‘Law & Order: SVU’: Do You Remember These Famous Guest Stars

by Suzanne Halliburton

Part of the fun of binge-watching your way through 23 seasons of Law & Order: SVU is spotting all the famous guest stars who made appearances in the iconic series.

Like, did you know that Robin Williams, an Academy Award winner, was on the show? And that the beloved comedian and actor portrayed a character totally against type? Writers for Law & Order: SVU created a storyline just for Williams when the actor’s friend, cast member Richard Belzer, said he was interested in a guest starring role. Belzer and Williams were fellow comics. And Belzer also enticed Williams to appear with him on Homicide: Life on the Street, when Belzer first played Det. Munch.

NBC broadcast the SVU episode April 29, 2008. And it also happened to be the show’s 200th episode. Williams portrayed Merritt Rook, an audio engineer who could mimic anyone. Rook also was an anarchist. He hated authority figures. Rook got in trouble with SVU when he impersonated an police officer on the phone. He called the manager of a fast-food restaurant and instructed him to detain and tie up a woman, then strip search her.

And then, Rook screwed around with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). He made Stabler think that he’d kidnapped Benson. And he wanted Stabler to push a button that would send a jolt of electricity through Stabler’s partner. It all was very creepy stuff for the actor who died five years after his SVU episode. Williams received an Emmy nomination for playing Rook. Next time you watch a classic TV show like Happy Days or Mork and Mindy, think of Williams as evil Merritt Rook.

Long before Bradley Cooper became a Hollywood star for The Hangover franchise, he appeared as a defense attorney in Law & Order: SVU. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Bradley Cooper, pre-Hangover, Guest Starred On Law & Order: SVU

Williams wasn’t the only star with some Academy Award glimmer to appear on the show. Bradley Cooper portrayed a defense attorney on a special Law & Order crossover event. He played a defense attorney on Law & Order: Trial By Jury and then Law & Order: SVU. This was back in SVU season six. The May 3, 2005 episodes were “Day” and “Night.”

Fans then mainly recognized Cooper as Sydney Bristow’s (Jennifer Garner) friend on Alias. Four years later, Cooper hit movie star status with The Hangover. Silver Linings Playbook followed in 2012. That movie landed Cooper his first Academy Award nomination. Cooper’s SVU episode also was packed with gaudy guest stars. They included Emmy nominee Alfred Molina; Murder She Wrote star Angela Lansbury and Bebe Neuwirth from Cheers and Frasier.

Martin Short is an eccentric producer in Only Murders in the Building. On Law & Order: SVU. he played a conman who also was a murderer/rapist. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, comedian Martin Short is enjoying a career resurgence. The former star of Saturday Night Live now is in the popular Hulu series Only Murders in the Building. He received an Emmy nomination this week for portraying eccentric Broadway producer turned podcaster Oliver Putnam. Back in Law & Order: SVU season six, Short portrayed a psychic who offered his help to SVU. But in reality, he was a child predator, rapist and murderer. Plus, he was a conman.

This past season, Law & Order: SVU brought back some old characters as guest stars. But there also were some bigger names. Aidan Quinn joined SVU for the 500th episode. He was Burton Lowe, Benson’s first love. Plus, Jason Biggs of American Pie fame, appeared in two episodes as a hate-crime detective.

Season 24 of Law & Order: SVU premieres Sept. 22. We’re looking forward to more cool guest stars.