because actor Sam Waterston (McCoy) helped keep it more in his style, rather than that of McCoy’s predecessor, Arthur Branch (formerly played by Fred Thompson).

    The couch from McCoy’s office from when he was an ADA was relocated, as was his coat rack. “He wanted to look like a real working DA,” Weist said. “We made it more like him.” (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. District attorney’s offices, elevator bank

    Fans of the show will recognize at least some of the names, but the others will be an unsolved mystery. Weist said they’re all names that have been “cleared” by the legal department, and it reflects the low-key Hogan Place style. It isn’t the case here, but Weist added that “on other lists, often we use names of the crew.” (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Backstage

    Behind the walls of justice sit tons of unused equipment, often kept in wheeled bins like the ones shown here.

    Both “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” use space at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers’ Silver Screen Studios for their interior shots. “L&O” has more than 20,000 square feet of sound stage space on stages A and B and the North Stage. That includes space for dressing rooms, places to build sets, store wardrobe, and hair and makeup rooms. () Back to slideshow navigation
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