Both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime return this week with an epic two-hour crossover that continues the story involving Dylan McDermott’s villain Richard Wheatley, who has proved to be the perfect villain for Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler. The two played off against each other plenty of times during Organized Crime’s first season, and Tamara Taylor was a first-hand witness to it all. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, the former Bones star broke down what makes McDermott and Meloni the perfect foils for one another.
Taylor stars as Wheatley’s ex-wife, Angela Wheatley, who developed feelings for Stabler during the first season. Her unique position meant Taylor shared scenes with both Meloni and McDermott, who are two very different characters. “I feel like I’ve grown, getting to play with both of them because Dylan’s way into his character is almost the antithesis of what Chris does,” Taylor explained. McDermott’s main desire on set is to “make himself laugh,” Taylor said, and he always likes trying out different things.
“He’ll sing a random tune, add a strange line, decide his prop use is going to be really sort of uncomfortable and off-putting,” Taylor said of McDermott. “He looks for where he can amuse himself. And he says, ‘If you can amuse yourself, the audience is with you. If you are bored, everybody else is going to be bored with your performance.'” That’s not surprising to hear, since Wheatley was frequently unhinged throughout the season and became visibly happy when crimes went his way.
Meloni is a little different. He is “so incredibly present and collaborative,” Taylor said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an actor as committed to making sure that the best work is done,” she noted, agreeing that he is “incredibly smart and intuitive.” Meloni is also a “generous” actor, willing to go above and beyond to make his co-stars feel comfortable.
Now that Wheatley is facing charges in Kathy Stabler’s death, Stabler and Sgt. Ayanna Bell (Danielle Monae Truitt) need Angela’s testimony to convict Wheatley. In the SVU half of the Dec. 9 crossover, Angela will take the stand, even though she is still recovering from being shot and poisoned. This also gives Taylor a shot to work with another Law & Order veteran, Raul Esparza, who is back as Rafael Barba. Surprisingly, Barba has agreed to defend Wheatley in court. Esparza was “beautiful to watch” during filming, Taylor said.
Taylor also knows that she has a unique position in Law & Order history as a character fans can watch grow and develop over time. Usually, the franchise’s format only allows an actor to leave an impression in one episode, but Organized Crime has allowed Taylor and McDermott to shape their characters over a season. “I love this form of storytelling on network television,” Taylor said. “…Usually the episodes are standalone and… you got a beginning, middle, and end. You don’t have to play them sequentially in any sort of sequential order. [But] this is really fun because you get to take a deeper dive into everyone’s world.”
As for Angela’s future on the show beyond Season 2, that would all depend on how the Wheatley storyline shakes out. “There’s definitely an undeniable connection with Stabler, that I think they would probably both prefer wasn’t there,” Taylor said. “I think it would make life a lot easier for both of them if they didn’t have that sort of inexplicable, messy little connection that they do.” Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following SVU.