1 Law & Order: SVU has been on the air since 1999. Why do you think it’s still going strong?
It’s sad to say, but there’s so much bad stuff happening out there that we’ll never run out of material. But also, people love these characters. Like, you know exactly what’s going to come out of Ice-T’s mouth [as Detective Fin Tutuola]. You’ve been watching him for 14 seasons, you know? But you still can’t wait to see it.
2 Do the dark story lines, which routinely involve sexually depraved criminals, ever get to you?
My dreams were so screwed up when I first started working on SVU. I dreamed that I got chloroformed and got thrown in the back of a pickup truck. Waking up from that, I was like, “OK, that was different!”
3 How are you able to embrace story lines that give you nightmares?
At least those nightmares never really happened to me. But they have to a lot of people — and it means a lot to them to be able to talk about these things. So as hard as it is to deal with, at least we’re shining a light on it. It’s good being on the show that rips from the headlines and explores these things in a fictitious way.
4 Sometimes the show actually anticipates what the next big headline might be, don’t you agree?
I talked to my mom about that. She’s a longtime fan of SVU. She was like, “Kelli, I’m always looking at SVU to see what’s going to happen next in the headlines.” Like, the Jerry Sandusky case. Last year, there was an episode with a story line that was very similar to what ended up actually happening in Pennsylvania. And my character said, “Men are where women were 50 years ago about coming forward with the abuse they’ve suffered.” It’s important to explore that. Just to be able to come forward and talk about it.
5 What do you think of the fact that your character also has issues, which include a gambling problem and a drug-addicted younger sister?
One of the joys of playing a character like that is you get to play someone who gets to fight back, who gets to rise from whatever her troubles are. You start from the bottom and kind of come up to the top.