“Law & Order” loses Harmon

Law & Order seems to keep its actors on rotation.

Over its 12-year history, the NBC drama series has welcomed and bid farewell to numerous cast members. The latest to exit the courtroom: actress Angie Harmon, who plays Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael, announced Tuesday that she is leaving after three years with the show.

Harmon asked to be released early from her contract, Dick Wolf, the series’ executive producer.

Harmon joined the series during the 1998-1999 season following the departure of Carey Lowell. Alumni cast members also include Paul Sorvino, Steven Hill, Chris Noth, Benjamin Bratt and Jill Hennessy.

Harmon is scheduled in June to marry New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn. She also is building a film career. She can be seen opposite Charlie Sheen in the upcoming comedy Good Advice.

Leaving the show isn’t necessarily a guarantee for success. Noth struggled for several years before enjoying renewed fame as Mr. Big on HBO’s Sex and the City. Bratt‘s attempt to launch a film career almost fizzled with the flops The Next Best Thing and Red Planet, but he scored a success costarring opposite Sandra Bullock in the Christmas hit Miss Congeniality. Hennessy recently portrayed Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the television miniseries Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot and enjoyed a supporting role in Steven SeagaL‘s latest comeback bid, Exit Wounds. Michael Moriarty, whose acrimonious departure from the show resulted from a dispute with NBC and Wolf, went on to star in a Broadway production of My Fair Lady and can now be seen in Along Came a Spider.

Harmon will remain with the Studios USA-produced series through the end of this season and might pop up in the first six episodes of next season.

Harmon will stay on the show if Wolf is unavailable to find her replacement for Harmon by the end of April, when next season’s production begins, Reuters reports.

“As I’ve said numerous times in the past, if an actor wants to leave the series for personal reasons, and gives ample notice so that it doesn’t affect production, I have never stood in anyone’s way,” Wolf said in a statement.

The show’s frequent celebrity swapping has not hurt ratings or driven away loyal fans.

“It [the series] is consistently on the top 10 most viewed series,” an NBC publicist said Tuesday.

The show has enjoyed its highest ratings this season. As of April 1, the show was the ninth most popular show in households, with a 2.1 rating and 20 share. Last season, the show ranked 14th in household viewership, with an 11.3 rating and 19th share.