Fall TV Preview
Law Order SVU Season 17 Spoilers

SVU Boss Talks Transition Year for Olivia & Co., Possible Trump Episode

Law & Order: SVU‘s 17th season kicks off Wednesday with a two-hour premiere, a nod to HBO’s The Jinx and executive producer Warren Leight‘s fifth year at the head of the seemingly unstoppable crime drama.

“When I came on, it was after [executive producer] Neal Baer was leaving and Chris Meloni was leaving, so everybody looked at me like, ‘Here’s the guy they got to board the Titanic after the iceberg hit,'” he says, chuckling. “I’m glad that we’ve stayed afloat for five more years.”

In advance of the series’ return (9/8c, NBC), we talked with Leight about Olivia’s aspirations, Rollins’ vulnerability, Amaro’s absence and — of course — Donald Trump. Read on for more.

TVLINE | Greg Yates returns in the two-hour season premiere, and you’ve said that he’s really going to mess with Rollins, in particular.
Rollins always gets in to the head of these psychos. There’s something off about Rollins. She relates to these guys and get into their head, but the other question is: Is he getting into her head? That’s the setup — whether or not he’s telling the truth. Even when we think we know the answer to that, there’s a few more tricks and turns.

About four months ago we asked the fans on Twitter if they wanted a weepy sort of premiere or a sick, twisted, disturbing episode. They voted for gore and gruesome over heart-wrenching, so they got it.

Law Order SVU Season 17 SpoilersTVLINE | Talk to me about Olivia at the start of the season.
The first case is just a horrifying one for her because it involves… Rollins getting in too deep with some bad company, and it looks like the squad screwed up one way or another. So she’s under that gun. As the season progresses, we’ve gotten over the “Will she be able to keep the baby?” But the pressure is, there’s a lot of political cases coming up, and she is up for this promotion to lieutenant. It would be great if she was able to play the good ol’ boy game a little better, but that’s not her strong suit. We’re going to see her dealing with the limits of her political abilities and what the repercussions of that are.

This season is about transition, so that wherever anyone is at the beginning of the year is not where they’re going to be by the end of the season.

TVLINE | It’s interesting to hear you say that, because procedurals usually pride themselves on the core characters remaining pretty much the same from season to season.
The characters for the longest time did not change, right? It was the Elliott-and-Olivia show, and their will-they-won’t-they for a long, long time. This was a huge, ongoing dialogue I had with Dick [Wolf, series creator]. The general state of belief in procedurals is: No one changes, ever. I feel like the problem with that is, TV has changed. Also, in a show that’s been on this long, your characters have changed just by dint of the fact that the actors playing them are maturing. So if your characters don’t change, they begin to look immature.

TVLINE | Fans had a big reaction to Olivia’s mention of Elliott in the Season 16 finale.
I think it’s been fun to see Olivia who, let’s face it, was stuck for a long time… You’ve seen this with people who are just in a bad relationship or who are depressed or isolated. Once, somehow, they break it, then all kinds of possibilities open up. From a storytelling point of view, that’s more interesting… [For instance,] as much as we miss having [Danny Pino’s Amaro] in the squad room, taking him away affects Rollins and Benson, because they both have sort of an emotional dependence on him.

TVLINE | Next week, the show will handle a transgender teen story. There’s also an episode about child protective services ahead. What else can you tease about future episodes?
It has been a shockingly depressing summer in terms of the kind of stories that have broken. There are a lot of headlines to rip, for better or for worse. There’s been a lot of questions of police use of power this summer. We’ll be looking at that at some point. There have been a lot of hypocrites who espouse family values while living a different way, and we will be looking at that.

TVLINE | Given that Donald Trump has been in the news so much — and that he’s such a famous New Yorker — will you somehow reference him this season?
I don’t know. I can’t imagine I’m going to go the entire season without referencing Trump in some way.

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14 Comments
  1. LADY_in_MD says:

    Looking forward to the new season even though I will miss Amaro love Rollins she has been a great addition to the cast

    I know a lot of people were upset when Meloni left but I for one have liked the new dynamic between the new cast members
    Any chance the Captain may come back this season?

  2. Mr. Tran K says:

    SVU should end in the next year or two and the series still hasn’t been the same without the likes of Meloni, Florek and Belzer among others when they left.

