Ice-T portrays Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. New episodes of season 24 air Thursday nights at 9 PM ET on NBC. It is the longest-running primetime live-action series of all time, and the legendary rapper recently became the longest-running male actor in television history for the role. While covering the Law & Order Season Premiere red carpet, we had a great discussion about his time on the show.
This hard-hitting and emotional series from NBC’s Law & Order brand chronicles the lives of the Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department, an elite squad of detectives who investigate crimes of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.
To start, we spoke about how the drama has been passed through generations since it first premiered and how so many different ages tune in to watch.
“It’s crazy for me cause starting off with a hip hop career that was long, 20 years, now, if I meet a kid that’s 22, they have no reference point to me as anything other than being on this show,” Ice-T explains. “They’re like, ‘You rap?’ Really? You missed that whole part of my life? So it is when you get this deep into the double digits, you are actually covering people’s entire lives and that’s interesting to me. I was a big fan of Kojak and different cops like Baretta, but they were only on 5, 6 seasons. This thing is, it doesn’t stop. So who would have thought?”
The actor also opened up about what originally attracted him to the character and if he had any idea what it would turn into:
“This is my fifth show with Dick Wolf. I started doing New York Undercover, I played a bad guy, did three episodes. Then I did an episode of Swift Justice, which was one of his shows, played a bad guy. I did Exiled, I played a pimp, they killed me with a bowling pin. Then I did Players, my show with Costas Mandylor and Frank Hughes. When that was over, he said, ‘I wish I had a stronger vehicle for you.’ I got the call to do this, last episode of the first season and he said, ‘Let’s do four episodes,’ and here it is 24 years.”
Ice-T then told me about working with his co-stars, Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, as well as what a genuinely nice work environment it is.
“Mariska is fun to work with, she’s crazy, she’s much more funny than people think. I just said Dann Florek was on the show and people are like, ‘He’s so mean.’ I’m like, ‘Dann was the funniest person in real life.’ So it’s more about people’s real-life personality than their character because you don’t really live with the character like, I live with Chris Meloni as Chris Meloni and he’s fun,” he said. “Chris is dead serious but he’s fun. We act with the characters but we live with the real people and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to do the show so long is because it’s such a nice work environment, and that’s the answer. Everybody’s cool, everybody’s happy to be here. It’s such a well-oiled machine that it’s not hard, they know what they’re doing. Honestly, you can act and step away from it, and when you see it on tv you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m acting my ass off!’ It’s lit right, you know, you do some indie movies and you’re like, ‘Holy shit, what the fuck was I just in?’ This is Law & Order, it’s gonna be good. It’s so well done.”
After playing Fin for so long, I had to ask if he had any dream storylines he would like to see tackled before the show ends.
“Not really. I mean, we’re over 500 episodes,” the actor expressed. “I don’t know what we could do. But I’m just happy that they’re able to keep the viewers intrigued, involved, and happy and we haven’t had to make stuff that people are like, ‘Okay, you guys are reaching.’ One time I was on television and I said that these crimes are still going on and some lady wrote me, ‘Oh you’re happy.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m not happy that crimes are going on. I’m happy I got a job, but I’m not happy with that.’ But it’s unfortunate that a show like this can stay on this long, think of it like that. The fact that it’s that important, but think about when SVU is gone, will these issues be addressed on television ever again?”
Lastly, he shared his experience filming Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in New York.
“I’ll tell you the funny thing about shooting in New York: when you’re in the hood, it’s much more love than when you’re in the Upper East Side where the people are rich. They’re snooty, ‘Oh no, don’t park your trailers here. I don’t watch Law & Order, I watch CSI.’ Then you’re in the hood, they’re bringing out barbecue and drinks, everybody’s happy to see you, you know? But you would think it would be the other way, ‘Oh we’re going into Harlem, it’s gonna be a problem.’ No, we go to Harlem, it’s love, everybody’s happy. You go in the ritzy side and now we have problems, oh they don’t want me shooting, ‘Did you get a permit to shoot in front of my house?’ That’s why I’m proud to be from the hood,” he concluded.