Law and Order star Joanna Merlin has died at the age of 92. The actress passed away in Los Angeles following complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, which is a bone marrow disorder.
The New York University Tisch Graduate Acting Program, where she was previously an acting teacher, announced her death on Instagram on Sunday and wrote: “We are saddened to share news about the passing of our beloved Joanna Merlin.” They continued: “Joanna was an actress, master Chekhov teacher, and former casting director for Harold Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Bernardo Bertolucci, and James Ivory. Joanna will be deeply missed at Grad Acting, by the Chekhov community, and by the many people she touched through her artistry.”
During her time in Hollywood, Joanna was well-known for her roles in the Broadway production The Fiddler on the Roof and for starring in the hit drama series Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU. Joanna starred in a number of famous hit Blockbusters throughout her career, showcasing her wide ranging talent including Fame, The Ten Commandments, Mystic Pizza, Class Action.
One of Joanna’s most famous roles were on NBC’s Law and Order franchise. In 1992, she first appeared on the popular series as a defense attorney and later went on to star as her recurring role as Judge Lena Petrovsky in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In this, she played a very strict rule-oriented judge and often scolded characters on the show. She appeared as Judge Lena for every season of the show between the years 2000 and 2011.
Outside of acting, Joanna was also a casting director, acting teacher, and author. Joanna published two acting guides during her career and was an employee of New York University’s graduate acting program. After graduating from UCLA, Joanna studied under Michael Chekhov, and was taught his world-renowned acting technique. She was reportedly the last student of Chekhov who was still alive and teaching acting
As for Joanna’s personal life, her husband of 42 years, attorney David Dretzin, died in 2006. And before David, Joanna was also wed to Martin Lubner for five years. Joanna was also a loving mother of two daughters including Rachel Dretzin and Julie Dretzin who both went on to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
After hearing the news, fans and students of Joanna took to Instagram to share heartwarming tributes to the actress and coach. One of her former students wrote: “Joanna gave us the gift of her insight and her selfless encouragement. I feel so blessed to have studied with her!” Another commented: “Rest well, Joanna – what a privilege to know and to learn from you. thank you. you’ll be missed.” And a third added: “Her warmth, brilliance and generosity will be missed by colleagues and students alike.”
In other news – Prosecutors to recharge Alec Baldwin for Rust shooting
New Mexico prosecutors on Tuesday said they intended to recharge actor Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021.
Baldwin’s case will be brought before a grand jury in mid-November, said special prosecutor Kari Morrissey. The move followed results of an independent forensic test that found Baldwin had to pull the trigger of a revolver he was rehearsing with for it to fire the live round that killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Read More