Law & Order: SVU has been on the air 19 seasons! We’ve almost had 20 years full of the beloved crime drama, which follows the detectives who work in the Special Victims Unit; a unit dedicated to solving crimes of a sexual nature, involving children. We’ve come to know and love iconic characters like Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler. But, as with any long-running show, it hasn’t been without drama both on and off set. From actors who thought the role was beneath them, to political biases, to close calls with death, there have been a lot of crazy things that've happened to the crew and cast. Some of these secrets might be even more shocking than the scandals on the show! But regardless of everything, Law & Order remains one of the most loved shows on TV.
I’m still its #1 fan, are you?
15 Elliot Stabler Was Fired Over A Money Dispute
Fans were heartbroken in 2011 when Christopher Meloni, who played Elliot Stabler for 12 seasons, abruptly didn’t return for the 13th. Rumour has it the actor couldn’t agree on contract negotiations with the producers, who then decided to fire him rather than give him a bigger payday.
The show also did a lousy job of trying to explain his character's absence, which left many fans feeling unfulfilled and disappointed. In the season 12 finale, Stabler shot and killed a woman, who then died in his arms. Though the shooting was deemed a ‘good shot,’ it was reportedly too much for the detective to handle and he handed in his resignation.
In the next season, Captain Cragen tells Olivia that her longtime partner won’t be returning. Fans felt her pain as she begins crying on screen, something we’re not used to seeing from the strong detective. Rumour has it, Elliot might be returning for a cameo, so perhaps these two will be reunited in the end!
14 A Co-Star’s Child Went Missing IRL
Jade, c’mon home, you sweet, beautiful, soul. We love and miss you dearly. pic.twitter.com/7bTCpL0kr1— donal logue (@donallogue) July 7, 2017
Law & Order has a lot of episodes about missing or harmed children, but cast member Donal Logue (aka Declan Murphy) had his child go missing in real life this past year. The actor’s transgender daughter, Jade, was missing for two weeks in the summer of 2017. At the time, she was last seen near New York’s Brooklyn Barclay Center. The girl, however, was later reportedly found at a friend’s house unharmed, and was shortly reunited with her parents.
It’s unclear of the reason that Jade ran away, but her famous parents made sure to express their gratitude on social media. “Thank you ALL for the love and support. We are good. Kasey and I wish to thank the NYPD. FBI, @MissingKids and countless others,” Donal wrote on Twitter. His ex-wife Kasey Smith also tweeted, “Jade Logue has been found. Thank you to everyone for the support, love. Far and wide support. Beyond grateful.”
13 The Cast Are Pushing For More LGBTQ Representation
Law & Order has never been afraid to touch on LGBTQ topics or to have gay characters. One of the series regulars, Dr. George Huang, has been openly gay on the show for many seasons. But that doesn’t mean the cast doesn’t think the show needs even more representation. And I totally agree.
Several co-stars have said to the press that the show needs more gay leads, and that they’d be happy if their character was playing for a different team. Raúl Esparza, who’s bisexual in real life, has said he’d love his character, DA Rafael Barba, to be gay. Peter Scanavino, who plays Detective Carisi, has also said he’d love it if his character came out of the closet. “I think it would be cool because it would kind of [be] against type, you know what I mean?” he told E! News.
Carisi hasn’t had too many female love interests, so could he be foreshadowing next season’s plot?
12 Mariska Almost Died From An On-Set Injury
What would we do if there was no more Olivia Benson? Well, fans almost had to find out after Mariska suffered a serious injury in October of 2008, which almost left her incapacitated. The actress is known for doing her own stunts, and she was doing a risky jump during filming that caused her to land the wrong way. As a result, Mariska had a microscopic bleed that began in her lung tissue.
Things got worse in January 2009 when she was rushed to the hospital after her lung had collapsed as a result of the previous injury. Mariska found out she would have to undergo several surgeries in order to repair the injury. The actress has said this brought back a traumatic experience from her past when her mom died in a car accident in front of 3-year old Mariska, who was in the backseat.
“Losing my mother at such an early age is the scar of my soul," she has previously said. "But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I did to be here."
