Season 17 of Law & Order: SVU returns September 23rd at 9pm for a Two Hour Season Premiere.
‘The Walking Dead’ alum will reprise his role as serial killer Greg Yates in the first episode of season 17.
Law & Order: SVU is gearing up for a killer season premiere.
Dallas Roberts, who played charismatic doctor and serial killer Greg Yates in the Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D. crossover, will reprise his role in the first episode of season 17, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The Walking Dead alum delivered a memorable and chilling turn as a Ted Bundy-like serial killer who raped and murdered young women in New York before moving to Chicago. In the special two-hour event, Yates kidnapped, assaulted and killed beloved recurring character Nadia (Stella Maeve) — a huge blow to the Intelligence Unit that led Lindsay to quit in the final moments of the Chicago P.D. season finale.
It is unclear just how Yates will return, since he was found guilty of Nadia’s murder and sentenced in prison. In the final moments of the crossover, he was threatened by Voight (Jason Beghe) in his cell.
SVU, along with Chicago Fire and P.D., was renewed back in February. The series, which just bid farewell to series regular Danny Pino, has already begun production on season 17.
Roberts’ other credits include The Good Wife, Unforgettable, The Grey and 3:10 to Yuma. He is repped by UTA and Circle of Confusion.
Law and Order: SVU Season 16 will be coming out on DVD August 11th. You can pre order it here. Here is the cover art for the the DVD.
EP Warren Leight talks to THR about the decision behind series regular Danny Pino’s departure.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season 16 finale, “Surrender Noah.”]
Law & Order: SVU said goodbye to a series regular on Wednesday’s season 16 finale, but it was a conversation about a long-gone member of the unit that really got viewers talking.
In the final moments of the finale, an injured Amaro (Danny Pino) informed Benson (Mariska Hargitay) of his intention to retire from the NYPD and move closer to his family. “I know I wasn’t what your old partner was for you,” he said.
“No, you weren’t. I grew more in my last four years with you than I did in the 12 years I was with him,” Benson told him. “You know, that relationship, whatever it was, didn’t allow for anything else. But with you, your support, I have a family.”
Although it was a sweet farewell for the two, their exchange not received warmly by fans of Benson’s former partner, Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), who left the unit suddenly after season 11. “There was obviously a lack of resolution with Elliot’s departure, so every time it comes up, it kind of pulls that scab off,” showrunner Warren Leight tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s nothing you can do or say or write about Elliot that will appease the people who don’t understand why his character left.”
Leight spoke with THR about the decision behind Amaro’s exit, why Amaro didn’t die and how fans “absolutely misinterpreted” those remarks.
How and when did you come to the decision for this departure?
It’s tricky. It was almost in the wind a year ago. Danny did four years here and seven before this on Cold Case. That’s 11 years straight [years] of procedurals, and he lives in LA and has a home there so there was some question about whether he was going to stay last year. Then as the season went on, it became something of a questioning process and then [a] decision of: Where can this character go? Because we’ve put his character through the ringer and in some ways, he probably went through more changes in four years than the entire cast of Mad Men did in eight years.
I tried to be very careful about making sure when Cragen left and Munch left that there was a sense of closure, so that fans weren’t left in the lurch, and Danny felt the same way. We weren’t even sure until the last four or five episodes of the season that that’s where we were going to go. These things are hard. No one likes separation. In his first episode, he almost put his life on the line to rescue Rollins when he thought she was in trouble. He has that gear that if a woman is in jeopardy, he will fly in front of a bullet to try and save her. That’s something that’s been in his DNA from early on. I wanted him to go out in character, doing something heroic, and I didn’t want him to die. For a number of reasons, I didn’t think that was necessary.
You said you put Amaro through a lot during the last four years and you touched on that in this season finale. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently with the character?
