The joy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the wide range of actors it employs. Obviously, they go for A-list talent for the bigger superheroes. But the studio is also good with some veteran character actors in smaller roles.
Many of them have long acting resumes with multiple appearances in movies and TV shows. This means, inevitably, a few have popped up somewhere in the Law and Order franchise.
Quite a few were small roles (such as Krysten Ritter on the mothership series), while others can be witnesses or suspects featured more in an episode.
Some of these roles could be forgettable and only notable now because of the level of fame they have achieved. Yet others were amazing and even famous in Law and Order fandom. It’s telling how some parts showcased the talents these actors later used for movie stardom.
Here are the ten best future MCU stars featured on Law and Order to show how the franchise has a great knack for discovering future talent.
Samuel L. Jackson as a shady lawyer
As hard as it is to believe, even Samuel L. Jackson was an unknown actor once.
The Season 1 Law and Order episode The Violence of Summer is already well known as the first-ever acting credit for future Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yet it also boasts an early credit for Jackson.
It begins as the assault case against a trio of college kids (including Hoffman) falls apart. So the cops and prosecutors have to work together to build a new case.
Jackson plays the trio’s attorney, a slick shyster using his charm and sneaky moves in court to try and get his clients acquitted. Even at this young age, Jackson showed stunning charisma in the role.
For those who knew Jackson as the controlling Nick Fury, it’s amusing seeing him on the other side of the law.
Ming-Na Wen as a tough survivor
Best known for shows like The Mandalorian, Ming-Na had a major role in the Season 6 Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode Debt. The discovery of a Chinese boy wandering alone has the detectives hunting for his mother.
Ming-Na is the boy’s aunt, who is forced to admit her sister was killed for standing up to a local crime boss. His underlings beat her down as a message, but Ming-Na fights back by working with the cops on a sting on the crook.
It was a more emotional role for Ming-Na yet the same toughness that fans of Melinda May would easily get behind.
Winston Duke as a football star on a dark ride
The MCU is good at making changes to the comic book characters. In the comics, M’Baku is one of the Black Panther’s deadliest enemies. The movie turned him into an honorable warrior who aids T’Challa.
Winston Duke was fun in the role with a good sense of humor. Unfortunately, there weren’t many laughs on the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode Gridiron Soldier.
He plays a high school football star who was arrested for a bar brawl during a trip to New York. A combination of hazing and his innocent nature leads to Duke being sent on a dark journey.
The actor was great, showing his player is not a bad guy who made some mistakes. That helped with Duke turning a supposed villain into a hero.
Sebastian Stan as a teenaged sniper
Bucky Barnes supposedly met his end in the first Captain America movie. It would be revealed he became the Winter Soldier, a deadly assassin now fighting for redemption.
Sebastian Stan wasn’t as well known as other actors when cast in the role, so some may have forgotten his earlier television appearance. That included the Season 13 Law and Order episode Sheltered.
When a series of deadly sniper attacks hit New York, the cops are fast to find the culprit. It leads to a man and his teenage son, played by Stan who killed a few innocent people to cover up his true target.
Things get complicated when a revelation is made on Stan’s character and the actor is fantastic as this very troubled young man driven into a dark place. That almost appeared a dry run for his later turn as the Winter Soldier.
Corey Stoll as a leading cop
There are rumors that the upcoming Ant-Man: Quantaumania may have the return of Corey Stoll as the villainous Yellowjacket.
Stoll is the only MCU actor who had a regular leading role on a Law and Order series. He played Detective Tomas Jaruszalski on the short-lived Law and Order: LA.
Jaruszalski had a lot of energy in the part, known for his wisecracks and a sardonic view of life in Los Angeles. He was shaken by the loss of a partner but still determined to see justice done.
The series is better known for its huge creative shake-ups in a failed bid to stall cancellation, but Stoll was compelling as a reason this spin-off still had the Law and Order flavor.
Mike Colter had three dark roles
Currently starring on Paramount Network’s supernatural thriller Evil, Mike Colter rose to fame in the title role of the Netflix show Luke Cage.
Colter is among the actors who can boast appearances on three different Law and Order series. In Law and Order: Trial By Jury’s Blue Wall, Colter is one of several police officers on trial for the death of a man in police custody.
In the Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode Albatross, Colter plays the chauffeur of a congressman whose husband is wounded in the recreation of a historic duel. He turns out to have far more involvement in the case than it seems.
Colter’s biggest role was on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’s Hell as a wanted war criminal hiding in New York. He has a fight with Stabler and is vicious in his trial.
All three roles are much different than Colter’s heroic Luke Cage part.
Chadwick Boseman as a ruthless crime king
It’s still hard to believe that Chadwick Boseman has been gone for almost a year. The actor became an icon as the Black Panther to the point Marvel won’t even recast him for the sequel.
Before his rise to fame, Boseman had several TV appearances. That included the Law and Order mothership Season 14 episode Can I Get A Witness?
When a boy is killed in a park, the cops realize this is tied into Foster Keyes (Boseman), a drug dealer who eliminates any witnesses against him.
Boseman is chilling in the part, confident even with the evidence against him, and it gets harder when other witnesses refuse to testify out of fear.
Shockingly, Keyes walks because of the lack of evidence for the jury. Seeing Boseman as a bad guy who wins is truly surprising with his later heroic roles in movies and TV shows.
Anthony Mackie as a shady reporter
A Law and Order appearance was only natural for Mackie, but it wasn’t on the main mothership series. Rather, it was the Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode Prvada.
Mackie played Carl Hines, a reporter whose girlfriend is murdered. He’s at first upset, but the cops become suspicious, especially as evidence mounts that Hines was plagiarizing all his work.
Mackie handled the role well, especially with Glynn Truman as his father arguing his son is targeted for his race. Obviously, there’s a huge twist as Mackie showed a more sinister side than his heroic Falcon character.
Michael B. Jordan as a boxer convict
Michael B. Jordan broke out huge as the villain Killmonger, who actually came off sympathetic to audiences in Black Panther.
Jordan had been a rising star for some time, so it was obvious he would be on Law and Order. It was in the Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode Inhumane Society.
It was a typical “ripped from the headlines” case based on the Michael Vick scandal. Jordan played a rising boxing star who had gone to jail for running a dogfighting ring.
Upon his release, Jordan wants to hit the comeback trail. When some guys involved in his ring turn up dead, he’s the prime suspect.
It soon comes out that it was someone else, but Jordan was terrific, showing the anger in the man and the attempt to rebuild his life, the same qualities that served him well in his career.
Mahershala Ali as a monster attacker
A veteran TV actor with scores of credits, Mahershala Ali has risen high as a two-time Oscar winner. His experiences in the MCU include playing the wicked Cottonmouth on Luke Cage and he will be portraying vampire hunter Blade.
In the Law and Order Special Victims Unit episode Unstable, the detectives realize that a recent assault is proof that an innocent man was put in jail for a decade.
They track down the true perpetrator, played by Ali. His performance is terrifying, with him gloating over what he did without openly confessing to it.
It leads to a heartbreaking conclusion where the man escapes justice. Given some of his heroic roles on TV and in movies, it was shocking to see Ali playing such a vile criminal.
Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Law and Order: Criminal Intent all streaming on Peacock.