    • 'A' Is Alive says:

      Nah. Its doing amazing! Florek and Belzer’s characters were at retirement age (Belzer’s was above it). Glad they kept true to that rule on the show. And Meloni’s character was running circles by season 12. I love that everyone is getting focused on now. Its a smaller cast and not the “Olivia-Elliott show” anymore. The new writers, several new producers, and new directors came in and gave this show a breath of fresh air. Its as if its only on season 5 of a new show, which I love. Seasons 1-12 were very similar as in nothing changed with the characters. Each season now, the characters grow. There’s something interesting in the new formula. Yes, the show is nearing me where many end, with the new creative twists, it can go on for a while. And now that Warren Leight is leaving after season 17, that leaves more opportunities for the show to have a new breath of air released. I expect this show to get to a season 20. Its still amazing and the ratings are still great by NBC standards. ^_^

      • The show is doing well, not amazing. Considering Kelli Giddish may miss a lot of time this season(because She’s having a baby, but you knew that) and considering it goes head to head with EMPIRE and CRIMINAL MINDS, it may not finish in the TV GUIDE TOP 50 next season. Mariska Hargitay will be looking for $500,000 per episode next year, and everyone else will also want raises. SVU has not raised(but has cut almost every year) its payroll in over 5 seasons. Warren Leight will almost definitely jump the shark a few times this season with SVU because he isn’t coming back. Considering that NBC may be the WORST TV Network right now, what are its standards? Who are they getting to be the new show runner? As far as characters growing, let’s see how much Amanda Rollins has grown if she lets her sister(the one with the murder warrant out on her) walk back into her apartment without calling the police immediately. I expect SVU to continue to De-evolve into the Mariska Hargitay, Baby Noah and everyone else show. NBC may be forced to renew it even if the ratings go down because they don’t have that many quality shows. Sad.

    • lelah says:

      naaaaaaaaaaaaah no thanks ^^ it got better these days.

  3. Sheila says:

    I’d appreciate 90% less Benson baby and any family drama. The original Law & Order was great when it was about the case and not the characters’ backstories. I don’t care about Rollins’ stupid sister or Finn’s estranged son. Solve the freaking case!

    • Let’s see how stupid Rollins really is if she lets her sister(the one with the murder warrant out on her) walk back into her apartment without immediately calling the police. This may become the episode that jumps the shark so badly that it makes it difficult for me to watch anymore. Considering that Kelli Giddish is the only reason I’m watching anymore, that would be a disaster.

  4. Luke says:

    This show is an embarrassment to the name Law&Order. With the first three seasons or so there was a chance for a decent show. The problem at starting the temperature on a show at nine is there is no way to go any higher without turning it into a freak show. The only episodes I have watched in the last five years are the crossovers with the Chicago shows. But I see the headlines and all I see is more and more depravity. The original L&O had at least one murder a week but they could do it without melodrama, the worst acting on TV and apparently without anyone who has ever even read evidence rules or the Constitution at times. Just go away and die already.

  5. . . . says:

    Ripped from headlines episodes are the most boring ones there are, they are so predictable and that’s not the point of SVU. It is/was supposed to be the after affects of an SVU case and how the detectives, victim turned survivor deals with it. Not a reenactment of what happens in the news. I LOVE Mariska and I “LOVED” this show at one time but seeing them write eps that are 100% unoriginal with a mild plot twist here or there isn’t enough to keep this show “fresh” or reinvigorated as they claim it’s become. I want to be excited for it again so honesty is my best policy. Wanting to see improvement makes me a genuine fan… not someone who only says what they want to hear, even when it’s not truth. And Please, for the love of God, stop hooking up Olivia with these random “love interests” that she has no “romantic”chemistry with. Sure she works well with them but that does NOT translate to sexual. The fan base’s mind is in one place with her and you’re trying to force her to go in another place that just doesn’t work. It’s so unrealistic for her to be looking for men when she’s just coming off another sexual assault, going to therapy for it, suffering ptsd and caring for a small, sickly child on top of it… that’s just not Olivia Benson. As for that monologue with Amaro toward the end of last season’s finale, wonder how that’s going to affect ratings this season. We all know what I’m talking about. It also wasn’t a misinterpretation, it was fans seeing through Warren Leight’s writing and seeing those comments for what they were. Anyone who’s watched the show for any length of time knows nothing of what she said was true, just an emotional dig.

    • Db says:

      ^^^^what this person said. Agreed 1000%. im so glad this is Warrens last year as show runner. They should bring Neal back and have the 18th season be the last, have the old cast members return as guest stars and wrap it up in the way it deserves. In addition bring Meloni back so fans from day 1 can get the proper Elliot Olivia closure they deserve.

  6. Rich Strauss says:

    Det Stabler returning for a cameo would be AwESOME ! How his post- retirement life is going , grandpa yet ? Oldest daughter in law school , interns @ Manh DA’s Office , AND some SVU- connection …

  7. Sue says:

    Bad Bad letting Amaro go Bad!!!!

    • Seriously? says:

      You mean Elliot 2.0?
      Catholic, married, father, anger issues…
      Yeah, YAWN.

      Like the actor a lot(!), the character Amaro, not so much.

  8. Sandra gilbert says:

    Hi, in the UK last evening we were left with Olivia going home and being surprised with her struggling the accused. When can we in U.K expect to see the outcome? Thanks Sandra.