Elisabeth Röhm didn’t set out to become an actress. As a student at Sarah Lawrence College, she studied writing and European history. “I like history, true stories and things like that,” Elisabeth, 50, tells Closer. “I ended up pursuing acting because I fell in love with telling the stories of specific people.”

For four seasons, Elisabeth played Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order. “Jerry Orbach said to me when we first started working together, ‘We only do two takes, so come prepared!’ And so, I never messed around. It was an invaluable lesson.” In the movies, Elisabeth has appeared in the features Bombshell, Joy and American Hustle. She is also a published author and in 2021 made her debut as a director. Elisabeth spoke with Closer before the start of the actors’ strike.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

“I grew up in upstate New York with this cathedral of trees around me. I was a horseback rider, and we had a dog. My greatest impressions are of being in nature, being with animals, and using my imagination as I walked through the woods.”

Do you still horseback ride?

“No, I took a big fall. I said, ‘I’m a mom. I can’t do this anymore.’ As you get older, you don’t heal quite like you used to. I’ve already done all the fun, exciting things on horseback, but I do think about it sometimes.”

Was your family supportive of you becoming an actress?

“My parents, including my stepmother, saw that I was industrious and not living a pipe dream. I was really hardworking, and I would sit in the kitchen and send off my headshots with a long handwritten note to every single person in the entertainment industry that had inspired me. There have been a lot of ups-and-downs, and sometimes they’ve been worried for me, but it’s worked out.”

A lot of people remember you from Law & Order. Did you enjoy working with Jerry Orbach?

“My greatest memory of Jerry was when I joined the cast. I threw myself a party, as only a naive young actress would, and I invited the whole cast. Of course, they hadn’t even known me a whole week! Nobody came but Jerry Orbach with his wife Elaine. They stayed and made me feel so welcome! He was really a gigantic spirit and a family man and just such a lovely, lovely person.”

Mariska Hargitay seems so great, too.

“She’s fantastic. And such a great advocate for women. I’m always impressed with her.”

You directed a Lifetime movie in 2021. What do you like about directing?

“Directing, for me, is so much about being as intimately close to the story as possible. You know, the actors play their roles and do their thing, but you really take a story from development to production then into post. I still like telling the story as the actor, but I love telling the story as a director.”

What do you want to do next?

“I feel like I’m right in the thick of it. I’m just doing exactly what I love: directing as well as producing and acting. I’m just really happy in the entertainment industry. I also love the work that I do philanthropically. Just staying open, you never know what is going to come into your life that changes everything for the better.”

What do you like most about being the age you are now?

“I think when you’re older, you can be very graceful and generous, especially to younger people. It’s such a joy to think less about yourself. As a young person, you’re grasping at your dreams. You’re racing towards them, and that’s all about you. But as you get older, you can really begin to think in a more generous way. I just turned 50 this year. You’re like, halfway through. You’re able to be generous with everything: your time, your emotions, and with wanting to help other people succeed.”

Are there things you know now that you wish you knew then?

“I wish I realized I had more power than I knew. I had a lot of great mentors, and a lot of people looked out for me and helped me achieve things, but the power comes from within. It’s unfortunate how much young women think somebody’s going to come in and be their hero. It’s a lot of wasted energy.”

You’re recently married.

“Yes, two years! We were really good friends before we got married. We fell in love during COVID.”

Is there a secret for a happy marriage?

“I think really accepting the other person, appreciating them, and not taking them for granted. Remembering to celebrate the little things, and make time for romance, and just see them instead of criticizing them.”

You have an 11-year-old daughter. Do you think she will follow in your footsteps?

“Probably not. I [had] done this mommy blog for a long time, and I was very public about our lives. She asked me to not do that anymore. So, we’ll see. I think she does love the art.”

Tell us about your other projects.

“I’m deeply involved with the American Heart Association after losing my mom and my aunt to heart disease. I always am trying to inspire people to become CPR certified. If somebody has a heart attack in front of me, I’m going to at least be able to try to be a lifesaver. I also have my organization, which is called the Respect Project, where I moderate conversations with a diverse group of people on different topics on Zoom. I post about upcoming talks on my Instagram. They’re all for free.”

You’re also partners with Emulait, which makes baby bottles that replicate a mother’s breast.

“As a working mom, I ended up not being able to breastfeed as long as I wanted to. If I had a bottle that emulated my actual breast, I wouldn’t have felt so depressed about it. Emulait is a new revolutionary bottle.”