It's not every day you see a procedural drama that's 15 years old spend a lot of time evolving its main characters with personal issues and quirks, but that's just what Law & Order: SVU has been doing under the guidance of Warren Leight.
Sergeant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) has been put through the ringer after being brutally attacked and kidnapped, and now the spotlight is on Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and her gambling addiction.
"When I first talked to Warren Leight...we had talked about her having some sort of vice, and we kind of both came to the conclusion that maybe it was gambling," Giddish told E! News on the New York City set of SVU. "So within however many episodes—what, 50, 60 episodes almost that I've done here?—it's like it's been slowly building, and especially in this third season that I've been on. A gambling addiction probably doesn't go anywhere but down."
And down she goes. E! News was there as Giddish filmed scenes with Hargitay and Ice-T in the Brooklyn, New York bar Irish Haven. In the episode, "Gambler's Fallacy," Rollins is made for a cop in an illegal gambling ring and falls under the thumb of Declan O'Rourke (guest star Donal Logue).
"I play an Irish gangster, kind of an off-the-boater," Logue told E! News. "Who knows how long he's been here, but he's involved in a little bit of a nefarious underworld, and that's how his path crosses with Rollins, because as everyone knows, she's been known to play down in the basement here and there."
For Logue, the upcoming star of Fox's Gotham, this guest stint has been a longtime going.
"I love SVU, and you know, I've always felt, with the whole Law & Order franchise—and I've had serious discussions with people about this—people can be going through hard times in their life, whatever, and there's this comfort that they take every night in [sings a bit of the theme song], Law & Order coming on, that it's just part of the fabric of their lives," Logue said. "It's deeply important to them, and there's a reason that all of them were so successful and what I do like around here is that there's this feeling like how in the fifteenth year can they have such energy? How can they have such an enthusiasm for what they're making? I have a feeling like they're always excited about freshening the show and making it dynamic that's why it's been so successful, and Warren and the writers are great, so you know, I think it's so exciting to be here, but I also think particularly, and I don't know why I'm saying this, just because I'm here, but it felt like at the read-through, that this will be a really, for Law & Order fans, this will be a kind of special episode I think."
Giddish said she did research into gambling addiction before taking on the challenge. It's an addiction that's rarely portrayed on TV, especially in a woman. But the Georgia native was more than up for playing a flawed character.
"I mean, not only is it good for you to play someone multifaceted, and we're all flawed, you know, we all have things we're not proud of, or things that we want to change," Giddish said. "But also the path to redemption is floating somewhere out there, whether or not she gets a chance to take it is really a mystery to me and the fans, but it's out there and that would be a really great thing to play as well."
To put it bluntly, Rollins really steps in it. She's fractured her relationship and trust with her squad, a squad that's been going through rough times lately. Original cast members Richard Belzer and Dann Florek both left the show this season, their characters retired. With Benson stepping into the sergeant role, Ice-T's Detective Fin Tutuola is now the senior detective. He looks out for Rollins, but he can only help her in so many ways. Aside from the partner, nothing has really changed for Ice's character, think of him as the glue to the SVU squad.
"I think you know, as the show goes, seems pretty much that I'm the only one that hasn't snapped. You know, Amaro's [Danny Pino] got his family situation going to the point where he's almost like a stalker, right," Ice-T told us. "You've got [Rollins] who's got issues, she's got gambling problems and she seems to just want to hang around with the worst people. I think [Benson] is hitting the jug a little bit, she's got PTSD. And Fin—and you know, this is a TV show so at any moment they'll throw me a problem, but at this point, I'm kind of just holding the squad together."
But Ice doesn't want a problem, especially now with the end of season 15 in sight. "It's not good to have problems going into a new season, because it's hard to negotiate from a problem point. If your character's all f---ed up and you go and you say hey, ‘Next year I want more money,' they're like, ‘Look motherf---er, you shot somebody, you're real close to the edge.' I want to be standing strong at the end of the year. We're coming closer to the end of the season."
For Giddish, the problem is part of the fun and she's ready to explore more of Rollins.
"We'll have to see if Amanda pulls it out or not though," she said. "I'd rather play something exciting and true to life than something safe and secure, so that's where I am, and thank god my producers and my writers have given me the chance to do it."
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and Law & Order: SVU are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)