Jan 22,2015

Scoop: Another Chicago Fire-SVU-Chicago PD Crossover Coming This Year

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Following the critical and ratings success of November’s three-way crossover between Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Law & Order: SVU, the three NBC dramas will be joining forces again later this season, TVGuide.com has learned.

“It’s a real good one. Big swings, big stakes,” Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. showrunner Matt Olmstead tells TVGuide.com. “There’s nothing really cemented yet, but we’re definitely doing a big, big Chicago Fire-SVU-Chicago P.D. three-way crossover coming up around Episode 20.”

Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and SVU join forces for a “disturbing” three-part event

Olmstead revealed he flew to New York last week to meet with SVU showrunner Warren Leight about the plot details. “There’s a Ted Bundy-esque character who hunted in New York and hunted in Chicago, and it’s the pursuit of a character like that,” he teases.

Unlike the first three-way crossover, Olmstead says this one will have “more integrated storytelling” going back and forth between the two cities.

Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10/9c, Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c, and Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC. Are you excited for another three-way crossover?


Jan 22,2015

After 16 Years, Mariska Hargitay Says Olivia Benson Has Changed

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She’s spent 16 years catching criminals on “Law & Order: SVU,” she’s an advocate for victims of sexual assault in real life, and now Mariska Hargitay is a two-time “SVU” director. Known best for playing Sgt. Olivia Benson, Hargitay’s second stint in the director’s chair, “Padre Sandunguera,” aired Wednesday night. HuffPost Entertainment caught up with Hargitay to talk about directing the emotional episode, how Benson has changed and surprising moments from “SVU”:

What was it like directing the second time around?
It was amazing. It’s exhilarating and at the same time I’m thinking, “Wait, what am I doing all the way out here on the end of the diving board!” But then you just sort of jump. In a lot of ways I felt much more prepared. It was a very different experience because I learned so much on the first one, and then you get reminded of what 16 years will teach you.

What was the most interesting thing you noticed? After 16 seasons of acting and then to switching to being behind the camera, did you see anything differently?
I trusted myself more in the moment. The first time you want to be so prepared, so in a way I feel like I almost over prepared. The second time I felt so much more relaxed that I came up with more ideas on the set. That was very exciting to me, to actually be present in a new way. As an actor you’re present in the moment, right? I got to infuse a bit that presence behind the camera.

Has it influenced your acting?
You know you sort of — I always have deep respect for all the crew, but as a director you rely on this team in a different way. I found myself walking away with even more respect for the crew and their creativity. It forged a new creative relationship and I just think they’re brilliant. In acting, you’re relying on your scene partners, but this was a new kind of vision.

Did you get to pick which episode you’d direct? Why this one in particular?
I think Warren [Leight], our showrunner, is just ridiculously smart and I felt so grateful to him for pairing me with Peter Blauner, who’s a writer and a novelist. We had worked together on the first episode I directed and we came up with this incredible shorthand. As I was directing I was able to rely on him, and we made this great team. I think Warren knows that I’m moved and inspired by more emotional stories and I think he sort of picked, or wrote, this one for me.

And it is such an emotional episode, especially for Nick. What was it like directing Danny Pino?
So unbelievably exciting. Danny and Armand [Assante] were so open and ready to take risks. One of the things that was moving to me about Armand’s work is that he was constantly working on his material. I have such respect for people who are really good at the starting point, but when they reach for excellence, then dig down there to find something truly inspired. He really did.

And Danny was so incredibly open, this beautiful trust and this incredible spirit. It was a beautiful collaboration and I couldn’t have asked for more brave actors. I have a lot of respect for actors who are willing to risk and willing the play, and that’s what it was on this episode. Unexpected stuff came out of Armand, out of Danny, out of everyone. At the end they widen their boundaries and are willing do what they haven’t done before. I think it’s so exciting to see another side of [Nick] Amaro’s character, and Danny was open and trusting and wonderful.