11 The Show Has A Thing Against The Catholic Church
Law & Order has never been afraid to cover controversial subjects, including sex abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been various episodes where priests or others involved in the church have been accused of heinous crimes, particularly against children. These episodes were meant to parallel the very real abuse cases that have plagued the church in real life.
However, over the years some fans have accused the show of having a bias and painting the church in a negative way. While those storylines do (and have) happened, that doesn’t mean the church is wholly bad, fans argue. Even the show’s producers have admitted they may have targeted Catholicism one too many times.
Executive producer and writer Warren Leight once admitted this in an interview with E! News. “We went after a lot of institutions that had problems […] [But] two things I’ve learned: Don’t go after the NFL or the Catholic Church if you want an ‘Atta Boy’ from the network.”
10 Raúl Esparza Only Took The Role As A ‘Rebound’
Most actors would think a starring role on Law & Order is a huge deal for their career. But Raúl Esparza, who plays DA Rafael Barba in the later seasons, only took the gig because he wasn’t finding success on Broadway. So it sounds like SVU was one of his last resorts, not a career move he wanted. Reports say the star only accepted the role in order to “rebound” from a failed Broadway production. Given the success he’s had on the show, I bet he doesn’t regret this career move at all.
Since taking the role, Raúl has only had great things to say about Law & Order. “There are conversations with Benson and Barba that I'm actually really proud of, mostly because I remember the joy of filming them,” he once told The Hollywood Reporter. “My favorite thing in the world to do on that set is get to a scene late night when it's Mariska and myself. She's one of my favorite acting partners I've ever had, and she's just someone who is so willing to go there.”
9 The Producers Originally Didn't Want Ice-T To Stick Around
We love all of the detectives on Law & Order, and couldn’t imagine the show without all of them. However, when the show was first starting production. Ice-T wasn’t supposed to stick around for too long.
He was actually only supposed to play Fin for four episodes, but he liked the role so much that he asked to stick around. Luckily the producers loved his performance (and probably his famous name), so they agreed to write him in as a recurring cast member.
He’s even admitted that he doesn’t mind being more famous for his acting career nowadays than for his rapping career (since he was big in the ‘90s!). “I’ve been on Law & Order for 15 years. If you’re 17 now, that means I started when you were two,” he said in 2013. “So you don’t have a reference point for me as a rapper. Your mother does, your father does. […] I’m just glad to still be in the game.”
8 Olivia Benson Took A Side In The Taylor Vs. Katy Feud
Law & Order is the last place we’d expect to see one of Taylor Swift’s feuds influencing, but it turns out that the show is a pretty big supporter of her. Or should I say one of the show’s stars, specifically.
Olivia’s real-life persona, Mariska Hargitay, is a huge T-Swift fan and is even a close friend of hers. She showed the world where she stands in Tay’s ongoing feud when she appeared in the pop star’s music video for "Bad Blood" (along with tons of other celebs), which was an epic diss at the singer’s arch nemesis Katy Perry.
Taylor first gained attention from the show’s cast when she told the media how much of a fan she is; she even named her cat Olivia Benson! Since then, Mariska has posed for red carpet pics with the star and has made it clear they’re besties. Who knew Olivia was a Taylor fan!
7 Mariska Hargitay Is Married To A Co-Star
While Olivia Benson might not be married on the show, the actress that plays her is very much married in real life — and it’s all thanks to Law & Order! Mariska met actor Peter Hermann when he played the recurring role of Defense Attorney Trevor Langan. They couple were married in 2004 in Santa Barbara and have gone on to welcome three children.
Mariska gave birth to their first child, son August, in 2006 by emergency caesarean section. In April 2011, the couple adopted daughter, Amaya Josephine, and were present for her birth. That same year in October, they adopted a son named Andrew, who had been born several months earlier.
“I’m the girl who started wearing maternity pants about an hour after I found out I was pregnant because I was so excited about becoming a mom,” she once said about being a mama.
