It’s only been one week since Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) returned to NBC and the world of “Law and Order.” Now, with his own show on organized crime, audiences are prepped to see a different take on the character and an expansion of “Law & Order’s” typical mode of storytelling. We see Stabler transition from looking at the injustice of the world to his own personal injustice of losing his wife. “How do you deal with that faith-wise and personally?” Meloni asked during the recent press conference for the series.
“This is a show that will spend time with Stabler, and his family….and his emotions,” said co-creator Ilene Chaiken. “We probably will get to know Stabler in a way you’ve never gotten to know him.” Meloni has lived with the character of Stabler since “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” premiere in 1999. “I saw this guy as a guy under pressure, constantly,” Meloni said.
The actor, upon being hired, spoke to real SVU detectives about the pressures they were under and the crime they witnessed. “I knew that I would have a difficult time downloading and processing what these real life heroes see every day,” he said. He doesn’t see the character as a hothead but one whose “head explodes” when he sees injustice, and Meloni hopes this “Stabler 2.0” in the new series will explore an unjust world.
Meloni admits he doesn’t tend to look back and he certainly didn’t when he left “SVU” originally in 2011. “I must admit I have watched maybe 10 minutes [of the series since],” he said. Crossovers between “Organized Crime” and “SVU” will be utilized like they are with the “Chicago” series of shows, in the sense that it will be implemented when it gives the opportunity for both shows to shine. “This, to me, is much more engaging,” said creator Dick Wolf.
“It’s both challenging and tantalizing, from the point of storytelling, to keep those things alive while each show has its own identity,” Chaiken said. “Law and Order is fiction,” Wolf said, so they take the headlines from the news but not the body copy, and “Organized Crime” won’t be quite “ripped from the headlines” in the same way as “SVU.””Needless to say I’m thrilled to have Chris back,” he said. “The thing that really excites me about the show….is that this is the first ‘Law and Order’ with literally completely different storytelling.”
It’ll be three eight-episode arcs with the first third being “The Godfather,” the middle being “American Gangster,” and the last being “Scarface.”
The villains are bad guys who give Meloni a constant source of outrage and a different way of pursuing them. There’s not episodic casting but “shooting for bigger game,” Wolf said. Stabler has evolved in subtle ways that are not given lip service, according to Wolf. He acknowledged that he was a “pre-Miranda cop” who has to adjust to new realities. “[Would] you ever think you’d see Stabler cry?” Wolf asked.
“It’s one of the most dramatic teaser I can remember on any show,” said Wolf with regards to the controversial twist of killing off Stabler’s wife. “I didn’t see anything that was critical of that storytelling. You can’t please all the people any of the time.” If it doesn’t compel the writers, he argued, it won’t compel the audience. When Chaiken joined the project, the death of Stabler’s wife was already the premise. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great place to start,'” she said.
And what about Stabler being a pre-Miranda cop in a world that’s questioning police brutality? “The people inside the company — the showrunners and producers — spend a lot of time talking about police behavior,” Wolf said. “We’re doing what we always do which is listen very carefully, read virtually everything written about this, from both sides of the spectrum….and what I said in the spring still holds: the shows will speak for themselves.”
“Law and Order: Organized Crime” airs Thursdays on NBC.