I haven’t done that yet. Off the top of my head, what has changed in the last four years — and I think this is a good change in our society — is that there is less and less tolerance for police abuse of power. I know it’s a TV trope, “We’ll stop at nothing to get this guy,” but in truth, we’re all getting very tired of these headlines of what happens when cops go rogue or when people are hurt needlessly. Week after week, there’s another Freddie Gray case or another Ferguson. They keep happening. Amaro’s instances of overreaction — his intentions were always good. He’s a good cop, but he did overreact and so what happened to Amaro was that the climate of tolerance for that sort of behavior has changed. … Sometimes the wrong guy gets made an example of, but it’s important at this point that the police departments start making examples out of people. We always try to feather in reality as much as we can into the show. And Danny understood and embraced it. If you look back at the last five episodes, this had been in the works, with his son moving out West, and he played each of those scenes beautifully, without giving away where it was going. Even in the last episode, when things are turning against him, he wants to get the promotion and become sergeant because his character is in denial about where things are going, which I think is also right for Amaro. He tends not to understand when the deck is stacked against him. It made sense from a story point of view. From a personal point of view, it’s hard on all of us because he’s one of the best guys you’ll ever work with.
One of the big moments was the last scene that Benson and Amaro had, when she was talking about Stabler. It got a lot of fan reaction online after the episode. What was your intention with that exchange?
I think some of these fans are always going to misinterpret everything as casting shade on Stabler and that’s what they’ve done here. She was talking about how her relationship with Stabler didn’t allow for other things. That’s not casting shade on Stabler. That’s a statement of fact about the first 12 years. There are some fans who have still not gotten over the fact that Elliot left, so I think unfortunately they will look for any excuse to feel offended. I believe they have absolutely misinterpreted that scene. It is a statement that [says], “My relationship with Amaro allowed me to evolve.” Also, the guy’s telling her he’s leaving her and he’s saying, “I know I wasn’t what Stabler was,” so she’s trying to make him feel valued in that moment.
Given that division among the fans, why did you think it was important to bring him up in the first place?
I thought it’s on Amaro’s mind because he’s aware of the shadow of the partnership before his. He was feeling vulnerable and he went there. I always try to write from within the characters in a scene, not from, “I need a twist here” or “I need a turn here.” It’s what’s on this guy’s mind. He’s telling her he’s leaving and I think he has mixed feelings about leaving. He wishes it had ended differently with NYPD. There’s some regret and some sense of not having done what he set out to do. So there’s an element of nostalgia and maybe he’s fishing a little bit and it’s her job at that moment to shore him up. And, in fact, the Elliot relationship was its own almost hermetically sealed 12-year run. Since Elliot left, it is that thing of some doors close and other doors open for her. She’s able to see — however important that relationship was — there was also an element of co-dependence to it, and she was not as co-dependent with Amaro and that allowed room for other parts of her life to come.
Do you see Danny coming back in the future?
So far, Cragen’s come back and Munch has come back, and even Dean [Winters] came back. I try to leave that door open. I would like to be able to bring him back. At this point, it depends on where he is and what he’s doing and what the story needs. That’s one of the advantages of not killing a character that you like. On Criminal Intent after I left, they killed off Captain Ross and there have been a couple of times where I just wish I had him for an episode. And Jill Hennessy’s character was killed off [on Law & Order], and there have been a couple of times where I wanted to bring her in. I’m not sure it’s a great idea to kill off characters who have brought a lot to this show.
Law & Order: SVU returns in the fall on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
The SVU squad lost one of their own during Wednesday’s finale—but fortunately not via the Grim Reaper.
After sex trafficker Johnny D (Charles Halford) made a bid to escape during his trial, Amaro (Danny Pino) took him down, but got shot in the process. Without hope of being promoted to Benson’s No. 2, Amaro decided to leave the squad behind to move out west to be with his family. Why did Pino leave the series after four seasons? EW talked with executive producer Warren Leight to find out:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to write out Amaro? Was it Pino’s decision?
WARREN LEIGHT: It was, at the end, a good mix of the two. Danny did seven years of Cold Case and The Shield and then four years here. Even last year, he was beginning to want to spread his wings a little. I understood that. At the same time, from a character point of view, we had put his character through a lot. Although his intentions were good, a lot of what he’d gone through ended up putting him in trouble with the brass downtown. Amaro is a character with ambition and the more we would talk to cops about what happens after a guy shoots an unarmed kid, what happens to a cop after he loses it with a pedophile, where is he going in NYPD? And they said, “These days, nowhere.” Even in the last four years, the world has changed. There is a lot more awareness of when cops abuse power and a lot more scrutiny with things—you see this a lot with cases in the real world, like Freddie Gray and Ferguson. Amaro’s character is at a real dead end with the NYPD. It was interesting to acknowledge the reality of the way his behavior—however well-intentioned and however he’s trying to turn it around—has painted himself into a corner.
