LOS ANGELES – A scandal involving a New York governor and a prostitute has the makings of a classic ripped-from-the-headlines plot for NBC's "Law & Order."
But Wednesday's season finale about a governor and a call girl isn't about Eliot Spitzer, cautions series star Sam Waterston -- although it's fair to say anyone, even Waterston, could get a bit confused.
Asked recently if the show was dramatizing Spitzer's story, the actor replied, "That's what we're shooting right now." Then he quickly offered a clarification.
"I shouldn't say we're doing the Eliot Spitzer story. I should say we're doing a story about a politician who gets into trouble because of sexual questions ... involving prostitution," Waterston told The Associated Press.
The truth has always been somewhere between the edges of that fine line.
Since it started in 1990, the TV drama created by executive producer Dick Wolf has carefully echoed real-life events without explicitly citing them. The very first episode of the show, which films in New York, was about a parking violations case -- after something similar had rocked the city, Wolf recalled in a recent interview.
Wednesday's episode (10 p.m. EDT) is racier, as a murder investigation leads police to a prostitution ring whose clients include New York Gov. Shalvoy (Tom Everett Scott). That creates a quandary for District Attorney Jack McCoy (Waterston), whose political fortunes may be tied to Shalvoy's.
Earlier this year, Spitzer's career collapsed days after he was identified by federal authorities as Client 9 of a high-priced prostitution ring. Spitzer, who resigned from office in March, apologized without expressly acknowledging he had visited prostitutes.
Waterston says the "Law & Order" episode diverges sharply from what happened with Spitzer.
"It goes in all different directions," he said. "`Law & Order' raises questions about what's fair, what's right, what's justice, that aren't necessarily raised by the original story or ... can't be gone into in just a news story."
Anthony Anderson, new to the cast as police Detective Kevin Bernard, said the series is "current, it's real, it's true." Now that he's part of the show, he said, "I'm doing research and I'm reading these scripts (and) I'm like, wow, this is real, wow, people are crazy!"
"Law & Order" also stars Jeremy Sisto, S. Epatha Merkerson, Linus Roache and Alana De La Garza.
Asked about whether there was "Spitzer-izing" on the show this week, De La Garza shrugged, laughed and gave a quick eye-roll.