This week’s episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marks its 300th episode. And now in Season 14, the franchise seems stronger than ever after weathering a big storm a year ago when original cast member Chris Meloni departed.
The silver lining out of that cast drama was that Kelli Giddish came on board as a series regular and her character, Detective Amanda Rollins, quickly became a fan favorite including shipping her character with that of hotter-than-ever Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay).
A lot of credit to Rollins’ popularity goes to Giddish, of course, who already had her share fans from the action series Chase and for her delicious role as Sophia Russo, lover to Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) on CBS’s The Good Wife.
Stopping by an on-location shoot in Brooklyn earlier this month, AfterEllen sat down with the cheery Giddish for a chat. Is she aware of the shipping of Amanda and Olivia? (She is.) Does she miss working with Panjabi? (She does.) And when did she realize she had her share of lesbian fans? (She told us.)
AfterEllen: How has this season been compared to last season when you were still getting your feet wet on the show?
Kelli Giddish: It feels great. It feels really great this season because that’s really the first full season of television I’ve ever done — over 23 episodes, which is a grind. But I’ve got that done with and I know how that works and how to get the most out of myself and out of each episode and now it’s really exciting because the writers know me more. I know the writers more and the crew. So, it’s kind of great, you know? It’s still new but kind of more hooked up as a family.
AE: How was it hearing from the fans when you joined because I know they are very protective of their SVU.
KG: So good! Maybe you put blinders on to the negative but I didn’t hear that much because the people that were just hating on Chris [Meloni] leaving so it was just like, okay. There was nothing we can do. But, the people gave us a chance, which I was very grateful for and I think that was very gracious of the SVU fans. And I think they did such a good job of introducing Danny [Pino], who also joined last season] and I in a very respectful way to the fans. It wasn’t just like “Here are the new hot shot detectives,” you know? They’re like, “No, here’s a new girl from Georgia, she doesn’t even know where Queens is.” They kind of built it in that I was a rookie.
AE: What are we going to know about Amanda this season? I know they did a lot with the character last year.
KG: Yeah, that was great. I just finished up an episode that my sister is introduced in.
AE: Oh, who plays your sister?
KG: Lindsey Pulsipher. She’s a werewolf on True Blood. But we actually worked together on Chase. She was doing just a little guest star role down in Dallas (where Chase was shot) and we looked at each other and we’re like “Man, we could play sisters sometime” and here we are two years later. So, that was really fun because [her character is] very troubled so, there’s an interesting dynamic to play. It’s always good to have family. And good to see Amanda’s apartment, too! It’s always, like, job security.
AE: That’s true. When they build a home set for your character, you know you’re going to be around for awhile. Now, we’re on set here in Brooklyn. What are you shooting today?
KG: Today we’re shooting a part of episode 7 with Bijou Phillips and Scott Bakula. And so, we’re at Scott’s home and an altercation happens. We have to chill everybody out. [The scene also includes Mariska Hargitay, who is down the street from where we were sitting.]
AE: How has it been working with Mariska?
KG: So good.
AE: You know the viewers ship you two, right?
KG: I just found out what ship is. I was, like, what is ‘ship’ on Twitter? We’ve partnered up in the beginning of the season because Amaro (Pino’s character) was having some trouble so they actually partnered us up a little bit. She’s a wonderful lady to work with. I think both of us are really lucky and finding a relationship between two women is hard to come by that is this copacetic [and] is this inspiring. I think we push each other and especially playing cops, it’s hard?
AE: Do you think that the characters are getting closer, not just in work, but just because what you just said about being women in this line of work?
KG: I do. We did a scene the other night with us on an elevator and because of the nature of our characters jobs and being females it’s like there’s an instant “How you doing, Lady?” It’s an instant kind of thing like that and I think there’s a lot to learn from it.
AE: Is that true for real life female cops? Is that something you’ve heard that there is kind of a bonding just because they’re women in this really tough job?
KG: Yeah. I mean, because these women are tough, they’re smart, they’re quick, they’re strong and a lot of these cops could be doing a million other things. They choose to be cops so there’s some kind of allure, something in their character is drawn to being a law enforcement officer.
AE: When did you realize that you had a lesbian following? Was it around the time you did The Good Wife?
KG: Yeah, it was and it’s funny because with Chase a lot of African American black men loved Chase, which is out of nowhere. And then The Good Wife, it has a huge lesbian following, which was just so much fun to play with Archie. I so miss her. I mean, that set, you know, and the producers over there, [Executive Producer] Brooke Kennedy and the writers and the creators. I really, really wish I could get back on that show, but Archie — I watched the scenes with Kalinda’s ex-husband. The ice cream scene?! Come on, my lady, come on.
AE: That was, like, soft serve sexiness.
KG: Yeah, and then I watched her on Jimmy Fallon and they showed a clip but they didn’t show him dipping in and then putting it in her ice cream and then she licks the ice cream. Did you love it?
AE: Anything with her, I love.
KG: She’s awesome.
AE: When they first said they were bringing her husband I thought “Now she’s not going to be with women anymore?” Were you shocked that she’s having this thing with a man?
KG: Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, it’s great, people just want to see her because she is such a cold bitch as she calls herself on the show. They want to see anything that kind of cracks that character and you get to see a peek inside, you know?
AE: Are you working on anything outside the show? I’m sure SVU is keeping you busy.
KG: Yeah, 14 hours a day but I am running the New York marathon. I’m working on that and that’s like a part time job.
AE: How are you training for that?
KG: I ran eight miles during lunch yesterday. That was fun.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC. The New York Marathon happens on November 4th in New York City.