‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’: Nona Parker Johnson on the Danger of Nova’s Promotion

Is Carmen “Nova” Riley (Nona Parker Johnson) about to get in over her head while undercover with the Marcy Organization on Law & Order: Organized Crime? If you ask Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt), yes. But Nova refuses to let her pull her.

In the last episode, Preston Webb (Mykelti Williamson) consolidated the current structure of the organization and made her his second-in-command, reporting directly to him. Though Bell pointed out that’s more than she signed up for, Nova argued she didn’t come this far to quit. She knew that the sergeant is worried about losing another undercover, but she assured her she knows what she’s doing. And they’ll continue to butt heads in the March 17 episode. Watch a sneak peek above.

So does she? Johnson teases what’s ahead for Nova.

Nova’s now second in command of the entire Marcy organization. What does that mean that she can do that will help her investigation?

Nona Parker Johnson: It just brings her even closer to Preston Webb, the guy that we really want to get close to who’s kind of an enigma right now. That just affords her a lot more access than she had previously. And also there aren’t, I feel, as many eyes that are going to be her while she’s doing that, too. So it’s kind of more one-on-one time for the two of them.

But it brings her close to a guy who makes it clear what he’ll do to anyone who disagrees, like stab a person in the hand. She’s in more danger.

I think so. She’s negotiating this constant sense of danger. What I’m learning also about Webb is that he is a very, very observant, very, very specific particular kind of person. So I think as I get closer to him, it, like you said, gets all the more dangerous. That’s something that she’ll be negotiating in terms of how far to go or what kind of liberties she can take. But from the get-go, she’s been doing things that way.

Danielle Moné Truitt as Sgt. Ayanna Bell, Nona Parker Johnson as Carmen "Nova" Riley in Law & Order Organized Crime

Ralph Bavaro/NBC

Because of that, will any dissension be mostly behind Webb’s back?

Yeah. After the incident with Chopper, no one’s really going to feel very comfortable saying many things in front of Webb. So I think that will be probably stuff that she has to deal with on her own without Webb being there to back her up. But these are relationships that I think Nova’s been forming for the last six years she’s been undercover. So negotiating that for her is going to be sticky but also with this new title, I think she definitely can hold her own.

Bell wanted to pull Nova, but Nova insisted on staying in. Will we continue to see some conflict between the two?

I think so. It’s inherently built into the newness of their working relationship and also what we are seeing is this more intimate dynamic between them because she really, really cares about Nova and her safety and she has a history with a UC. But Nova feels so empowered in this position and in sort of how far she’s come within this job, so I think they’re going to continue to butt heads in terms of Nova’s capabilities [and also] Bell’s responsibility to her UC.

Does Nova truly believe she’ll be OK or is it more overconfidence on her part?

It’s a fine line that she’s riding. There’s so many pieces at play now at this point with the addition of her family coming in that it’s almost like this sort of desperation to keep all these worlds separated. Partly it’s that, that I want to keep all these worlds separate. I think I have the capability to do that, but it’s also nothing I have any control over. So I would say that it could be read as an overconfidence to a degree because there are just so many pieces at play that Nova has absolutely no control over.

Nona Parker Johnson as Carmen “Nova” Riley in Law & Order Organized Crime

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

And because she’s been under for so long, she wants to see this through because if she doesn’t, what was it all for?


The logline for this week teases that “Bell reminds Nova who she really works for.” What’s going on with Nova that she needs that reminder?

It’s similar to all these different worlds kind of clashing together, and with that comes specific people in each one of these worlds that Nova cares really deeply about. From next episode on, you’re going to see her negotiating these relationships and how she wants to protect these people, how much these people mean to her. But at the end of the day, she is a cop and Bell is her boss and that’s something she can’t forget.

What’s the Marcy organization up to this week?

It’s going to be a lot of, like I said, one-on-one with Preston Webb. You’re going to start to learn a lot more about him and his family. I think that’s a really, really fun part about this arc and this story, that you get to meet these people on another level. We’ve heard he’s on the top of his game. He’s the top dog in the city now. He’s taking out all his opponents. And so from there we get to just meet him a little more and get to see where he fits into the larger scheme of the story.

Danielle Moné Truitt as Sgt. Ayanna Bell, Nona Parker Johnson as Carmen “Nova” Riley in Law & Order Organized Crime

Scott Gries/NBC

Speaking of, we’ve met his wife [Jennifer Beals’ Cassandra], who is quite interesting. Should Nova be more worried about her than him maybe?

I, for myself, love playing with the idea that Cassandra is infinitely more terrifying than Webb is. I’m definitely using that and I’m hoping to see more of that and more of what she has to offer to this gritty storyline. But I think definitely keep an eye out for Cassandra, ’cause it’s already so much fun peeking into who she is.

We met Nova’s brother and we know that he doesn’t know, but we could either see him find out before she’s ready for him to or something goes horribly wrong and she never gets the chance to tell him. What can you tease that we’ll see from the siblings?

You’re going to see Nova really grappling with what is the right thing to do. What is going to keep him safe? What’s going to keep us both safe? But also how can I be as honest with him as possible? How does Derrick fit into this? You’re going to see that he has his own set of ideals, his own set of suspicions and paranoia and a really, really strong sense of protecting his family as well. That’s something that is going to be really fun to get a peek at. Their dynamic really comes alive.

Will we see something that changes her mind about telling him the truth?

Yeah, we’ve said it: Webb’s a scary guy, so I think that as long as he is around and he’s at the church that the brother’s preaching at, as long as he is sort of in and this curiosity about Nova and her life, there’s always going to be that fear. Webb’s going to play a big role in Nova’s decision-making around her brother.

Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler, Nona Johnson as Carmen "Nova" Riley in Law & Order Organized Crime

Bennett Raglin/NBC

What’s the biggest challenge coming up for Nova? Is it something we’ve already discussed or something else?

It’s something we’ve already discussed. It’s really trying to keep those three worlds apart and not having any control over them all coming together and clashing. Nova since day one has been riding a tight rope and the line is just getting thinner and thinner and there’s hardly any give left and it’s going to pop, it’s going to snap at some point.

Because she’s been under for so long, what would life even look like for her after this op?

I am really curious about that as well. I haven’t thought too much about what happens to Nova once her cover’s blown or once she comes out from undercover. What I’m really interested in is what happens to those relationships that she cares so dearly about. If I had to hope for one thing it’s that her and Bell can really get on the same page and they can really find a sort of common ground.

Is anything with Nova and Stabler (Christopher Meloni) coming up? They have the undercover thing in common right now.

They do. And I don’t know, with all of the Donnelly [Denis Leary] and the brotherhood, Marcy Killer stuff. I really hope that something’s coming up because it’s such a complex sort of intertwined story right now.

What else is coming up for Nova?

She is still the same, hard, tough as nails cover that she’s been for the last six years that we saw from her in Episode 1. So  look forward to seeing more of that coming back, her coming back to that. She’s not somebody to mess with.

She has to be that to survive in this world.


Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC