A dozen past and present “Law & Order” stars gathered Wednesday to mark the start of the show’s 20th year.
The event was held at the familiar courtroom set of the NBC series, which now ties “Gunsmoke” from a generation ago as TV’s longest-running drama.
Former regulars including Benjamin Bratt, Angie Harmon, Jesse L. Martin and Carey Lowell joined Anthony Anderson, Alana De La Garza and other members of the current ensemble.
Also on hand was Steve Zirnkilton, whose sonorous voice is heard each week declaring, “In the criminal justice system ...”
Sam Waterston, who began on “Law & Order” in 1994, said the series, whose scripts take their cue from actual occurrences, would never run out of material.
“The story pool is inexhaustible because it’s the news,” said Waterston. “You can’t wear the news out.”
Jill Hennessy, who appeared on the series for three seasons ending in 1996 and went on to star in her own successful series, “Crossing Jordan,” said being back on the set stirs memories.
“I think about how much I miss this place,” she said. “I wish I could come back and just do a couple of small scenes — anything!”
Linus Roache, who joined the show last year, said “Law & Order” represents a community as much as a cast.
“It’s great that, in a way, once you’ve been part of it, you’ll always be part of it,” he said. “Part of the show’s attraction is all this history.”
The series, which began its historic run in September 1990, has not only persevered but also spawned two long-running spinoffs.
“Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf said he hopes the show will be back next fall, when it can claim sole ownership of the endurance record.
“I hope we’ll see you here in 2013,” he added.
The season premiere is Friday at 8 p.m. EDT.