March 29, 2017 | Mathew Burke

Investigative Facts About “Law & Order: SVU”


Created by Dick Wolf, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, often referred to as SVU, is a crime drama television series set in New York City, part of the seemingly endless Law & Order stable of shows. Typical episodes followed a group of detectives and their colleagues as they investigated and prosecuted sexually based offenses. Since the cancellation of the original Law & Order in 2010, SVU has since become the longest running scripted non-animated U.S. primetime TV series.

SVU has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including a 2006 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Mariska Hargitay, which is the first and only Emmy ever won by a series regular on any Law & Order series.

The series was renewed for an 18th season which premiered in September 2016 on NBC.

Here are a few facts about SVU that you might now have known.

Dun dun.


Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Facts

29. The end of an era

Christopher Meloni, played detective Stabler, was a staple on SVU since the show’s premiere in 1999. After more than 200 episodes Chris and NBC could not come to an agreement on a new contract and he left the series after the action packed season 12 finale.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit facts Flickr

28. Entitled

The show was originally called Sex Crimes but NBC thought the title was a bit off-putting and Dick Wolf wanted it to be part of the Law & Order universe.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit facts Getty Images

27. They’re Special

In 2016, a New York Times study found that, based on Facebook likes, SVU’s popularity was slightly higher in rural areas, but largely restricted to the eastern half of the country and was, in fact, the most popular in Albany, NY,

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

26. In the House

Steve Zirnkilton, the actor behind the voiceover in the opening credits (“in the criminal justice system…”) has actually served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives which makes him one of the few Congressmen who actually understands the criminal justice system.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

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25. Bounceback

Raul Esparza initially didn’t want to take the role of ADA Rafael Barba but did so as an acting “rebound” from a lackluster Broadway production. Nothing like a bad Broadway production to lower your standards enough to do a hit TV show.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

24. Character Development

Each episode of Season 13 had 13 letters in the title. Season 14 had 14 letters. Season 15 has 15. And on through to Season 17. In Season 18, they realized that nobody really noticed and they gave up on being clever.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsPixabay

23. Celebrity Tapes

Celebrities who have made guest appearances on the show include Robin Williams, Hilary Duff, Hayden Pannetierre, Amanda Seyfried, Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper, Martin Short, and Elizabeth Banks. They all played themselves. Celebrities are freaky.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

22. Not Quite Fin-ished

Ice-T was only supposed to play the part of Fin for four episodes, but he liked it so much that he decided to keep hanging around. Apparently, it’s more fun to play a cop than to rap about them.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsFlickr

21. From O.G. to G.O.

In the African Yoruba language, Fin’s last name “Tutuola” means “The Gentle One.” Because when you look at Ice-T, you definitely think, “Gosh, that man looks gentle.”

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

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20. Mother May I?

Mariska Hargitay keeps a picture of her actual mother on her character’s desk. If you’re investigating violent sex crimes, it’s always nice to think of home.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

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19. SVU? I Do!

Hargitay met her husband on the SVU set when he guest-starred as defense attorney Trevor Langan so now she’s a special victim of marriage.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

18. State of Mind

Although the show is set in New York, for the first eleven seasons, it was actually shot in New Jersey. Bur, really, sex crimes don’t understand state lines.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsWikipedia

17. Back to the Beginning

The show is now being shot at the studio that was formerly used by the main Law & Order franchise.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

16. The Terrorists Keep Winning

After the events of 9/11, like almost every other show that came out at the time, NBC ordered the opening credits re-edited to remove images of the Twin Towers.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsShutterstock

15. The Munchies

Richard Belzer has played the character of Detective John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order, The X-Files, The Beat, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Arrested Development, and The Wire. This is a record for the most different shows a single character played by the same actor has been on. John Munch would serve as the anchor for the most intense crossover episode of Law & Order ever.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

14. From Lenny to Kenny

Former regular Chris Orbach, who played Ken Briscoe, is the son of Jerry Orbach, who played Lennie Briscoe on the original Law & Order. Ken Briscoe is Lennie Briscoe’s nephew.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

Jerry Orbach

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13. The Cat’s still in the Bag

An episode of SVU that was “ripped from the headlines” dealt with a totally-not-Trump-but-like-it’s-definitely-Trump inspired character whose political campaign goes awry after several women come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. The episode was set to air in late 2016 but was delayed several times before the election, and after Trump won, was taken off the schedule entirely. Dick Wolf “suspects” that it will air in the spring of 2017.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsShutterstock

12. I Knew You Were Trouble

Taylor Swift is such a huge fan of the show that she named her cat Olivia Benson.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

11. Stunted

Mariska Hargitay used to insist on doing her own stunts until one of them left her with a partially collapsed lung. She doesn’t insist so much anymore.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsFlickr

10. Yes, and!

Kathy Griffin was Mariska Hargitay’s improv teacher at the Groundlings theater company in Los Angeles. Griffin later guest starred on an episode.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

9. His Own Worst Enemy

Christopher Meloni, who played an NYPD detective on SVU, also simultaneously played inmate Chris Keller on the HBO prison drama Oz. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “For about two or three years, I would wake up at 4:30, get in the van at 6, drive to Oz, kill people ‘til about noon, jump in the car, go to SVU, and go arrest people who murder people ‘til about two a.m.”

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsWikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore

8. Cleaning Up

Peter Scanavino made his SVU debut as Johnny Dubcek, a janitor. Two seasons later, he became a cast regular as Dominick Carisi, a junior detective. Clearly it was the name that was holding him back.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsSVU, NBC Universal Television

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7. Earned a seat

In fact, Scanavino guest starred on four of the five Law & Order series before finally landing his role as a series regular.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

6. Playing Both Sides

Similarly, series regular Diane Neal, who played Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak, made her SVU debut two seasons earlier as a woman accused of raping a male stripper.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsGetty Images

5. Proud Parents

SVU is the only prime-time drama to have been spun off from two different shows: Law & Order and through the character of John Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsShutterstock

4. Leight It Up

Warren Leight, writer and executive producer on SVU for four seasons, said that while the show tackled some big topics, they got the most pushback from the Catholic Church and the NFL, two organizations who are both fighting over who dominate Sundays.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsFlickr

3. Well Deserved

Cast members are often approached by survivors of sexual abuse, thanking them for accurately portraying these stories on TV and helping to raise awareness.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsShutterstock

2. Fake News

SVU episodes are touted as being “ripped from the headlines” which actually means that the stories are “inspired” by recent headlines and not based on actual real events. Y’know, the way “Ice Ice Baby” was “inspired” by “Under Pressure.”

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsPixabay

1. Basic Training

Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson, was so moved by letters from assault victims that she became a trained rape crisis counsellor in real life.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit factsWikimedia Commons, Daniel Ogren

Sources: 1 2 3 4


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