I was recently invited by NBC to join a group phone interview with Guest Star, Andy Karl and Executive Producer, Warren Leight from NBC’S “LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT. Though my schedule would not let me participate, I’m very excited to share some of the highlights from the call with my readers.
Pamela Perry with Miss Hollywood:
Andy what is the challenge with you about this new character that you’re taking on?
There’s several challenges. One is this character is new to SVU entirely. He’s never been an investigator in Special Victims Unit. So there’s a lot of nuances that go along with that type of investigation. And things that he’s not used to, he comes from anticrime which is really, you know, going out and busting the perps and bringing them back and throwing them in jail kind of way.
So now the interrogations and things like that have a little bit of a nuance to find out more information that’s very important to SVU. I think that’s probably going to be the hardest thing for him to deal with. But also I think there’s some great things like he’s – I don’t think he’s ever had a strong woman boss which I find very interesting. Lieutenant Benson is very strong presence and she’s very knowledgeable and making sure that he shows her respect is top of the list too.
Jenny Bradley with Talk Nerdy:
My question is for Warren. You’ve given us episodes based on Black Lives Matter and trouble with facing transgender people. What other kind of big issues can we expect to see then?
Yes, well, we have one coming up about those – a religious family that, you know, tries to impose their morality on the viewers of their reality show and features one thing but may have a dirty secret festering within their home. So we’re – a lot of what we’re going after this year is hypocrisy. There’ll be – it seems like it was the summer of hypocrisy in a lot. You know, these iconic figures we certainly saw story after story about the former – I think we read today the former Speaker of the House just took a plea deal rather than admit to what he – why he was bribing somebody, why – we saw the – obviously we saw the Cosby story, we’ve seen the Duggar story. There’s just been a state of stories about powerful men behaving badly and doing their best to cover it up. And that’s an interesting area for us to explore as the season goes on. And we almost began the season with obviously a powerful rich man almost getting away with multiple murders. So I think for better or for worse, what we see in the news – I think we do it here as it’s our responsibility to discuss these issues.
So many TV shows now are, you know, the zombie stories and the superhero stories and there’s very few places left to really discuss issues of sexual politics and rape culture and moral hypocrisy in our life. So that’s – I kind of – I think we’re – it’s a privilege that we get to write about that stuff and that we have an audience that pays attention to it. So we’ll keep going.
Bridget Liszewski with TV Junkie:
This is just a question for Andy. Because we know that Benson seems to have a pretty good working relationship with Deputy Chief Dodds, so I was wondering how that’s going to be affected now that he’s found his sort of number two.
Andy Karl: That’s a – it’s definitely part of what she has to deal with.
Bridget Liszewski: Yes.
I think as – coming from my perspective as Mike Dodds, he doesn’t like to depend on his father for work but he loves to live up to the reputation of being really good at his job. I think, you know, Mike Dodds, Sergeant Mike Dodds, I’m going to have a lot to prove and I’m not afraid of that. There’s actually one of the lines in my first episode is sink or swim that Chief Dodds says to me and I think I’d choose to swim. So it’s – I think there’s definitely some sort of some mix of awkwardness between her relationship with my father but something I don’t think Mike Dodds really brings up in any way. I don’t view her as “Oh, you and my father have a working relationship, and therefore, I need to sort of go along those lines.” It’s more about I’m coming in here to kick some butt pretty much as much as I can. But I think there’s – but there’s going to be lessons to be learned because Lieutenant Benson is a very strong force and making sure that I don’t, you know, step over the lines is sort of priority me of Mike Dodds. And he respects SVU for what it is. He’s certainly not going to try to take any privileges by being the son of the chief.
That said, if I can just – everybody in the squad room, even though Mike Dodds is doing his best to be one of the guys, everybody is walking on egg shells because they don’t know if he’s going to rat them out. And there’s a lot of tension about nobody wants to work – no offense, Andy, but nobody wants to work with the boss’s son. And that’s one of the things we’re enjoying. And when I think Fin’s character is particularly put out by it and then upcoming episode Benson looks right at Fin and goes “I offered you the chance to be sergeant.
You weren’t interested. Shut up.” So there’s a lot of – there’s a ripple effect when the boss’s son comes to work with you. It’s – imagine in all of your – all the places you guys work, if you had a summer intern who is the boss’s son and how pleasant…
Andy Karl: Right.
Warren Leight:…and simple that would be.
And also in my own life, I’m – so I’m joining this ensemble cast that has all their, you know, friendships and off-camera time that’s all sort of established and how they work together on cameras is really interesting. So it’s a unique experience to walk into something that works so well and be the monkey wrench, so to speak.
Melanie Votaw with Reel Life with Jane:
Warren, SVU has such a history of hiring theater actors, especially musical theater actors. Did you seek Andy out for this part and, if so, what in him made you think he was right for the role?
It’s funny I like using dance or musical. I write by ear and I try to have a rhythm in my writing and I find that it may just all be in my head but it’s – I’ve noticed over the years that people with musical chops can hear that rhythm or seem to hear that rhythm intuitively and it’s helpful to me. We have an extraordinarily musical cast. Danny Pino is a very good singer. Kelli is a very good singer. Ice is a, you know, is a musical legend, Raul, Mariska, I think (carried a tune). Mariska can sing, you know, in any other cast, Mariska will be the best singer. And so I like – I always find singers can act, you know, look at – I think – go back to Sinatra, if you don’t see it.
