Why ‘Law & Order’ Will Re-Cast Actors in Another Role on Series

by Lauren Boisvert

With the “Law & Order” franchise, it’s not uncommon to see double. Sometimes, actors who played minor roles on the many shows came back as major characters.

For example, Peter Scanavino had minor roles in four episodes across the franchise. He was murder suspect Johnny Dubcek in the “SVU” episode “Monster’s Legacy”; Jim Anderson in the original series episode “Just a Girl in the World”; Johnny Feist in the “Criminal Intent” episode Diamond Dogs”; and an unnamed character on the short lived “Trial By Jury.”

Additionally, Raúl Esparza played ADA Rafael Barba on “Law & Order: SVU”. But, before that, he was ADA Kevin Mulrooney on the “Criminal Intent” episode “Lady’s Man”, as well as Dennis DiPalma in the “Law & Order” episode “Blackmail.”

Kelli Giddish, Ice-T, Michelle Hurd, Tamara Tunie, and Diane Neal have also had smaller roles that turned recurring. Giddish portrayed a character in a season 8 episode of “SVU”; then another in a season 7 episode of “Criminal Intent.” Ice-T, meanwhile, appeared on “Law & Order” and “Organized Crime” as Fin Tutuola. But before Tutuola, he played Seymour “Kingston” Stockton in the “Law & Order” movie “Exiled.”

Michelle Hurd, who played Monique Jeffries on “SVU”, appeared in the “Law & Order” episode “Entrapment” as Angela Roney. Tamara Tunie appeared in “Law & Order” and “Trial By Jury.” She then appeared on “SVU” as Medical Examiner Melinda Warner. She started as a guest, but was moved to a series regular in season 7.

Diane Neal, who played ADA Casey Novak, first appeared on “SVU” as murderer Amelia Chase in season 3. She then joined the main cast as Novak.

‘Law & Order’: Why Do Actors Appear Multiple Times in the Franchise?

In the case of Peter Scanavino, writers wrote the role of Carisi for him. “Law & Order” writer and producer Warren Leight remembered feeling impressed with him after his performance on “Criminal Intent.” He then wanted to bring him into the franchise in a bigger role.

Most of the time, it’s because either the writers and execs are impressed with an actor’s performance, or the fans love their character. I feel that Tamara Tunie’s character Melinda Warner became a series regular because she was so beloved by the fan base.

Additionally, S. Epatha Merkerson also appeared in a “Law & Order” episode before landing her role as Van Buren. She played a grieving mother trying to find who shot her son. She portrayed Anita Van Buren for 17 seasons, starting in season 4.

Lofty careers for people who only had guest roles on the shows before. Almost all the actors are currently series regulars. The exceptions being Tamara Tunie, Michelle Hurd, Diane Neal, and S. Epatha Merkerson. But Ice-T, Kelly Giddish, and Peter Scanavino are still going strong on “SVU.” How’s that for staying power.