Ethan Cutkosky Previews His ‘SVU’ Return: There’s ‘Another Level of Psychopathy’ to Henry
Law & Order: SVU is doing something it doesn’t do too often — revisiting a case years later — in the May 20 episode.
Ethan Cutkosky (Shameless) returns as Henry Mesner, whom we met in the Season 14 episode “Born Psychopath.” Then, he had been sent to juvenile detention after killing a neighbor’s dog and trying to kill his sister and Detective Nick Amaro (Danny Pino). He’s now 18 and eligible for release — but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a threat.
Cutkosky previews his return and what to expect from Henry in “Post-Graduate Psychopath.”
You did almost all of Shameless in the time between your appearances on SVU. Talk about that call to come back and revisit this character.
Ethan Cutkosky: Law & Order, back in 2013, was I think the only thing that I did between my high school years — I graduated in 2018 — while filming Shameless. We saw the reaction from people throughout the years, which was unexpected and very lovely to hear about. I follow Warren Leight on Twitter, and I would see, “Oh, we hope that we can bring this character back one day.” I always found that exciting. I remember he was talking a little bit about it last year. I didn’t have a timeframe or expectation, but when the Law & Order team reached out this past year, it was very exciting to hear that we would be able to get this reoccurring.
What was it like stepping back into Henry’s shoes?
It was a nice challenge coming from playing Carl Gallagher for the past 11 years. They wanted to write a character that is born on the psychopathy level. These are roles that I want to take into my career and move forward. And so it was a very exciting yet daunting role to take on, especially at this age. When I was 13, I had only a sliver of amount of understanding comparatively to 21 now, so I was very excited to be able to take this at this age and put my all into it.
What can we expect from Henry in his return?
You can expect the creep factor, the scare level that everybody experienced back in 2013, but a little bit maybe more menacing from this age. The depthness of the psychopath in this character is definitely there. I think it’ll be a very intriguing episode.
I was going to ask, how can you take it to another level? Because he was a terrifying kid — when he pulled out that knife from his bed and then going for the strawberries in the fridge after cutting his mom’s hand…
Yeah. Especially at that age, 13 years old, you only have so much dialogue. Also coming from Henry’s perspective as a 13-year-old psychopath, you’re very disconnected from your own reality and very manipulative. So there’s only X amount that you really have to give out into the world. And I think that’s what we witnessed back in 2013. So coming back, you see almost another level of Henry, almost a more humanistic side that’s manipulative and makes you think, has this person actually been rehabilitated to where they can conform back to society? That’s another level of psychopathy that will be very interesting to see through the eyes of Law & Order.
Henry has tricked his way into being released, but what does he want to do exactly with his freedom?
Mostly revenge, [against] everybody that hurt him and everybody that betrayed him. [It’s not that he] cares to be on the outside of the world, but more so just to seek his revenge and put pain into where he wants and then be able to manipulate himself back into the system. Because he knows that he’ll be able to plead insanity. He knows certain things that he can do that will lead him back to the spot where he has the most power.
He blamed [Captain Olivia] Benson [Mariska Hargitay] for trying to send him away. Should we be worried?
I definitely think that there should be a little worry in this. I definitely do think that Henry does get served by everybody in the end, but he definitely has a vengeance out for Benson.
[Detective Amanda] Rollins [Kelli Giddish] was present for that eerie strawberry conversation in the first episode that you were in. What can you preview about their interactions this time?
It seems that Rollins’ character was the first one to take Henry with a little bit more seriousness and saying, “Is this a child that needs to still have love?” She sees Henry all these years later, saying, “I have this soft spot for him, I saw him do this.” I think Henry also realizes that and being the way that he is, he’s able to manipulate that and kind of use it to his own advantage. At the end, you’ll start to kind of see that pendulum shift to the other side of her having a soft spot for him.
Last time he shot Nick who thankfully had a vest on. So is it a good thing that Nick’s no longer around?
Maybe from Henry’s personal standpoint. I personally would have loved to see Danny Pino. I had a great time working with him back then. But I think that maybe for Henry, it may be a little bit easier to use his tricks or manipulation on people without him around.
Henry is a danger to his family. So what can you say about his family members now? How do they handle his release?
How would most families handle somebody that’s trying to be rehabilitated? There’s fear, but they also want to see their son back.
What about his sister?
I think he tries to pin all of his anger on her at the end and that really shows. You can definitely see the anger that he’s held against her throughout all the years and also you’ll be able to see this while he’s dealing with his sister, Ruby, and interacting with Rollins’ character.
Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC