Dick Wolf on what’s next after his NBC deal expires and why he’ll never retire

Casting is an area of television production that is of great importance to uber-producer Dick Wolf, and he makes sure that he has the last word on that, he tells Variety at the Monte Carlo TV Festival, which is paying tribute to the career of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star Mariska Hargitay, and also hosting “Chicago P.D.’s” Jon Seda, “Chicago Med’s” S. Epatha Merkerson, and “Law & Order: SVU’s” Philip Winchester.

“Casting is the most subjective area of TV production — one man’s meat is another man’s poison — and frankly, if I’m going to go all in on a new member of an ensemble, or when you are starting a show, if it is not the right choice I want it to be my wrong choice [than for me to say] to a third party, a showrunner or a network, ‘OK, so you choose,’” Wolf says.

He adds: “It’s the one thing that I’ve managed to maintain my independence on for 35 years. You have got to trust somebody’s gut and I’d prefer to trust mine than other people’s.”

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LAW & ORDER -- Season 10 -- Pictured: (l-r) S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, Angie Harmon as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael, Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, am Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy, Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 3 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen, Richard Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette, Carolyn McCormick as Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, Michael Moriarty as Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone, Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff (Photo by Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 10 -- Pictured: (l-r)Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren (Photo by Patrick Harbron/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 7 -- Pictured: Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff, Angie Harmon as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, Sam Waterston as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Benjamin Bratt as Detective Rey Curtis, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Pictured: (l-r) Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by Gary Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 7 -- Pictured: Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 7 -- Pictured: (l-r) Sam Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy, Carey Lowell as A.D.A. Jamie Ross, Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 7 -- Pictured: (l-r) Benjamin Bratt as Detective Rey Curtis, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren, Carey Lowell as A.D.A. Jamie Ross, Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, Sam Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 7 -- Pictured: (l-r) Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, Carey Lowell as A.D.A. Jamie Ross, Sam Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 6 -- Pictured: Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- Season 6 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jill Hennessy Assistant District Attorney as Claire Kincaid, Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff, Sam Waterston as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actor Steven Hill poses for a portrait in circa 1960. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Steven Hill
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 09: THIRTYSOMETHING - 'Business as Usual' - Season One - 2/9/88, Michael's (Ken Olin, left) hopes for a joyous reunion with his father Leo (guest star Steven Hill) are destroyed when he discovers the real reason for the visit., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
Steven Hill (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LAW & ORDER -- 'Legacy' Episode 10 -- Air Date 01/15/1997 -- Pictured: (l-r) Carey Lowell as A.D.A. Jamie Ross, Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, Sam Waterston as Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Photo by Jessica Burstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- 'Bad Girl' Episode 21 -- Aired 4/29/98 --Pictured: Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by Jessica Burstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- 'Mushrooms' Episode 17 -- Air Date 02/26/1991 -- Pictured: Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAW & ORDER -- 'Vaya Con Dios' Episode 24 -- Air Date 05/24/2000 -- Pictured: (l-r) Sam Waterston as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff, Angie Harmon as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael (Photo by Jessica Burstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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Another skill that Wolf values very highly, of course, is writing, but he doesn’t feel the industry values it enough when it comes to judging procedurals. He says the thing “that has made me craziest over the years” is that “Law & Order” still has the record for 11 best drama Emmy nominations in a row, but the show’s writers only picked up one nomination in that time. “How do you think [the show] got that good?” he asks. “It’s the writing, stupid,” he adds, referring to a message on a card he once delivered to all the network chiefs.

Wolf is comfortable with his relationship with NBCUniversal, but he’ll be open to all options, including going it alone without a studio deal, when his present pact with the studio ends in 2020. “It’s always a free-floating decision,” he says.

He concedes that Amazon Studios, where former NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke has made her home, is one potential partner for his new shows, but, he adds: “I would be much happier if somebody came along and bought the entire library of all the ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Chicago’ shows, and there are several companies that can do that, and I hope one of them does.”

He underscores the importance of creative independence to him when he decides where to place his shingle, but he says NBCU has always respected that. “They’ve never interfered on any story we’ve wanted to do, on any show. There is no censorship. There is no feeling that ‘oh, you are not listening to us,” he says.

Whatever he decides to do in 2020 there is one option that is off the table: retirement. When asked if he wouldn’t want to spend the rest of his life relaxing and enjoying his money, he retorts: “Yeah, that sounds pretty boring.” He says that he had “a moment of insight” at a school reunion when he noticed a “five to seven year visual difference between the retirees and the people who were still working.” So, work keeps him young? “Oh, I hope so,” he says, with a laugh.

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