Law & Order: Special Victims Unit kicks off its 14th season by asking what once may have been an unthinkable question: Is Capt. Cragen a murderer?
“He should have not put that dead hooker in his bed,” executive producer Warren Leight says of last season’s cliff-hanger with a laugh. “Even if we know Capt. Cragen, it’s just never good to wake up with a dead hooker in your bed. That means you did something wrong.”
But did he? While Cragen (Dann Florek) comes under investigation, Detective Benson (Mariska Hargitay) will work furiously to prove his innocence, even though she has a new temporary captain (guest star Adam Baldwin) breathing down her neck. As Benson gets closer to the truth, she’ll learn what Leight says is a theme for the season: Everybody has secrets.
Read on to find out how quickly Cragen’s legal woes will be wrapped up, whether or not Detective Amaro (Danny Pino) can hold his marriage together, and why Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Kathryn Erbe will pay the SVU squad a visit this season. Plus: Will we finally meet Munch’s mother?
You’re coming back from a very big cliff-hanger. How challenging was that?
Warren Leight: I enjoyed ending the season that way. And then we got lucky because NBC said they wanted us to do two hours [on premiere night]. They didn’t necessarily mean a two-parter. That’s a big departure for Law & Order to have a three-part story spread out over three episodes. It required a little bit of persuasion, but essentially we have a movie that we shot over the course of 24 days. There are high stakes. Not only is there a dead hooker in Cragen’s bed, but obviously there’s a lot of tension between Amaro and Benson. We kept a lot of plates spinning and it was just a thrill to get to work in a longer form, For Dann Florek I don’t think it was too much fun. I think he prefers a tailored suit to an orange jumpsuit.
You could have presumably brought any of the SVU detectives under suspicion as last season’s big twist. Why Cragen?
Leight: He’s the father figure. You think he’s the last guy that would happen to, but he has his demons. We believe he has them under control. He was by far the most interesting character to involve, and if it’s a frame-up, he would be a good guy to frame. There was that weird little episode, “Russian Brides,” where he went on that date. We saw a side of him we haven’t seen before. One of the things you could take away from that scene is underneath his character’s stoicism is some loneliness. And loneliness can lead people to make bad decisions.
Will Cragen’s case be resolved in the premiere, or will it take some time?
Leight: Some things are resolved, but there are long-lasting repercussions. It’s not Homeland. I admire and I envy their schedule, but I can’t drag it out for 23 episodes. What we’re trying to do is maintain continuity from one episode to the next. Episodes can be freestanding, but if Amaro and Benson have a tough time in one episode, it’s not like the next episode it didn’t happen. So we have a lot more continuity, a lot of story lines spilling over.
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