'Law & Order SVU': Savior of Lost Actors

TV's most sex crime-centric show does a really good job at casting. Let's celebrate that. 

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Every morning we address the important topic of something big, significant, funny, weird, etc. that happened while we were lying on the couch in front of the TV last night. Today we appreciate the good casting work of TV's most sex crime-centric show.

Like a lot of New York-filmed shows, Law & Order SVU is often chock-full of good guest stars from the world of theater and, well, other New York television shows. Last night's episode, about a rape at a psych ward (cheery stuff, this) was certainly no exception, featuring notables like Carrie Preston, Karen Young, J. Smith Cameron and, quite hearteningly, Natasha Lyonne!

Yes, the great young actress is continuing on her road to recovery after a few (almost many?) years spent lost in other things. So there she was last night playing, yikes, a mental patient rape victim, but, y'know, playing it strongly! And acting well, as she's always done in the past. It was great to see her sink her teeth into something meaty.

That's one of the great things about this show, that it gives big, juicy (if, y'know, melodramatically written -- but who cares!) single-episode showcases to all kinds of actors. We've seen Hilary Duff working dark, Stephen Colbert busting out the drama (on Criminal Intent, but same diff), and oft forgotten new relics like Luke Perry and Mary Stuart Masterson all pop up, involved in some, yes, heinously terrible crime. Law & Order is like the Sargasso Sea, where all lost things are found. (And where eels rape each other?)

And speaking of lost things, how good is new cast member Kelli Giddish? She herself is a rescuee from NBC's scuttled Chase, and before that a web series called The 'Burg. And here she's doing the same Southern tough stuff she did on Chase, but who cares if it's similar, she's so gosh darn endearing it doesn't matter. There's just something beguiling about her small-framed ease and saunter. She brings the same confidence, tweaked to a different degree, to her occasional guest work on The Good Wife, another show that guest casts terrifically from a pool of talented New York (and beyond) actors. Giddish makes you hardly miss old Elliot Stabler, that boring gruff who was always getting too close to the case.  In fact, his departure has seemed to give the show a lot of room to breathe. This season has been creatively reinvigorated, the highlight being an episode directed artfully (yes, artfully! on Law & Order SVU!) by Frozen River's Courtney Hunt. That episode featured New York theater staples Deirdre O'Connell and Rebecca Luker, along with the always terrific Andre Braugher. This show just gets good people!

Good people like Natasha Lyonne. Hopefully this, and her role in the upcoming Kristen Wiig indie Imogen, will bring her back front and center, where she belongs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.