‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’: Christopher Meloni, Dick Wolf and More Talk SVU Crossovers and Elliot 2.0
Christopher Meloni is firmly back in the world of Law & Order, and it doesn’t sound like fans will have to worry about saying goodbye again to his character, Detective Elliot Stabler, at least not for a while.
While speaking with reporters about the SVU spinoff Organized Crime, Meloni, creator Dick Wolf, and showrunner Ilene Chaiken discussed how they’re handling crossovers between the two shows, teased what a potential second season will look like, and more.
Balancing Crossovers With SVU
SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, who plays Captain Olivia Benson (Elliot’s former partner), appeared in the first two episodes. And we know that Meloni, who made his Law & Order return on his old show to tee up his spinoff’s premiere, will be popping up on SVU again this season, but how often will we see any crossover?
“The most accurate measure of how often there will be crossovers and of what depth are the Chicago shows,” Wolf said. “We’re going to do it whenever it gives both shows a different way to shine. And obviously, there’s a portion of the audience that says, “This is frustrating. Why don’t you just put them both in the same show again?” It’s not exciting. This, to me, is much more engaging.”
“These two shows live in the same fictional but very-grounded universe. And we never forget that those other characters and those other stories exist,” Chaiken added. “When we tell a story about Stabler in Benson’s world or Benson in Stabler’s world, and things happen that affect their characters, we don’t just forget about it. So it’s both challenging and tantalizing from the point of view of story writing to make sure that you keep those things alive while the shows have their own identity, each of them.”
Elliot Stabler 2.0
SVU fans remember how hotheaded Elliot gets. We even see that upon his return, in the interrogation room in “Return of the Prodigal Son.” Though he gets in a suspect’s face — after being taunted about his wife Kathy’s (Isabel Gillies) condition — he doesn’t hit him.
“When he walked into the interrogation room and rolled up his sleeve, I don’t think that was in the script. It’s an instinct,” Wolf said of Meloni. “He rolls up his sleeve, 80% of the audience, I’m sure, thought he was going to punch the guy. That’s pretty cool.”
The character of Stabler being a hothead has been built in from the beginning of SVU.
“I saw this guy as a guy under pressure constantly,” Meloni recalled. “After speaking with real SVU detectives about the pressures that they were under and the crimes that they witnessed, I knew that I, personally, would have a very difficult time downloading and processing what these real people and heroes do every day and the things that they see.” So what comes across as hotheaded is “his reaction to injustice,” he explained.
On Organized Crime, we’re getting “Elliot 2.0,” who must have “a clearer understanding that the world is unjust,” Meloni continued. How does he adapt to that, especially when the hits keep coming?
One such punch was Kathy dying as a result of injuries sustained when a bomb was put in their car. “You have a guy who’s dealt with injustice, always one step removed [from the victims],” he said. “How do you attend to your own wound, your own injustice? How do you carry on carrying that much grief? Let’s hope that Elliot has found better coping mechanisms.”
As for the decision to kill off Kathy, “it’s probably the most dramatic teaser I can remember on any show,” Wolf defended. “I didn’t see anything that was critical of that storytelling. You can’t please all of the people any of the time. It’s not what we do.”
Chaiken agreed. “I was not in any way put off by it. I was immediately drawn in,” she said. “When you tell a story about a beloved character who’s been gone for many years, the first question you ask yourself is, “Why now?” And that as a storytelling catalyst is one of the best ‘why nows’ I could ever think of.”
The Stabler Family
We will be seeing more of his family, some of his kids more than others. All five attended the funeral in the premiere, but only his youngest, 14-year-old Eli (Nicky Torchia), is living with him.
“This is a show that will spend time with Stabler and his family and his life and his emotions,” Chaiken promised. “The DNA of the Law & Order franchise, of SVU, is very much in our show, but we probably will get to know Stabler in a way you’ve never gotten to know him.”
Season 2’s Already Planned
While the series has yet to be renewed (the rest of Wolf’s NBC dramas were picked up for three seasons in February 2020), we already have an idea of what to expect: a 24-episode season, divided into three eight-episode arcs.
“The first third of the season is The Godfather. The second third is American Gangster. And the last third is Scarface,” Wolf previewed. “These villains are going to be really bad guys that give Chris a constant source of energy, outrage, belief in justice, and a different way of pursuing criminals than we’ve had before.”
“This is a very long, but not too long, period to really get inside both your protagonist and your antagonist’s heads,” he continued. “All you have to do is look at the casting in the first episode and realize this is not episodic casting, we’re shooting for bigger game.”
Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC