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Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., made his Broadway debut this weekin a theatrical adaptation of John Grisham's novel "A Time to Kill."

Thompson will play the no-nonsense Judge Noose, who presides over the Mississippi trial of a black man accused of killing the white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter.

Thompson has been an actor for decades, and he's no stranger to the TV courtroom -- Thompson played Manhattan prosecutor Arthur Branch on "Law & Order" for years.

In a phone interview with The Tennessean, Thompson said he really likes being in front of a live audience -- even before the show starts.

"Walking into the theater every night, and into the side entrance and seeing the line already forming -- sometimes a rather long line already forming by the time I get there -- is a thrill," he said.

"To think I'm a part of this at this stage of the game, to have a different kind of challenge, to be part of a great cast and production, that's good," he said. "It's real."

"A Time to Kill" is set to run through March 2 at the Golden Theatre in New York. Tickets range from $69.50 to $132.