Did you ever consider killing Amaro off?
Danny is a beautiful actor and a beautiful team player. There are other actors that I’ve worked with that I wouldn’t mind putting through a horrible end, but Danny is certainly not one of those. We wanted to make sure that if it was time for Amaro to move on, he gets a hero’s exit, which is what we gave him. For the fans who have had unfortunate earlier experiences with a lack of closure, I wanted to make sure that it made sense. Danny was great about this and we were able to build to it over the last five episodes or so.
Does this leave the door open for Amaro to return?
If you notice, I’ve brought [Richard] Belzer back. Munch came back once and we tried to bring him back this year, but there were some conflicts with it. [Dann] Florek came back. These people are part of everyone’s collective memory of the show. We brought BD Wong back. We brought Warner (Tamara Tunie) back. When we can, and when the story is right for it, I would love to be able to do it. If you kill a guy, it’s much harder. One of the things that I regret more than anything, after I left Criminal Intent, they did away with [Eric] Bogosian’s character, Captain Ross, and there were a couple times in the last few years where I would’ve loved to have had Captain Danny Ross walk into the squad. We brought Kathryn Erbe back for a couple of episodes. I like that there are people who come with their own backstories whom fans have a relationship with. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see Danny again next year. He has a home in L.A. and family there, so part of this is also a question about that for him.
How will Amaro’s exit reverberate next season, especially with Rollins (Kelli Giddish)?
It’s stressful for the writers right now. We’re down a man. Like any situation, if someone goes, it puts more pressure on the people who stay. Even if someone new were to come in, it takes a while to get them up to speed. Rollins is going to be going through a lot of transition next season. This is part of the stress, but only part of it. Amaro’s departure is one that makes other characters go, “If he left, why am I still here?” Can they find a renewed purpose? Or does it cause them to question their own paths? That’s usually what happens when someone leaves the group, it makes everybody else think about what they’re doing. We’ll see the ripple effect of that. Last year, we had a good sense the season would be about family, and that was the last word of the finale. I have a sense of what next season is going to be about, which is transitions. It will be interesting to watch people go through them.
Will we find out who will become the new sergeant soon?
I hope so. The season is going to start with such a hot potato of a case. It’s basically all hands on deck, so they won’t have the chance right out of the box to worry about office politics.
Will you be adding any new characters next season?
We’re discussing it. We’ve had good luck in the last few years when we don’t make a big deal out of it. Whether it was Donal Logue or Peter Gallagher or Peter Scanavino or Raul Esparza, when we brought guys in and let them find their way, as opposed to saying, “This is the new partner for 22 episodes.” When I first came in, with Elliot’s (Christopher Meloni) abrupt departure, we really had to scramble to figure out where the show was, but since then we’ve learned that easing people in is better than having a big inauguration ceremony.
Speaking of Stabler, where did the idea come from to call back to him in Benson’s pep talk to Amaro? Some feel it was a bit of a diss to her old partner.
Yeah, I think these people are just looking to feel like we’re dissing Stabler. I really feel that’s not what that scene was about. She said, “My relationship with him didn’t allow growth.” That’s a statement of fact. There was obviously a great love between the two of them, but there was an element of codependence to it. After he left, other things opened up for Olivia Benson. She’s a sergeant, she’s on the road to lieutenant, she has a foster child she just adopted. She was stuck for a while, which, by the way, is also not throwing shade on Stabler. That may be a reflection of who she is in that relationship.
But none of that is where this came from. Where it came from is Amaro is leaving. Everything we do, we come from character. We never think, “Oh, let’s kick the hornet’s nest of the Stabler fans.” That’s never the intention. Amaro is telling her he thinks it’s time and he’s not feeling great about that decision. In that episode, he was up for becoming sergeant. He was somewhat in denial about what his reputation was within the department. We all know him to be a good cop. He wasn’t perceiving himself the way the brass does. He’s wounded physically and a little bit emotionally. He’s going to her and saying goodbye. He says, “I know I wasn’t what your old partner was.” In that moment, Olivia’s first impulse is to take care of Amaro. She loves him and values him, and she’s trying to sure him up and let him know how much their relationship has meant to her. It was a moment of weakness, maybe even fishing for some reassurance, and she gives it to him.
