Dick Wolf on Law & Order: LA's 'Bold' Revamp: 'The Proof Is In the Pudding' - Will You Watch?

When NBC’s Law & Order: LA resumes its freshman run Monday at 9/8c, the look and feel will be so different, “I’d almost call it Law & Order: LA 2.0,” says franchise boss Dick Wolf. In fact, Wolf deems the double episodes airing next week “better than anything we did in the first 13…. Frankly, the proof is in the pudding.”

What all has changed? More like: What hasn’t? In the first new hour, Skeet Ulrich’s Detective Rex Winters is written out of the series, paving the way for Alfred Molina’s Ricardo Morales to transition to homicide detective, a job he held prior to joining the District Attorney’s office.

“Sometimes someone has to die so that everyone else can live,” Wolf says of Ulrich’s extraction. “It was a very, very painful call to make.” Additionally, Regina Hall and Megan Boone have left the series.

With Morales on the streets, partnered with Corey Stoll’s Detective TJ Jaruszalski, Terrence Howard’s Deputy DA Joe Dekker figures into every episode — and will be joined by Law & Order alumna Alana de la Garza, reprising her role of Connie Rubirosa.

Noting that de la Garza was “well-loved by the mothership audience,” Wolf says, “The opportunity to put her in was too good to pass up.”

“This is a very bold, very audacious step,” Molina said of his increased presence. “But on a personal level, I was very thrilled by the idea, because I love working.”

“Although the one-episode-on/one-episode-off regime was very luxurious,” he adds with a chuckle, “I felt like I was missing out on something. I just hope the audience is as enthusiastic as we are!”

Why didn’t Law & Order: LA get things so right the first go-round? Wolf says he was originally presented with a plan that had the original Law & Order bowing out with a final salvo of episodes in fall 2010, setting the table for LOLA‘s debut. But when the mothership instead got canceled wholesale last spring, “We were very much in a breakneck race to get [LOLA] on the fall schedule in time.” And having never shot a proper pilot, “This was basically a transition at 60 miles-per-hour, which is never the first choice.”