That definitely comes through in the episode.
Yeah, because there’s all these different kinds of episodes. Instead of hitting the procedural beat, this is about characters delving into some deep and messy emotions. And I also got to tell a father-son story, and we had that killer fight scene. So now I’m an action director, right? [Laughs] It was just exhilarating.

There’s also a painful moment in the episode where Nick angrily brings up Olivia’s father and William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber). Where is Olivia emotionally right now?
Olivia’s been in therapy, as we know, and is really trying to move past it. She is focused on not being a prisoner to people who have hurt her. Like the line she says in that scene I think is perfect of where she is: “I’ve learned that in order to heal we have to let go.” It’s almost like a mantra. I think what’s hard is to have that thrown in her face in a moment of anger, but he was lashing out because he’s in deep pain. I kind of love that moment, it’s so powerful and so human. We’re mean to the people that love us, and I think that Amaro and Olivia has such a tight bond. As people turn against him I’m sort of the only one who is in his corner, so obviously he was pushing it.

You had such a challenging season last year. Those final episodes with Schreiber were fantastic, but so hard to watch.
Thank you. That was a grueling and excruciating season for me, I have to say.

What’s the rest of this season going to look like for Olivia? Will it be as challenging or harrowing?
I don’t think anything will be as challenging as last season. [Laughs] I really don’t. But the baby has framed everything Olivia is going through in a different way. Here was a woman that was completely focused on work, and alone. And now truly has something to live for — literally has something to live for, she has to stay alive for this child. Her priorities have changed. I even noticed yesterday, I was doing a scene and I was running into a potential set-up and I noticed myself thinking differently. As Olivia, normally I’d go in there to get them, and this time I was like, “Be careful.” I noticed I talk to myself differently after having gone through what I went through with William Lewis, but also being a mother makes you act and think differently. That’s been fun, my inner life as a character is very different.

I also noticed an interesting moment in the episode when Tucker from IAB invites Olivia for a drink and she’s so surprised at his niceness.
Yeah, which was just the shock of all shocks, right? I sort of didn’t know what to do, you gotta play cool around him. But that was just an amazing shocker and, again, a fun, different color to play.

I know that you don’t know for sure about Season 17 yet, but if it gets picked up do you think you’ll return?
I certainly would love to. I have fallen so madly in love with this character. The show is doing so well, these writers, Warren and Julie [Martin], are cranking out these brilliant episodes that, I keep reading on Twitter, get better every week. I have to say I agree. Now there’s all these new places to go. Warren and his team are like a wealth of ideas, and I’m still very, very much engaged and loving the show.

Do you think you’ll direct again this season?
This season, no, but next I hope to. I’ve got to say, I love it.

Are there any updates on your upcoming documentary, “Shelved”? A release date, perhaps?
It’s going great, things are moving along so beautifully. Things are moving faster than we thought they would, in light of all the recent events. So I would say like a year and a half.

“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC.


Jan 21,2015

‘Law & Order: SVU’ star Danny Pino talks this week’s shattering episode

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This week’s Law & Order: SVU is one of those especially brutal ones that directly affects one of the main characters. On the heels of the recent episode in which Detective Rollins (in a devastating performance by Kelli Giddish) revealed that she was once raped comes an intense look into Detective Nick Amaro’s (Danny Pino) past.

In the Mariska Hargitay–directed “Padre Sandunguero,” Nick’s father, Nicolas Sr. (played by veteran actor Armand Assante), shows up at the precinct. He’s there to invite Nick to his May-December wedding. Amaro is visibly traumatized. He hasn’t really spoken to the man at length since he was 15. And with good reason.

In an interview with the EW Community, Danny Pino explained what Nick is feeling:

“I think that seeing his father is a very complicated thing for him,” Pino explained. “I think Nicolas Armaro Sr. is Nick’s biggest trigger. We’ve been seeing certain things about Nick for the last three and a half years. Seeing him act erratically and violently at times. And not quite known why that is. I think in this episode, that trigger comes walking in the door. It’s fear of what this means for his stability and his recovery. He’s in anger management; he wants to keep his job. It shakes his foundation.”

