Law & Order SVU has been on-air for 21 years and has been running since 1999. The show pulls in a very loyal audience with incredible stories of innocent victims of heinous crimes. The nature of the material is sensitive and the sheer intensity of the storylines is enough to keep fans coming back for more, year after year.
It's often been said that one of the key elements to the success of this show is the stellar cast that seems to mesh together so incredibly well. Each character is perfectly defined. The cast that was put in place to execute these roles perfectly portrays the characters they are assigned. The on-set chemistry and camaraderie in the group sparks an energy that is evident on television.
However, there are some pretty interesting facts about this show that not even the most die-hard fans would be aware of...
15. SVU Was Inspired By A Real Case
Multiple stories on the show are based on real-life occurrences taken right from the headlines. However, few are aware of the fact that the very premise of the show was inspired by a murder case. In 1986, the Preppy Murder Case gripped news channels. Robert Chambers strangled a woman he dated named Jennifer Levin, and claimed their interaction was consensual, thus launching greater interest - and the development of this show.
14. Hargitay & Meloni Were Not The First Choices For Their Roles
The strongest performers on the show are fan-favorites Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni. Fans will be shocked to learn that these two were not selected as the producers' first choice for their roles. Hargitay beat out Samantha Mathis and Reiko Aylesworth, and Meloni took the part from John Lattery, Nick Chinlund and Tim Matheson. As soon as Hargitay and Meloni auditioned together, the chemistry was obvious, and the rest is history!
13. The Chemistry Between Meloni & Hargitay Was Instant
Via Today Show
It's very uncommon for actors that are unknown to one another to suddenly read through a script for the first time and create magical chemistry. Somehow, that's precisely what happened between Hargitay and Meloni. They innately knew how to bounce off one another, and were so connected that their roles were instantly believable.
12. The Tension Between Them Was Part Of The Show's Success
If you see a tinge of sexual tension between these two, you're certainly not alone. The mere fact that it exists is pretty intensifying and garners a lot of an attention, resulting in increased viewership. The fact that their characters stifle their chemistry, and force their relationship to remain professional, keeps everyone tuned in. Had they explored intimacy on the show, their unique tension-filled dynamic would have been destroyed.
11. NBC Wrote Off Male Roles To Make Room For Female Ones
Goodbye boys, hello ladies! Fans seemed to be enamoured by the strong female roles that were portrayed on this show. They loved seeing these women contend with big issues and take full command of volatile situations. Male roles were actually phased out and written off to make room for new female roles, resulting in large-scale success.
10. Producers Were Sticklers For Creating A Factual Baseline
Producers realized early on that they had to create a proper, accurate, factual baseline for every aspect of the show. Specialists in every area were brought in to ensure paramedics, police officers, sex crime units, and compassionate care workers were represented properly. The show depicts incredible accuracy in how such sensitive crimes are handled in the real world.
9. Meloni Was Cut From The Show Abruptly
Chris Meloni was a fan-favourite for 12 seasons before he made his very abrupt departure from the show. His fast exit both shocked and devastated fans, as he was incredibly loved as one of the most popular faces on the show. The idea of Olivia Benson having to work with a new partner was simply not something fans wanted to experience.
8. Kelli Giddish Made A Return After Ratings Went Up From Her Single Appearance
Sometimes, things just work out naturally. That was definitely the case for Kelli Giddish. She made a brief cameo appearance on the show in Season 8, and fans loved her. She was another unsuspecting strong female character that just seemed to mesh with everyone else with natural chemistry. She was brought back in her leading role as Det. Amanda Rollins in season 13.
7. Peter Scanavino Went From Janitor To Detective
Another role that developed well was that of Peter Scanavino. He initially joined the show in the 14th season. He played the role of a janitor, then found a different position that was better suited for him. By Season 14, he was cast as Det. Dominick Carisi and was a permanent fixture on set. Talk about a serious promotion!
6. Ice-T Was Arrested In Real Life
When Ice-T joined the show, he added a very different texture to the show's programming. His character was depicted as being very no-nonsense, and he was the one on the squad that had the most street-sense. Ironically, Ice-T was arrested for a traffic violation in 2018, while on his way to tape the show. He told E! Online: "Cops went a little Extra.. I love how people think just because I ACT like a cop on SVU I get special treatment from real cops... lol."
5. There Is One Very Elusive, Never-Aired Episode
This show was so popular that there were no hold-backs. Shows were taped and released on schedule, and fans just didn't ever seemed to get enough. Many don't know that there is one elusive episode that never saw the light of day. A 2016 episode called "Unstoppable" had too many similarities to the United States political realm, so this episode was shelved and the door was locked!
4. Ice-T Was Originally Contracted For Just 4 Episodes
Is it really surprising to anyone that fans wanted Ice-T to come back after his 4-episode contract was fulfilled? When the natural bad boy appeared on-screen, fans raved over the 'new guy', and ratings soared. He came with his own fanbase and added a new dynamic to the show which was both fresh and entertaining.
3. Hargitay Was So Touched By The Impact Of Her Character That She Set Up A Charity
Hargitay took her character's role very seriously. Fan mail would continuously pour in with real-life people telling her that she had inspired them to take action in their own lives, after falling victim to crime. Hargitay became increasingly aware that this was more than "just a show" to many people, and eventually founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. This organization "supports sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse survivors". Hargitay quickly became an advocate for victims' rights, both on and off the show.
2. Diane Neal's Popularity Launched Her From A Small Role To A Permanent One
It seems the producers of Law and Order SVU do a little test run to see how fans react to new cast members. Many one-offs and cameos led to long-term roles, based on fan response, and Diane Neal's role was certainly one of them. Her popularity rose from her single-role appearance, and elevated her to a permanent position on the squad.
1. The Show Was Originally Titled Sex Crimes
The show's original title was actually Sex Crimes, which seems basic and non-interesting compared to the title we all know and love. The producers and writers were very aware of the fact that the word "sex" in the title may have been too harsh or exploitative to some viewers, and it was later changed to Law and Order SVU, which was better received and embraced by mass audiences.