I just realized I can recite the opening to Law & Order in my sleep, but I have no idea who actually says those words. Who is that guy? Has he done anything else?
“In the Criminal Justice System, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: The police who investigate crime, and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
These words opened every single one of the original Law & Order‘s 456 episodes that spanned 20 seasons between 1990 and 2010. And the same voice reads the intro for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (aka SVU), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (CI), and Law & Order: Los Angeles. So who is that guy?
Meet the voice
Meet Steve Zirnkilton. More than just “the guy who reads that bit at the beginning of Law & Order,” the Pennsylvania-born actor has lived in Maine for 30 years, and even served for two terms in the Maine Legislature (1982-1988 and 1992-1994).
In between those stints, he laid the groundwork for his voiceover career, starting out by doing the brief promos for a long-gone NBC show called Nasty Boys. While that series may not have had much staying power, its executive producer — L&O creator Dick Wolf — certainly did.
Originally offered the Law & Order opening announcer gig by Dick Wolf after being hired for a bit part as a detective on the first episode of the show, Steve Zirnkilton has gone on to become, quite simply, the voice of a franchise.
But he’s provided voiceovers to more than just those crime dramas. Zirnkilton, born around 1959, has also done voice acting work for The Rugrats Movie and Family Guy, as well as for pretty much every cable and broadcast network known to man.
Off the air, and together with John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted, Zirnkilton has also served for 11 years as the on-stage announcer for the Top Cops Awards, which honors “outstanding law enforcement officers across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty.”
This is his story.