The Richest Law & Order Stars Might Surprise You

Since its debut in 1990, "Law & Order" has claimed its spot as one of the most successful and longest-running legal dramas. Spanning three decades, the critically acclaimed show not only snagged multiple awards, but also spawned seven spinoffs to carry on its legacy. The franchise easily toppled its competition, as "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" pulled in 90 million viewers per week (via Forbes). What the outlet described as the most "lucrative TV deal in history" saw the creator, Dick Wolf, landing a $1.6 billion deal with NBC for three of his shows.

With all of the show's success, it's hard to imagine that its illustrious cast members aren't seeing a healthy sum of cash. But that begs the question: Which cast member made the most money? While we could include Wolf (with a net worth of $600 million), he's not necessarily in the show. What about guest stars like Robin Williams and Elizabeth Banks? Nope, we can't count them either, since they weren't part of the main cast. 

The regulars on the show have more money than you may think. From Mariska Hargitay's colossal net worth of $100 million to Christopher Meloni's impressive $30 million, here are some of the richest "Law & Order" stars that may surprise you.

Tamara Tunie: $8 million

In addition to attorney Jessica Griffin in "As the World Turns" and the assistant regional director Alberta Green in "24," Tamara Tunie is well-known for her role as medical examiner Melinda Warner in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Although she isn't a doctor, she does play one on television. Luckily for the actress, her portrayal struck a chord with those who are actually in that line of work. During her appearance on "The Jason Show," Tunie revealed that a couple — who both teach forensics at Columbia University — stated that she's "making them look good." Starring in over 100 episodes (18 seasons), Tunie's success throughout the show has contributed to her $8 million in net worth.

Tunie's acting prowess isn't unnoticed, as her role in "As the World Turns" netted her two NAACP Image Award nominations and two Soap Opera Digest Award nominations (via her website). In addition, she has worked alongside legends like Al Pacino in "The Devil's Advocate," Samuel L. Jackson in "Eve's Bayou," and Denzel Washington in "Flight."

Tunie has also had a hand in directing. According to her website, her first feature film was "See You In September," which starred Justin Kirk and Estella Warren. Her seemingly endless resume demonstrates why she's worth so much. Since Tumie's departure from Law & Order in 2015, the actress has landed full-time acting gigs in "Blue Bloods" and "Almost Family."

Raúl Esparza: $9 million

Raúl Esparza's 19-year-long career paid off, as he was cast as the matter-of-fact assistant district attorney Rafael Barba for the 14th season of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." His appearance throughout the illustrious franchise has contributed to his $9 million net worth, as he spent a total of six seasons on the show. 

Esparza's role in "SVU" was the result of years of persistence and determination. Despite facing adversity early on, he ultimately became one of Broadway's leading men throughout the 2000s, starring in several plays over the last two decades (via the actor's website). Aside from Barba, Esparza is also known as the pharmaceutical salesman Alfredo Aldarisio in "Pushing Daisies," the pompous Dr. Frederick Chilton in "Hannibal," and the voice of the well-mannered mouse Ralph Stilton in "BoJack Horseman." 

For all the success Esparza has gained through his portrayal of an ADA, the Delaware-native actor seemingly grew out of the role and departed from the show in 2018. "The learning process of how roles grow over a period of time with a series has been kind of fascinating," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I just felt I had reached the end of what I wanted to explore where they were writing." Since his departure, Esparaza has been starring in plays like "Chess," "The Waves," "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui," "Road Show," and "Scared."

Dann Florek: $10 million

Notoriously known as the veteran-slash-homicide detective Captain Donald Cragen in "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Dann Florek has blessed our TV screens for over three decades. His character displayed a blend of hardiness and dedication that most higher-ups in legal dramas rarely achieve. With Florek appearing in close to 400 episodes — earning $100,000 per episode — it's easy to see how his net worth reached $10 million.

Florek's prior acting gigs likely contributed to him becoming one of the longest-running characters on the show. Although acting wasn't his first choice, a drama scholarship was enough to shift the math and physics major to an actor in training, per IMDb. Following a brief stint at The Juilliard School, Florek moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting dreams. During his time there, the Michigan-native actor found work in series like "21 Jump Street," "Beverly Hill Buntz," "Hill Street Blues," "Matlock," and "The Equalizer." 

While his sudden departure from the show in 2014 left fans confused, it was for good reason, as the actor had reached the New York Police Department's retirement age (via Outsider). For the sake of maintaining realism within the show, Florek stepped down from his role. Aside from appearing in "Under the Dome" and "Disillusioned" — and even briefly reviving his role in "Law & Order: Organized Crime" — the actor has been taking it easy and enjoying his $10 million fortune.

Camryn Manheim: $12 million

In 1993, Camryn Manheim was just a "snot-nosed kid right out of graduate school" when she got her first acting gig on "Law & Order" (via E! Insider). After she appeared in the earlier seasons on three different occasions, the show's long-awaited return in 2022 saw Manheim finally getting a recurring role as commanding officer lieutenant Kate Dixon.