Nick Sr.’s wedding turns violent, and Nick is forced to look back at his traumatic past with his father—and maybe even testify against him. This also pits him against against his family, who insist on seeing his father as the loving, benevolent man he appears to be (but actually isn’t).

“I think we all carry some of that with us,” Pino said. “And to see a character having to face it alone, having his family essentially turn on him and buy what Nick considers to be a con, it’s an incredibly painful thing to go through.”

Behind the scenes, Pino said he was “incredibly grateful and happy and excited and nervous every day” about working with Assante, a Hollywood mainstay.

“He’s incredibly dynamic [and] prepared. When you work with an actor who is so prepared, there’s a tendency to be, I think, married to one way of doing a scene or expressing something. That is so not the case with Armand. His preparation allows him to be free and present and imaginative, which causes the other actors in the scene to be ready for anything.”

And what about taking direction from iconic SVU veteran (and someone Pino considers “a very close, very dear friend”), Mariska Hargitay?

This was Hargitay’s second time in the SVU director’s chair. Pino said her direction enabled him to unearth some of his character’s deeper emotions.

“There was a level of safety, familiarity, of trust that allowed for a lot of that emotional exploration,” the actor explained. “She’s responsible for setting a tone for the set, a level of comfort and confidence. Her understanding of storytelling. She has a very keen understanding of that and what she wants. She’s kind of a champion of that.”

The episode airs Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 9/8C on NBC.

Jan 21,2015

Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay on Directing and Benson’s Evolution: “Everything Is Different Now”

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On screen, Olivia Benson has been pulling double duty all season long on Law & Order: SVU, juggling her duties as a new sergeant and a new mom. Off screen, actress and producer Mariska Hargitay can sympathize. Wednesday’s episode (9/8c, NBC) marks Hargitay’s second time in the director’s chair, this time for an episode introducing the estranged father of Det. Nick Amaro (Danny Pino). “It’s an invigorating process for me,” the Emmy winner tells TVGuide.com of her time behind the camera. Hargitay also spoke with TVGuide.com about Benson’s “challenges,” Season 16’s new directions and her SVU future:

You already have a packed schedule on SVU, so what made you want to add to that and direct again? Mariska Hargitay: You know, I loved it. I feel like I’ve been here so long and have found certain rhythms that I find help people stay in the moment. It’s a love of telling stories, of telling the story my way and being able to shape the story. But also my love for actors and my appreciation and respect for the process, but I also love helping to create an environment where I can get an actor’s best work. Just loving the creative process and finding the unexpected.

This episode is a big one for Danny Pino because we get to meet his character’s father [Armand Assante]. What kind of conversations do you have before filming?
It was so beautiful and so great and exciting to work with both Danny and [Assante]. Both of them were so willing to take risks and try different colors. For Danny, it was very exciting because it was this chance to explore a different side of his character. Armand, it was just a great moment-by-moment surprise. Danny and I talked about opposites and trying things differently and finding the humor and the lighter moments, or the unexpected response, or never knowing what was going to happen next. Finding light in dark or dark in light, trying to switch up the moment and how full a moment it can be.

What new sides do you think viewers will see to Danny’s character in this episode?
The episode is obviously about fathers and sons and wounds and denial and covering up and our commitment to cover things up to protect those vulnerable areas within us, which we will try at all costs to protect. Amaro’s a cop and he’s a protector and he’s had a lot of rage and anger, and this story line is about finding out what’s under that and why? What is he protecting and how far will he go to protect it?

The squad has undergone lots of changes this season: Rollins just took a break and Carisi joined the team, and Nick started out the season as a traffic cop. Why is it important to shake up the team?
A) It’s interesting and B) different chemistries bring out different things. But also, that’s life, right? People go through their personal journeys and they bring their personalities and journeys to work, and I think it’s more compelling to tell the story of someone trying to do their job with all the baggage from their past. I think it just enriches it so much to know, why is Rollins so guarded? Why is she defensive? Now we know and now we feel for her so deeply. … We all see Amaro’s anger, so we try to rally around him. We all saw that Rollins was hiding something. Just getting to know these characters that we love.

