Ailing Jerry Orbach (search) made it through his final scenes with a little help from his friends.
The brave actor's last appearance on TV will be seen this Friday night on NBC in the second episode of the new "Law & Order" spinoff, "Trial by Jury." (search)
In his last words on camera after a lifetime in show business, the 69-year-old trooper exclaims, "They got him!" following the conviction of a cop killer near the end of the episode.
The moment is particularly poignant in light of the effort it likely took for Orbach to raise his voice to say those three words.
That's because the actor's voice that day was particularly weak from ongoing cancer treatment, an NBC spokeswoman recently revealed.
But Orbach's fellow actors would not allow their courageous friend's raspy voice, which was barely above a whisper, derail the filming of his last scenes.
In a touching example of the generosity of actors, Orbach's colleagues — including co-star Kirk Acevedo — agreed also to whisper in the scene, the spokeswoman disclosed.
And since the scene takes place in a hallway just outside a courtroom door, the dialogue conducted in low voices will seem natural to viewers who are unaware of the heartbreaking story of loyalty and friendship behind the scenes.
Orbach, the Bronx-born Broadway song-and-dance man, died Dec. 28 following a decade-long, private battle with prostate cancer.
He had left "Law & Order" last season with the retirement of his character, Det. Lennie Briscoe. But he was brought back, as Briscoe, to help launch the new "Trial By Jury," starring Bebe Neuwirth as a tough, shrewd New York City prosecutor.
Partnered with Acevedo's character — D.A. investigator Hector Salazar — Briscoe is once again doing detective work for the district attorney's office.
Orbach filmed two episodes before he became too sick to work — the premiere episode airing this Thursday night at 10, and the second episode airing Friday night at 10, the show's regular time period.
The second episode — titled "Forty-One Shots," about the shooting by police of a suspect who fatally shot a police detective — was filmed just a few weeks before Orbach died.
His death — and Briscoe's — will be dealt with later on, in the fourth or fifth episode, according to executive producer Walon Green.
"We are actually handling Jerry Orbach's death and handling the character's death very much in the same way Jerry handled his own death," Green said last week. "Jerry and, in this case, Briscoe, was somebody who kept on the job and who worked until the final hour."