What Manheim described as a "full-circle moment" came after years of working in the acting world. Outside of her work on "Law & Order," she is best known as the strong-willed lawyer Ellenor Frutt in the Boston-based legal drama "The Practice," a role that earned her several award nominations. Manheim also found success as Delia Banks in "Ghost Whisperer," Kristina in the dark comedy "Happiness," and Gladys Presley in the 2005 biopic "Elvis" (via IMDb). 

It's safe to say Manheim's work outside of the "Law & Order" universe has heavily contributed to her $12 million net worth. Now that she's a regular, we can properly welcome her into the "Law & Order" family, while respecting the fact that she's already among some of the richest to have a recurring role on the show.

Vincent D'Onofrio: $14 million

Vincent D'Onofrio spent his earlier years funding his career through jobs as a bouncer, bodyguard, and delivery man (via Biography). Although most of his gigs at the time were primarily in theater work, the "actor's actor" eventually found work as an unhinged soldier in the war film "Full Metal Jacket." There, he showed a level of versatility that broke him into the world of acting. D'Onofrio found success playing Gordon in "Dying Young," Edgar in "Men in Black," and Robert E. Howard in "The Whole Wide World" (via IMDb). Despite his earlier work, he is best known for his portrayal of the fierce yet earnest detective Robert Goren in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

Although the actor found great success outside of "Law & Order," it's hard to imagine him attaining his $14 million fortune without the help of the New York-based legal drama. According to D'Onofrio, the opportunity almost slipped through his hands, as he revealed in Dax Shepard's podcast, "Armchair Expert," that he couldn't fathom appearing in a recurring TV series (via Uproxx). "You're never home," he told Shepard. "You never see your wife. You don't have any friendships except with people on the set. You're doing 23 episodes and working 18 hours a day." Luckily, the versatile actor agreed to play the part. As a result, his 10-season stint with the series has contributed to his hefty net worth.

Richard Belzer: $16 million

Richard Belzer's talent in humor allowed him to find success as a comedian-slash-TV personality well before becoming the cynical district attorney investigator we all know and love. Aside from hosting his own television show in 1984 — on which he famously got choked out by professional wrestler Hulk Hogan — Belzer made regular appearances on "The Howard Stern Show." As Belzer described in an interview, Barry Levinson reached out to the former comedian and brought him in to read for detective John Munch. Originally, the character was created for the show "Homicide: Life on the Street." Due to the character's success, the conspiracy-loving investigator was implemented into "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Belzer believes that his personality meshes with Detective Munch's. "I would never be a detective," he stated in an interview with Pop Goes the Culture TV. "But if I were, that's how I'd be." His strong "dissonance toward establishments" made the character believable and also beloved among the "Law & Order" viewers. The character's success found Belzer reprising his role in appearances on "The X-Files," "The Wire," "Arrested Development," and "30 Rock." It's safe to say that his illustrious career — from comedy to crime — has earned him a fortune, as Belzer is sitting pretty with a $16 million net worth.

Peter Hermann: $20 million

Before acting, Peter Hermann was a Yale graduate turned high-school teacher. According to People, his English teaching gig was part of the Teach for America program, in which he worked his educating muscle before becoming the show's longest-running defense attorney. Hermann's debut as Trevor Langan in Season 3 of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" saw him portray an expensive yet down-to-earth defense attorney who displayed a sense of morality. Although the character was rich in civility, Langan's appearances throughout the show were few and far between — he only appeared in 35 episodes throughout the entire series (via IMDb).

Even so, Hermann became one of the highest-earning actors on the show. While he is married to the richest actress from the legal drama, Mariska Hargitay, Hermann's accomplishments speak for themselves, as he is worth $20 million. As an actor, Hermann is well-known as Michael Burke in "Guiding Light," Jack Boyle in "Blue Bloods," and Charles Brooks in "Younger." As if that wasn't enough, Hermann is also a well-known writer. Similar to his character Charles Brooks, the German-American actor published his first children's book in 2018, titled "If the S in Moose Comes Loose" (via People). "I have a whole bunch of ideas," he said. "Now that one of them has made it out of the factory, the other ones are like, 'Wait a second! What about me? My turn!' I'm very happy that there are more ideas, and I'm writing away."

Anthony Anderson: $25 million

Anthony Anderson's bumbling personality may seem like it doesn't fit the "Law & Order" universe, but the multifaceted actor proved otherwise through his role as the junior-turned-senior detective Kevin Bernard. Before starring in ABC's "Black-ish," he was well-known for his appearance in comedies. Anderson's track record in films ranges from "Big Momma's House," "Me, Myself, and Irene," "Barbershop," and "Kangaroo Jack." Although the Compton-native actor believes that "comedy is second nature to him," (via IMDb), he doesn't steer away from serious roles, like Junior Slocumb in "Kingdom Come" and T.K. Johnson in "Exit Wounds." His role in the 2006 crime film "The Departed" may have caught the attention of "Law & Order" creators, as Anderson was introduced in its 18th season in 2008.

