The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

Dylan McDermott reinvents modern gangster on 'Law & Order'

Associated Press Wednesday, 8 June 2022, 10:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

The DNA for Dylan McDermott to reinvent the modern-day gangster began at childhood and carried through to his struggling young actor days, when the "Law and Order: Organized Crime" star says he was "surrounded by the ilk" of unsavoury types.

McDermott, who grew up in New York, waited tables and tended bar, often serving local mobsters, where he observed their capricious behaviour, he says. And when he was younger, he had an even closer relationship.

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"My mother's boyfriend was a bank robber when I was growing up," McDermott told The Associated Press.

"They all end up either dead or in prison. So, there's no good stories there. He got his end, and it was not — not good."

(His parents split when the actor was a child, and his mother, Diane McDermott, died in what was ruled an accidental shooting in 1967. In 2012, a reopened Waterbury, Connecticut, police investigation concluded that she was killed by her now-dead gangster boyfriend.)

This convergence of real-life experiences helped Dylan McDermott bring Richard Wheatley to life, with a multi-episode arc on "Law & Order: Organized Crime" that wrapped recently.

"I was privy to a world that probably most actors would not be. And I always absorbed that, and I always took it in. And I hope one day to be able to use that, all that information in my own life and put it into a character. And then Richard Wheatley presented himself," McDermott said.

Deadly, smart, and "woke," the Wheatley character defied the uncouth, knuckle-dragging demeanor so often seen in this type of role. Wheatley, the CEO of an online pharmaceutical company, the son of a New York mobster, and a father with close ties to his children, had more of the depth of a Bond villain than a New York gangster.

With danger and modernity, Wheatley adds another dimension that breaks away from the stereotype, potentially redefining the "bad guy'' character in the future.

That's not lost on Nick Creegan, who plays the character's son, Richard Wheatley Jr. The young actor says he was constantly surprised by the actions of his on-screen dad, adding, "it was pretty much as twisted as you would think it would be."

"The fact that you just didn't know what he was thinking kept you on your toes," Creegan said.

The format of the NBC show also played a big part. Many storylines from the "Law & Order" franchise are one and done. Some villains may have a multiple-episode arc, but McDermott was blessed with eight episodes to tell his story. And that quickly turned to 16 after executive producer Dick Wolf found it necessary to continue the Wheatley storyline.

His nemesis on the series, police detective Elliot Stabler, who was last seen on "Law & Order: SVU" is played by Christopher Meloni, a franchise fan favourite.

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