We all love Law and Order: SVU for the amazing cast we see week to week but every now and then a familiar face pops up that we didn’t expect. Here are some cameos by actors you’ve definitely seen before!
As a diehard television watcher, and most importantly an avid SVU watcher, I live by the theory that all actors in Hollywood are connected by one universe–the Dick Wolfiverse. But particularly his best-known and longest-running show on primetime television, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, is the show that I watch on the couch week after week and shout to whoever is in the next room, “I know that actor from somewhere!” This is quite possibly because many of the best-known actors have passed through the show at some point. I mean, with well over 500 episodes and counting it doesn’t come as a surprise. Here are some of the most iconic performances from our favorite celebs on the show so far.
Hilary Duff plays a negligent mother who fights against the purported injustice of her daughter’s death due to another mother not vaccinating her child against measles. The logical cartwheels this woman does are immeasurable, and while the episode highlights a valid concern about vaccination as a public safety measure, it detracts from the point that her own negligence would have surely caused the death regardless, and even after a wrongful death, abuse should be prosecuted.
If you know this actor, you may better know him for his recurring role as Eric Van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl, but did you know that he played two distinct child perpetrator roles on SVU? The first, he was 12 years old playing a child who commits a violent crime and bullies an older boy into taking the fall for him (Season 4 Episode 9 “Juvenile”). In the second, he plays a 14-year-old who sells child porn of himself and his younger brother (Season 7 Episode 21 “Web”). Mr. Paolo seriously does not get enough credit for his roles on the show but I give him major props for pulling off these heinous roles so young–remarkable!
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jennifer Love Hewitt does it again! If you love the teen drama genre, you will remember JLH’s prominent role as Bailey’s love interest on Party of Five, but on SVU she does not disappoint either. This is what I believe to be the most in-depth articulation of stalking and ongoing sexual abuse and depiction of a rape kit/exam that SVU had done up to this point and possibly since. Her raw and unhinged emotion when she confronts her abuser hits home to the message SVU often conveys, which is that facing your abuser can be one of the most empowering things a survivor can do to heal (Season 12 Episode 3 “Behave”).
Everyone absolutely LOVES Robin Williams but we cannot say this enough, we hate this character on SVU. He simply has no remorse and no accountability, just a sick man on a power trip. But Robin Williams does an excellent depiction of what charm and humility can do for a perp on the witness stand or as the defense attorney as he appoints himself (Season 9 Episode 17 “Authority”). As ridiculous as his tactics are, the way he shows up Stabler is hilarious and it all culminates with the kind of bomb explosion near-death thing that you’d think they’d bring up later but they never do.
Known best for his roles on Gilmore Girls, Heroes, and This is Us, Milo Ventimiglia is a powerhouse in the brooding dark, and handsome category. On SVU, he plays an abused son who accuses his father, who retaliates against him. Milo trades in his dark and brooding for a moment and shows us a very touching and vulnerable side of him (Season 5 Episode 11 “Escape”).
Today a director of the upcoming John Green flick, Turtles All the Way Down, as well as Don’t Make Me Go, Hannah originally started as an actress and one of our favorite episodes includes her portrayal of Evie Barnes. Evie is a college freshman who becomes involved in the porn industry when she turns 18, which lands her in a tough situation when her coeds decide that porn stars can’t say no. This episode casts a light on what it means to be in sex work, consent, and the right to say no no matter who you are. It is an incredibly important message and Marks is adorable and sweet in her character, playing into the duality of her character versus her darker side (Season 16 Episode 5 “Pornstar’s Requiem”).
You may know her as Marissa on The O.C., a very heavy teen drama where she played a troubled rich girl, but on SVU, an even more troubled victim of sex trafficking. No one plays troubled and brooding like Mischa, and she does an accent too! Very New York as opposed to So Cal (Season 11 Episode 14 “Savior”). Her choice to give her dying baby to Benson to “clean up her act” was very problematic, but I guess all’s well that ends well?
James Van Der Beek
I was watching this for a good 5 minutes before I even recognized James Van der Beek, and here, the teen heartthrob from Dawson’s Creek is playing a pedophile who prays on his sperm donor children? But he isn’t even the sperm donor the girls are looking for? AND they think it’s this innate “father-daughter connection”? Absolutely heinous, but we love to see Van der Beek expanding his range of characters (Season 13 Episode 20 “Father Dearest”).
What do you do when you’re a woman trying to save her child with Cystic Fibrosis? This is a question Elizabeth Banks’ character in SVU asks herself when entering the porn industry and starring in over 300 adult films to support her daughter’s medical treatment (Season 3 Episode 7 “Sacrifice”). Tragedy turns worse when her character cannot escape the entanglement she has woven for herself, and ultimately she must make a choice that saves her daughter, even if she can’t save herself. This is a very different role for Banks, and we couldn’t get enough of her!
Though she played a smaller role as the child of an accused predator who was later vindicated (Season 3 Episode 1 “Repression”), she is best known for her virulent role as a wigged-out over-achiever who goes to dark measures to be in first position. Though Hyland is known primarily for her comedic roles such as on Modern Family, she shows an incredibly vast range in her take on a character who could very easily be flat and one-sided, but her intensity and emotional depth prevail and even make us question her criminal status by the end of the episode (Season 10 Episode 12 “Hothouse”).