Anderson's initial stint on the show saw him appear in 49 episodes up until 2010. In 2022, he came back to play detective Kevin Bernard for 11 episodes before his abrupt departure. According to Entertainment Tonight, Anderson — who not only starred in but executively produced "Black-ish" — left the show because he wanted to "create more shows he has ownership in." "We're going out and pitching another drama called 'Miraculous,' which I'm excited about," he stated. "So looking forward to what that's going to do."

Although his run within the series felt brief, Anderson's career outside of the legal drama is thriving, as he's earned an impressive net worth of $25 million and climbing.

Christopher Meloni: $30 million

As an ambitious actor, Christopher Meloni funded his career through a variety of odd jobs — from bartending and bouncing to waiting tables and fitness training — in hopes of making it big (via Page Six). Although his first acting gig didn't end well, Meloni spent the earlier part of the '90s starring in whatever he could to get by. Ultimately, he attained a breakout role in the HBO series "Oz" in 1997 (via IMDb). His portrayal of the bisexual serial killer Chris Keller catapulted him into becoming the rugged detective Elliot Stabler in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Meloni has admitted that being cast for the role was both a gift and a curse (via Men's Health). "When my career started to happen, I could feel it," he told the publication. "But I didn't want to trust it, because I had struggled for so long — or at least it felt like I'd struggled for so long — and I didn't want it to go away." Luckily, the actor stayed around for 12 seasons — 300 episodes — and even reprised his role in 2020.

Throughout his time on the show, Meloni racked up $350,000 to $400,000 per episode (via IMDb). In addition to his work outside of "Law & Order," Meloni's successful career has him sitting pretty with a $30 million net worth.

Edie Falco: $50 million

"Law & Order: True Crime" — a miniseries that covered the horrifying case of the Menendez Brothers — was released in 2017. Through this, we got to see the former "Sopranos" actress, Edie Falco, make her way into the "Law & Order" universe playing the fierce defense attorney, Leslie Abramson. Based on the actual Los Angeles lawyer who defended Erik Menendez, Falco described her in an interview as an "unpopular woman" due to her having to defend guilty suspects. The creators of the legal drama seemed to draw on Falco's expertise in playing a character with distorted morals, since her role as Carmela Soprano is strikingly similar to that of the real-life lawyer.

Although Falco had a brief stint with "Law & Order" — only appearing in eight episodes — the actress is well-known for her work elsewhere. Aside from "The Sopranos," she made recurring appearances on shows like "Oz," "30 Rock," "Nurse Jackie," and "Horace and Pete." Falco seemingly became intrigued by the world of crime shows, as she went on to play Abigail "Tommy" Thomas in "Tommy" and Hilary Clinton in "American Crime Story" (via IMDb). While her work outside of "Law & Order" may have contributed more to her $50 million net worth, her brief, recurring role easily made her one of the richest cast members to date.

Ice-T: $65 million

Would you turn down the chance of being a regular on a hit crime show? According to Jersey native Ice-T, he would've been stupid not to accept. Initially, the rapper-turned-actor was cast as the bare-faced detective Odafin Tutuola for four episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." However, he quickly became part of the main cast due to the flexible schedule, the steady check, and, of course, his acting skills. "You think because I am a rapper I should have turned this down? That would have been stupid," he told Page Six. "I am about getting that check."

With Ice-T appearing in about 500 episodes (via IMDb), the successful rapper seamlessly transitioned into the second most notable character on the show. In the acting world, Ice-T reprised his role as Detective Fin in shows like "30 Rock" and "Chicago P.D." He also did voiceover work for "American Dad" and the popular first-person shooter video game "Borderlands 3." Thanks in part to his outside ventures — like his reality show (Ice Loves Coco), his podcast, and commercials (Cheerios, Tide, etc.) — Ice-T's net worth is estimated to be around $65 million.

Mariska Hargitay: $100 million

As the child of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, Mariska Hargitay had big shoes to fill — and boy, did she! She spent the last two decades gracing our TV screens as Olivia Benson in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." While the show tackled several sensitive topics, such as sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence, Hargitay's portrayal of the intuitive and empathetic commanding officer opened her eyes to an underlying passion: to help those who have survived these unfortunate events to heal (via the Joyful Heart Foundation).

Before her work on "Law & Order," the UCLA alumni found work throughout the '80s and '90s starring in series such as "Downtown," "Falcon Crest," "Tequila and Bonetti," "Can't Hurry Love," "ER," and "Prince Street" (via IMDb). Despite her seemingly successful career, Hargitay had her own set of financial woes before her introduction into the legal drama. "I had a house and car I didn't want to lose, and I had a lot of credit card debt," she told Outsider. 

Luckily, Hargitay went on to become one of the show's richest cast members. As the longest-running female character in a TV drama, she's appeared in over 500 episodes, with her salary reaching $500,000 per episode. The debt Hargitay accumulated before her big break should be long gone by now, as her net worth sits at $100 million.