I read those things this morning, I thought, “Oh, just stop. All of you just stop.” I’m very grateful to Danny for working with me to figure out how to arc his character out in the way that would give the fans closure and having enough awareness and concern to do that. He just stepped up enormously in the last six episodes and took care of everybody—both Danny and Amaro took care of everybody else. We could write a scene where Elliot receives a Nobel Prize for peace and the next day, the tweets would be, “How dare they do that!” So, that’s my longwinded answer. No, we were not throwing shade on Elliot. We were in the moment with a character going through a soul-searching decision.
Law & Order: SVU will return to NBC this fall.
[Spoiler alert: The following contains information from the Law & Order: SVU season finale. Read at your own risk!]
Just as the Law & Order: SVU family is growing with the official adoption of baby Noah, the squad is losing a member with the exit of Detective Nick Amaro.
Wednesday’s finale saw the culmination of a nearly two-season long story when Benson (Mariska Hargitay) was granted custody to Noah. But the hour wasn’t without drama as the trial of Noah’s birth father, sex trafficker Johnny D, ended in gunfire, with Detective Amaro (Danny Pino) not only shooting Johnny D, but taking a few gunshots. In the end, Amaro, who joined the squad in Season 13, decided it was time to move West to be with this family.
“It’s a bittersweet ending,” executive producer Warren Leight tells TVGuide.com. “Noah Porter Benson is now part of Olivia’s family and Amaro is going to go West to be closer to his two kids and to start fresh, and he goes out a hero.”
Read on for a more in-depth look into why it was time for Pino to exit the series, how it affects the squad moving forward and get a tease for what’s to come in Season 17.
Why was now the right time for Pino to leave the show?
Warren Leight: it’s hard because I’m a hoarder and I adore Danny. But we explored a lot of facets about him and the reality is that the anger he’s occasionally been unable to control has put him in a bad place at the NYPD. [Benson] is looking for a No. 2 and he wants it — Finn doesn’t want it, Rollins doesn’t — and he got shot down very quickly. These days, there is so much attention to police abuse of power that a guy like Amaro, who has crossed a line a few times, is basically dead-ended. The best that could happen to a detective like him right now is that they let him play out the string with no possibility of advancement and that didn’t seem like something his character would want. His marriage has also fallen apart, but his daughter has moved out West, this other son of his from a prior relationship has moved out West, so there’s not much keeping him [in New York]. It seemed to be, in a strange way, right for Amaro to start fresh somewhere else. It’s not to say any of us enjoys it, but it seems like that’s where the story was going and I think all of the actors felt like the exit was honored.
Will his exit be addressed in the premiere next season?
Leight: It’s noticed, but as is usually the case, the first episode of the season has such a pace to it that you don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. The season starts with a pretty dark episode, a two-parter, in pursuit for a bad guy with a lot of resources. But there are moments when you feel his absence.
Will we learn who is replacing Benson as sergeant right away?
Leight: Not in the first couple of episodes, but then it will come more into focus and play out. While we’re hunting [the premiere’s bad guy], we’re not worried about succession, but I think we’ll see [Benson] stepping up to lieutenant as the season goes on.
Now that she’s adopted Noah, will he remain a big part of the show?
Leight: The drama of will she be able to keep him is put to rest but … I’m sure we’ll see him. Parenting is a journey and a great journey for Benson to go on because it’s one thing to be a foster mother of an infant, but now he’s a toddler. Parenting never gets easier as the kids get older.
Will Johnny D come up again?
Leight: There will be repercussions because what’s going to happen when your kid starts asking about who his biological parent is? That’s a grim story that has to be told to him at some point. It weighs on Olivia.
What can you tease for the rest of the team?
Leight: Rollins (Kelli Giddish) will go through a lot of changes. Barba (Raul Esparza) is so much a part of the team now, so I think we can get more invested in his personal life. Carisi (Peter Scanavino) secretly would like to be sergeant, but it would be unseemly since he’s been there only for a short while. It’ll be interesting too what happens when he graduates from law school. Does he pass the bar? Does he stay as a cop for awhile? He’s adjusting to life at SVU pretty well, but he’s still a work in progress. The theme of this season has been family and next year, we’re looking at transitions or passages. It should be a year where wherever everyone starts at the beginning of the [season] is not where they end.
Law & Order: SVU returns to NBC in the fall.