‘Law & Order: SVU’: Peter Scanavino Says Carisi’s ‘Nervous’ Facing Barba in ‘Organized Crime’ Crossover

Peter Scanavino as Assistant District Attorney Sonny Carisi in Law & Order SVU
Q&A
Will Hart/NBC

Get ready for Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino) vs. Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza), Round 2.

SVU‘s former ADA returns to defend Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), on trial for the murder of Kathy Stabler (Isabel Gillies) in a crossover with Organized Crime on December 9, so as you can imagine, that’s going to be a tough trial for all involved, especially his former mentee. So how worried should he be when Kathy’s husband, Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), takes the stand, given his temper? And what about Richard’s ex-wife, Angela (Tamara Taylor), who was poisoned on his orders and is still recovering?

Scanavino previews the trial and talks about all the risks of Carisi and Detective Amanda Rollins’ (Kelli Giddish) relationship.

Heading into the trial, how’s Carisi feeling, given the other charges against Wheatley were dropped?

Peter Scanavino: It’s interesting because I know he’s guilty. There’s no question in my mind at this time, but at the same time, we seem to have a pretty weak case in terms of evidence. Everything we’re presenting is circumstantial or hearsay, and we don’t really have him dead to rights, especially when some things kind of go askew in the trial. So I think he’s nervous at the beginning of the trial — and especially when the opposing counsel is Barba. He knows how talented and incredible he is as a lawyer.

Speaking of that, they faced off before, but those were different circumstances, so how does Carisi feel about his mentor defending Wheatley?

I don’t know. Obviously you don’t want to be antagonistic with anybody that you respect, but I think he kind of sees it in that sense, right or wrong, everybody’s entitled to a defense and that may be how Barba sees it. Maybe he understands that that is part of the law and that we both exist as lawyers within the judicial system and that’s something that Barba can do. So I don’t think he sees it or takes it personally in the way that some others may in the in the squad or on our side.

Kelli Giddish, Mariska Hargitay, Raul Esparza, Peter Scanavino in Law & Order SVU

Michael Parmelee/NBC

Yeah, it’s not as personal for him like it is for Stabler or [Captain Olivia] Benson [Mariska Hargitay].

Yeah, that’s a completely different thing. From a lawyer’s point of view, you can say, OK, this will be an exercise in justice. I think you get detached in that way sometimes. But with Benson and Barba, it’s more personal.

So is Carisi staying out of the drama and just focusing on the trial itself?

I think he’s got his hands full with the case itself. It seems to fall hard on him, but yeah, I think that’s between them and it’s kind of one of those things, when you’d be at your friend’s house and they’d be fighting with their parents, you just kind of stick your head down and pretend you were someplace else. It’s like that: I’ll let them deal with their issues.

What’s Carisi vs. Barba in court like this time? Last time, Barba told jury he wouldn’t be a nice guy during trial. Is that the Barba Carisi is going to be facing in court this time?

He’s obviously sharp and he knows that to how to expose any faults, and I think Carisi is aware of the weak nature of the case he has, especially as people start dropping out or changing their testimony. So he’s trying to guide this in the most sympathetic light, but if you put somebody on the stand, they’re going to be open to cross-examination. He’s just hoping it’s not going to be as bad as it may turn out to be in a way.

Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in Law & Order Organized Crime

Will Hart/NBC

He’s relying on Angela as a key witness, and as we’ve seen, she’s not exactly in the best shape to testify. And then Stabler’s going to be on the stand, also potentially a problem. What are Carisi’s biggest concerns when it comes to who’s testifying?

With Angela, he knows there’s a past there, but hopefully, he thinks that if it gets exposed in this way, it could make Barba look bad, but Barba’s so good that he can expose faults in testimony but not come off like he’s being a jerk, and so that’s difficult. But then with Stabler, they can use his temper to fool the defense into thinking they’re driving him into a corner when in truth, he’s kind of controlling what’s happening. He’s the one that’s crafting what’s going to happen afterwards.

Is the definitely complicated relationship between Benson and Stabler something that Carisi needs to be concerned about when it comes to the trial?

Yeah, because those personal relationships do complicate things, even if it’s not a real complication. But if it looks complicated, you have to be aware of all those things, the optics in the trial. It just provides an element of volatility in the trial, for sure.

Peter Scanavino as Assistant District Attorney Sonny Carisi, Kelli Giddish as Detective Amanda Rollins in Law & Order SVU

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

How does Carisi feel about how his and Rollins’ relationship is going?

I think he’s very protective of it. They both understand the risks involved, given their positions and their jobs, that this could blow up in their face, but it’s also something that they both really want. So it’s just going to be interesting to see how they navigate this world in terms of how open they are about it or if they’re open at all about it with other people. There’s a lot of excitement between Carisi and Rollins, but then they also have to be very calm and levelheaded about this because it’s kind of explosive material.

Speaking of being open about it, are we going to see that?

You get little snippets here and there, little glimpses into their private lives. But in terms of a big story arc, I don’t know of anything like that yet.

So no big challenges or major relationship milestones coming up?

Not yet, but I’ve heard that that might be in the works.

Rollins is getting blasts from her past with [Lieutenant Declan] Murphy [Donal Logue] and Sergeant Khaldun [Ari’el Stachel] showing up. Will they be too busy with the case to get into the somewhat messy personal dynamics?

With Murphy being the father of Rollins’ kid, they’re definitely gonna talk about that, but I’m actually not even in that episode. So if there’s something that comes after that, that we want to talk about, sure. But not in the actual episode with me.

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC