Diane Neal to leave “SVU”

It seems as though the Law & Order franchise is having a hard time keeping its actors these days. The Criminal Intent series has had three different female detective counterparts for Chris Noth‘s character since 2005, and last spring the original series lost Fred Thompson to his failed (phew!) presidential campaign. Then, in late February, RENT alum Jesse L. Martin announced that he was also leaving the series after eight seasons. Now, TVGuide.com is reporting that Diane Neal, who plays Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will be stepping down at season’s end.

Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Citing “new opportunities,” Neal will be leaving her post as the second ADA on SVU after five seasons. She came onto the show in 2003 following the staged death of Stephanie March‘s character, Alexandra Cabot. It has not yet been revealed how Novak will be written off the show, but I sincerely hope she isn’t killed off. If I am denied the possibility of her coming back — even for one episode — I will be one very unhappy lesbian.

When thinking of Neal’s character, one particular episode from season 7, “Blinded” comes to mind. While prosecuting a schizophrenic rapist, Novak’s hard exterior softens because of the history with her former fiancé’s schizophrenia. Near the end of the episode, Det. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) realizes what she has done and confronts her; Novak shows no remorse.

Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

I am aware that there are many SVU fans who feel as though the character of Casey Novak never quite filled the shoes that Cabot left behind, but I disagree. Don’t get me wrong: I loved March’s portrayal of Cabot, but I thought Novak brought something even more complex to the table. Both women brought strong, successful female characters to life, and both characters upheld (for the most part) the law that their job required them to protect. But Novak was more obviously flawed and, therefore, realistic.

Regardless of which character you (will) miss more, the casting of a new ADA for the series will be tough. According to the TV Guide article, the Law & Order execs are looking for an “up-and-comer” to fill the role. Naturally, I’d like to offer a few suggestions.

Missy Peregrym

Photo Credit: Eric Ogden/The CW

With the apparent cancellation of Reaper, it looks as though she may be available. By the time the new season of SVU begins in the fall, she will be 26 and can definitely look the few years older it would require to have achieved the status of ADA. She is definitely strong enough to handle the role.

Sara Foster

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Though she is known to many AfterEllen.com readers as Amy in D.E.B.S., Foster remains a virtual unknown in many other acting circles. She also fits perceived age restrictions, is established enough to be considered, yet fresh enough to be considered a “find.” I actually think this could be a plausible consideration.

Emma Stone

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Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Though she may be a bit too young to be believable as a powerful New York attorney, Stone is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Most known as the unsuccessfully sought-after girl in last summer’s teen hit, Superbad, she is on the verge. If Dick Wolfe truly wants an “up-and-comer,” he will give her some consideration.

Mädchen Amick

Viva Laughlin was a flop to top all flops, but Amick’s stock is still soaring. She may be older than the other girls I have listed, but she could still be a contender considering her history with Law & Order.

Katee Sackhoff

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Trae Patton/Sci Fi

This might be the most wishful of wishful thinkings, but with both Bionic Woman and Battlestar Galactica ending, Sackhoff is about to find herself unemployed, and I think it’s safe to say that nothing would make her lesbian fan base happier than if she paired up with Hargitay. I can see her as a lawyer.

Can you?

I know there are lots of potential Cabots and Novaks I am missing; who are they?