Jenny Bradley with Talk Nerdy:
This question is for Warren. Now that we know Declan is the father of Amanda’s baby, which, by the way, I did not see coming, can we expect or hope to see more of him, you know, provided “Gotham” falls or a vacation?
Well, it’s really tricky for us because he is dedicated to the citizens of Gotham or the network that produces “Gotham.” So for Declan’s – for the sake of “Gotham’s” fans, I hope we don’t get to see him but if anything changes over there or if his character doesn’t stay there, we’ll be around to sweep up the pieces as quickly as we possibly can. It’s just great for us. And I, you know, he’s – we remain – I mean, we do it. I wish him – that show is – I think is a powerful show. It’s doing very well. We wish him well there and I think technically we’re still holding the torch, I guess. Rather than say we’re in second, I’ll just say we’re holding the torch for him.
Warren, if you just wanted to give a rundown of anything coming up that you think they’d like to know –
Sure. First of all, thanks all of you for doing this. I know this is – you know, these round robins are tough and the phone thing is tough. The next episode up, which Andy mentioned, is called “Maternal Instincts.” And it is the return of Rollins’ sister. We start off with a celebrated musician accused of a crime that he doesn’t remember. And the reason he doesn’t remember it is he had taken after this performance he had met an escort in the hotel bar, brought her up to his room and according to him, she drugged him and he has no memory of the assault that he gets accused of. So we start there. And then it gets murky because the escort turns out to be Rollins’ sister who’s got outstanding warrants on her and is, you know, just the person who has been dragging Amanda Rollins down.
So Amanda, like – Kelli has had her baby but Amanda in this episode is 7-1/2 months pregnant. Her mother is up seemingly there to help and the sister shows up. And we call the nickname for the episode around the set was SVU of Osage County.
This is the family – the most dysfunctional family drama we’ve done in a long time. And it’s just – it’s almost too much pressure for Rollins to bear and her mom, played by Virginia Madsen, as is often the case in dysfunctional families, the one who got away and did good is the one that’s considered to be the one who’s betrayed the family. Rollins is really – it’s a tough journey that episode for Kelli. And I have to say, by the way, Kelli was on our stage working until Thursday and had her baby four days later. And so she is – she was…
Andy Karl: Amazing.
..as we expected, she and her character are both supers. And so she was shooting this extremely demanding, emotionally exhausting episode about – in this case, about eight days before she had her baby. But it’s Virginia Madsen headlines and it’s Lindsay Pulsipher. The flautist is played by Zach McGowan. You should look at his exercise video if you want to get a sense of his physicality. But he did a terrific job. And it’s – we’ve had a lot of very dark emotionally devastating, sad episodes in a row and this one is just – has a different tips to it, I guess, I’d say. And then right after that, we go to our religious family episode. I mentioned before we have Geneva Carr and Chris Sieber in that episode as the parents of ten kids and there’s a reality show that’s the Baker family and the reality show is “The Baker’s Dozen.”
Chris Elliott, whom you may remember from a lot of different things in the “Letterman Show” and stuff like that, plays the cameraman. Ryan Devlin plays the pastor in the family. And it’s a question of we opened a purity ball in that episode when a young girl promises her dad she will be faithful to him and virginal until the day he gives her away in marriage. And you kind of know if SVU opens with a purity ball it’s not going to go well. I think that’s just part of – so it’s finding out – there’s a 13-year-old girl who’s – and dad is – the dad is the head of the clan have this purity ball and they’re dancing together and she faints and that’s when we and they find out that she’s pregnant and how is that even possible. And so that’s a nice – that’s a good family episode. I think, you know, let the kids watch that one. That’s a good one. But it came out great. One of the trickiest things there, that’s the one that Kelli was in until four days before she gave birth. So here we have Detective Rollins eight-and-plus months pregnant, trying to get a religious family to talk about how their daughter might have gotten pregnant and it’s a really – we took it – since she got pregnant, we wrote it into every script one way or another. We waste nothing here.
The episode after that is the one I think that we wrote very much in mind of Dodds has been with us at this point for two episodes. It’s called “Melancholy Pursuit.” And it’s the episode that either – don’t take this the wrong way, Andy, but it’s the episode that either makes or breaks Dodds at SVU. It’s the episode that Mike makes some detective think “I can’t do this. It’s a really difficult haunt for a missing girl against the clock.” And it’s – and then – and the investigation is an extremely difficult one and everyone that Detective Dodds runs into everyone we meet in this episode is in some way or another a victim of a long-buried tragedy. And it’s stepping to the island and it’s one of those episodes that’s self-contained. It’s a 42-minute heartbreak. And we’ll see how Dodds responds to that. So that’s in the next three up. And we’ll have – you know, we’ll keep going here. We have exciting things planned for the end of November and then we’ll be off the air in December and then January is going to – there’s talk of a crossover with PD in early – in somewhere between January or early February and you’ll be hearing more about – I’m sure we’ll be – we’ll all be hearing more about that crossover if it happens.
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