This season has seen Benson become a mom while still being in charge of the squad. What have you enjoyed about this latest chapter for her? How do you think being a mom has changed her so far?
That’s what’s been fun for me to play this season, growing that aspect of her personality. Playing Mama Bear to her squad, Mama Bear to the victims, Mama Bear to Noah, she’s in charge of all these people and still figuring out how to do it. Her job is totally new. Part of her job is to keep herself alive now in a new kind of way for Noah. Where before she’d be so singularly focused on getting it done and being fearless and now it’s like, wait a minute, I got to get it done, but at the end of the day, my most important job description is caring for this child. It’s been fun to evolve the character in that way. Everything is different now. Everything.

Last season was a big one for the show with the “Save Benson” trilogy. How do you think SVU has kept up that momentum and continued to keep things fresh this season?
It feels like these writers are a bottomless well of ideas. Because I have to say that there was concern after last year and the depth that we went to of how they were going to sustain it. But I think the show this year has been so compelling and so interesting and has gone off into such interesting directions. It’s fun to see our other characters get fleshed out, like the Rollins episode or the Amaro episode. I want to see a Carisi episode and I think everybody else does too. And that’s been really exciting to watch. I have to say every week I’m pleasantly surprised at how these shows come together and how they are still so compelling. We get really amazing guest stars. I think we have a first-rate cast and really strong writing that absolutely keeps me glued to the show. I think that the writing has been pretty darn incredible and I’m still in.

Why do you think the show still has more stories to tell?
I look at the news everyday and see the issues and crimes we deal with continually making headlines and being debated as legal issues pushing new and renewed legislation — such as the Violence Against Women Act — and as social issues affecting women and society as a whole. SVU is able to start conversations and humanize these problems. We are able to show all sides of an issue, as we did with our Domestic Violence episode this fall, in an episode that portrayed of institutionalized racism (and was nominated for an NAACP Award), the episodes where we both educated and explored the rise in rapes on college campuses — and even in the episode that explored the problem of the rape kit backlog. I feel very fortunate that our show is in a position where we can start a conversation on national TV about these issues in a way that people can empathize with and see the human element involved. We tell stories that matter, stories that can change the lives of individual viewers — and stories that can change the tenor of the conversation and viewpoints of our entire audience.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.


Jan 16,2015

16×13 “Decaying Morality” Episode Synopsis

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Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) find a teenaged girl crying in the street, her clothes torn. Jenna Davis (guest star Haley Lu Richardson) says she was raped in a pizzeria bathroom by Jerome Jones (guest star Kamal Bolden). Jones has a criminal record as well as a pending lawsuit against the NYPD, but with little evidence to go on, the SVU releases him until an arrest can be made. With emotions running high, Jenna’s father (guest star Jamie McShane) takes the law into his own hands with a decision that will change their lives forever. Also starring Ice-T (Det. Odafin Tutuola), Danny Pino (Det. Nick Amaro), Raúl Esparza (ADA Rafael Barba) and Peter Scanavino (Det. Sonny Carisi). Also guest starring Paul Adelstein (Dr. Neil Alexander), Eva Kaminsky (Marcy Davis) and Jason Cerbone (Counselor Desappio)

Jan 07,2015

SVU Nabs Paul Adelstein for Guest Gig

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Law & Order: SVU‘s latest bold-faced name? Private Practice alum Paul Adelstein. Chung! Chung!

Adelstein will guest-star on the Feb. 4 episode of NBC’s long-running procedural, TVLine has confirmed.

The actor, currently starring opposite Lisa Edelstein in Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce on Bravo and recurring as Scandal spinmeister Leo, will play the uncle of an SVU rape victim. The episode is titled “Decaying Morality.”