Law & Order is saying goodbye to a major star, with the news breaking just one week after the Season 21 finale, which was also the first revival season. The revival was headlined by Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson as the two familiar faces from the original run of the series, but now one is officially not going to be back. Anthony Anderson is not returning as Detective Kevin Bernard for Season 22 despite earlier indications that he would be back.
Anthony Anderson’s initial deal to return as Kevin Bernard was for one season, and Deadline reports that he returned to help relaunch Law & Order with no plans to stay beyond Season 21. Despite this, Season 21 ended without any indication that Anderson wouldn’t be back or that Cosgrove would be in need of a new partner with Bernard gone. It was a finale without any cliffhangers.
All of this said, Anderson celebrated the news of Law & Order’s renewal after the good news was announced earlier in May. He took to Instagram with a message that explicitly said that “Detective Kevin Bernard is right back at ya’ with the whole squad,” complete with congratulations to his “fellow castmates” as well as the crew and production team. It has since been deleted from his account, but originally said:
Whether Anderson simply wasn’t ready to share the news when Law & Order was renewed or it wasn’t until more recently that the decision to depart was finalized, it previously seemed like Bernard was a sure thing for Season 22. There is no sign that he has ruled out returning for a guest appearance, but the matter seems to be settled about him as a regular.
He’s also not the only one who only signed a one-year deal for the revival. Sam Waterston, who plays District Attorney Jack McCoy, also signed a deal for a single season of Law & Order, but there has been no announcement at the time of writing regarding whether or not he’ll be back for Season 22.
Waterston did appear at the upfront presentation for NBC Universal, which was in promotion of programming for next season. It’s not confirmation that McCoy isn’t going the way of Bernard and bowing out, but the signs seem positive. Of course, McCoy isn’t exactly in the thick of the action on location quite as much as Bernard, and his interactions are primarily with Price and Maroun as ADAs.
Anthony Anderson leaving Law & Order means that the investigative half of the series will look very different in Season 22, and viewers will presumably have to see Cosgrove bounce off of a new partner after spending a full season opposite Bernard. Still, if Anderson’s return was with the goal of getting the revival off to a strong start, then the ratings successes and renewal prove that he was part of what made it work.
At the time of writing, none of the other series regulars from Season 21 are evidently expected to leave ahead of Season 22. If you want to relive the first revival season with Anthony Anderson as one of two familiar faces, you can find all ten episodes streaming with a Peacock subscription.