Terrence Howard Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard has signed on to play a deputy district attorney on Law & Order: Los Angeles.

The 41-year-old Oscar nominee will split the office of Deputy D.A. with previously announced cast member Alfred Molina, who will portray Deputy D.A. Morales.

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"I now feel like the manager of the '61 [New York] Yankees because we've got our Mantle and Maris," creator and executive producer Dick Wolf said at the Television Critics Association's fall previews Friday.

Each star will appear in approximately half of the episodes this season, mirroring earlier seasons of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. "The initial problem was scheduling. ... [Alfred] made it very clear that he had commitments that would preclude him from doing all the episodes," Wolf said. "It quickly sort of evolved into a situation that we've utilized before."

Speaking about the various incarnations of Law & Order, Wolf said there are no plans yet for any previously introduced characters to appear in Los Angeles, but he seemed receptive to the idea.

Alfred Molina signs on to Law & Order: Los Angeles

"If it's organic, anything's possible," he said. "Everyone is 3,000 miles away, but you never what's going to happen."

Although producers promises the new spin-off will closely follow the format of the original (including the classic chung-chung sound effect), there is also room for "a hair more" character development, among other things, to make the new spin-off standout.

"L.A. is a mosaic of communities, and I think that's going to be part of the fun of the show; each episode can focus on a different community and a different piece of that mosaic," executive producer Rene Balcer said, later citing smaller communities such as Thai Town and Koreatown, as well as the better-known districts such as Hollywood.

"How you can do a show in L.A. without doing celebrity crime," Wolf said. "It's what this city is most known for."

Despite these new angles, Wolf took a moment at the beginning of the panel to express his and Balcer's disappointment over Law & Order's cancellation in May after 20 years on the air.

"Everything on television is born under a death sentence; they just don't tell you the date of execution," Wolf said, noting that he and Balcer "have had an enormous opportunity [come] out of the disappointment."