Actress Jill Hennessy on Her Musical Double Life and 'New Orleans Swamp Funeral Procession'-Sounding Album

Michael Lavine
Photo of Jill Hennessy 2015

Jill Hennnessy, 46, might be famous for her TV roles (Law & Order, Crossing Jordan and now Madame Secretary), but the moonlighting rocker's guitar is never far. "On Law & Order I played with the whole sound crew just about every lunch hour in the police squad room," says the actor. Her sophomore album, I Do, entirely self-written and sporting a "New Orleans swamp funeral procession" feel, was released Oct. 2 on Master Rock. 

You started your career as a musician. How did you end up being known as an actor? 

I left home when I was about 17 and ended up singing backup with street musicians in Toronto. I helped a friend audition for a play called The Buddy Holly Story and ended up getting cast. That brought me to the United States. It was a Broadway rock'n'roll musical. I ended up playing with a couple of bands but had to quit them because I got a part on Law & Order -- that really messed up the rehearsal schedule! 

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Are people surprised to learn you have two careers? 

You're playing for a much smaller audience when you've got your guitar on the street as opposed to doing a TV show on a major network. People are always surprised. 

Were you ever inspired by the Law & Order theme song?

I don't think about it, to be honest. But it's got a good hook!

Listen to Jill Hennessy and other artists featured in this week's issue of Billboard.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of Billboard