‘Law & Order: SVU’: How Sharon Stone Unraveled Elliot Stabler’s Past

by Suzanne Halliburton

Let’s take it back a dozen years, back when Christopher Meloni still was starring on Law & Order: SVU. And let’s remember how the writers used Sharon Stone to help us learn more about Elliot Stabler.

Like did you know that the beautiful, glamorous Stone played a character named Jo Marlowe in four episodes of season 11 of Law & Order: SVU. And Marlowe was sexy, smart, and confident in her portrayal of a cop turned assistant district attorney assigned by Jack McCoy to the SVU. Oh, here’s another detail. Marlowe was Stabler’s first partner before she chunked being a cop in favor of working as a prosecutor.

Stone’s first episode was called “Torch, “And it was an alleged arson case. A horrible fire had killed two little girls as their father frantically tried to beat down the door and get to them. Meloni and Olivia Benson were on the case. Stabler didn’t know Marlowe was coming. And Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) always believed Jo was a Joe, i.e., a guy. Yes, the dialogue heavily implied that Stabler and Marlowe were more than just work partners back in the day. And Marlowe couldn’t believe Benson and Stabler had never gotten together.

As Stabler interrogated a suspect, Marlowe sat back and predicted all his patented moves to get someone to confess. First, he tells an interesting, empathetic story to bond with the suspect. Then, he begins digging. Stabler started crying when he interrogated the father, who refused to confess. After he left the room, Stabler showed Marlowe and Benson he was holding an onion wrapped in a napkin.

Law & Order: SVU even made the episode a mini crossover, with Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy coming in to talk to Marlowe. She was now hesitating to bring the father to trial. One expert said there was no doubt it was arson and the dad did it. Another expert said junk science would link the fire to the dad.

Jo Marlowe was convinced Benson and Stabler were more than just partners in her Law & Order: SVU appearances. (Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Marlowe told McCoy: You always told me good prosecutors get convictions. Great prosecutors get justice.

Marlowe ends up bringing evidence to clear the dad in court, then dropping her own case. In hindsight, a four-episode Law & Order: SVU for Stone wasn’t a plumb assignment. She’d been a movie star. Now, at 51, she was portraying a lawyer in a cop procedural. Yet she knew she needed to take the role to work her way back to acting. Her career has mostly been on hold for almost a decade as she struggled with the after-effects of a cerebral hemorrhage.

“That was humiliating,” Stone told Harper’s Bazaar about Law & Order: SVU. “Having worked with the finest people in the industry, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really at the back of the line here. I’m wearing L’eggs panty hose, and in makeup they start out by putting this white primer on my face. I’m like, ‘This is so bad. What did I do to deserve this?'”

She added: “I thought, ‘You know what? I got thrown off the bullet train, and now I’m going to have to crawl up a hill of broken glass, get back on the train that’s going a million miles an hour, and work my way from the cattle car up. That’s just the way it is, so I’d better get humble and shut the f–k up and do the job. Because if I can’t do this job, I’m certainly not going to be able to do anything else.’ “

But Stone wasn’t the only big name Law & Order: SVU pulled in around 2010. Others who appeared included Robin Williams, Carol Burnett, Luke Perry and Cynthia Nixon.

SVU premieres season 24, Sept. 22.