6 Donal Logue Didn’t Think The Show Was Good For His Career
Fans will recognize Donal Logue as Declan Murphy. Though is appearances in the show were short, he became an increasingly important character. He was made commanding officer of SVU, and later went on to father Detective Rollins’ baby. However, the actor eventually left the show to pursue other big opportunities - specifically, a starring role on Gotham.
The producers have since admitted they regret letting Donal slip away. Executive producer Warren Leight has said, “I wish we had signed Donal Logue up. We were falling in love with him and he was falling in love with the show and he got offered Gotham and we were not yet picked up at that point, so I couldn’t offer him a job.” Honestly, the show could have been a heck of a lot different if he’d become a recurring cast member in the first season.
5 The Show's Intro May Have A Political Bias
Do you find that the voice who voices “In the criminal justice system…” introduction sounds familiar? That’s because he’s a familiar face in politics! Steven Zirnkilton is the name behind the iconic voice, and he’s served four terms (a total of eight years) as a Republican in the Maine House of Representatives. This has made some fans accuse the intro of having too much of a Republican influence, though it's known for leaning more on the Democratic side of things.
Zirnkilton even had big political aspirations at one point. In 1994, when Congresswoman Olympia Snowe didn’t want to be re-elected to the US House of Representatives, Steven attempted to replace her. Ultimately, he lost the election to State Senator John Baldacci. However, Steven has lent his famous voice to political campaigns, like Susan Collins’ re-election campaign in 2014. This guy really has been trying to instill law and order in society through his political endeavors!
4 The Show Was Originally Going To Have A Graphic Name
When the show was first created, the producers wanted it to stand alone from the original Law & Order. They were going to give it a wholly independent name, and a more graphic one at that. Originally, the show was simply going to be called S** Crimes, which would have given fans a blunt summary of what the crime show is about.
However, the show’s creator Dick Wolf eventually decided the name was a bit too much. Rumour has it he had trouble getting the show on board with a network with the name as it was. Wolf allowed the show to become part of the Law & Order franchise, which is how the Special Victims Unit spin off was born. And we bet Wolf was glad he switched the title, as this version is the longest running Law & Order program in TV history.
3 Richard Belzer Has Worked With The Show’s Competition
Richard Belzer (aka John Munch) has portrayed his famous character on more shows than just Law & Order: SVU. He is currently the reigning kin of crossover episodes, and has lent his character to other drama series' that fall under the Law & Order realm.
John Munch originally didn’t start off as a detective on the show. The character was first created and played by Belzer in Homicide: Life on the Street. Since then, Belzer has appeared as John on 10 different shows, spanning across five different networks!
He’s portrayed the character on notable shows like The X-Files, 30 Rock, The Wire, and Arrested Development. His character has even appeared in puppet form on Sesame Street in a special sketch called "Law & Order: Special Letters Unit."
2 Mariska Hargitay Became A Trauma Counsellor IRL
Mariska Hargitay does an incredible job at playing Detective Olivia Benson. She’s always able to connect and work with the victims efficiently, and never lets us down with her compassion and open mindedness. I bet that Mariska’s training as a real life sexual assault counsellor helps her in the role.
In an interview with the actress, Good Housekeeping wrote, “Hargitay underwent training to become a rape-crisis counsellor. But listening wasn't enough; she wanted to shed light on these crimes and give survivors hope that they could rebuild their shattered lives.” In addition to her training, Mariska has partnered up with charities and organizations that work with victims of sexual assault, proving she really is Olivia Benson in real life.
1 She Also Opened A Charity Because Of She Show’s Fans
Mariska has been so inspired by playing Olivia, not only did she become a rape counsellor IRL, but she is also the founder and president of a charity that works with survivors of sexual assault, as well as domestic and child abuse.
“I started getting fan mail from survivors who felt a connection to Olivia,” Mariska once said about her charity. “In many of these letters, people would disclose their personal stories of abuse—some for the very first time. I remember getting the sense that many were living in isolation with so much shame, but the shame belonged to the perpetrators.” She added, “I wanted to help find a way to help people reclaim their lives and live them with a renewed sense of possibility and hope. And that's what we work to do every day at Joyful Heart.”
I love that Mariska is just as incredible in real life as Olivia is on the show. You go, girl!