Kyle MacLachlan and Judy Reyes are guest stars in LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT tonight on NBC. They took some time out to talk about their characters and their time on the set of Law & Order: SVU.
Conference Call Highlights:
Q: Could you talk a little bit about how you got involved with the show?
Judy Reyes: I actually through my manager got this wonderful offer to play this character of Inez Rivera in this compelling script about this – the mother of this young kid who committed this unfortunate and heinous crime. And I loved the opportunity to play this role so I just jumped at it. And then I found out that I was involved in this. Once I read it I was involved in this unbelievable turn of events towards the end of the episode. So I jumped at the chance. It’s pretty simple and it’s a Law & Order: SVU in its 13th season with Mariska Hargitay. There was no way I could say no. It was a chance to come back to my home city of New York. So I said absolutely.
Kyle MacLachlan: Well I had worked with – I had done one Law & Order: SVU years ago working with Mariska and at the time Chris Meloni. So I was very happy to hear from them again because I had had such a wonderful experience that first time around. I thought the character was very compelling in that the demands – particularly the emotional demands of the character are not things that I get to typically do, certainly not when I was on, that often anyway, on Desperate Housewives. So I really leapt at the chance to first – first and foremost to explore the character. I had heard great things about the director, Tom Di Cillo and it turned out to be just a wonderful experience working with him as well. And I knew the woman who was playing my wife, Paige Turco, because I had worked with her husband, Jason O’Mara on a series for ABC called In Justice. And the funny thing about this business is that when you’ve been around as long as I have you – dots become connected that you don’t even really know. And so each job provides an opportunity not only to work with interesting people but probably people that you know.
Q: Was there anything that you two found particularly challenging about your roles?
Judy Reyes: For me it was I think the – mostly the scene towards the – well how can I do this without giving away everything. I think I’m going to let that review itself. Certainly there was a highly emotional demand that will reveal itself once you see the episode. Do you know what I mean? I just don’t want to give that away. But having – being – oh gosh, I just don’t want to give that up. I will say that it’s a highly emotional – there’s a lot that my character has to deliver in very little time because my – what I have to do is – has to be done in a lot less time than what Kyle has to do in his – with his character. So there’s a lot – there’s a lot of punch in what I have to do in a lot less time. So yeah, there’s a highly emotional thing that I have to deliver with the character. So yeah, there was a big, big emotional wallop in the character. So yeah, there was an emotional demand to a scene with my son because he has to – he turns out to – there’s a big secret and a big reveal towards the end of the episode that has to do with my son. And that turns out to be quite demanding for me toward the end of the episode.
Kyle MacLachlan: I would add to that that most of the time one of the great reasons for doing the show is that the characters often are caught in the middle of very monumental experiences and particularly emotional experiences. And I think that’s true for everyone in this cast. And the real challenge as an actor is I always say you kind of go from 0 to 60 in about two seconds. So the preparation is a big part of the experience just getting yourself into the mental and emotional state that you have to be in when they roll the cameras because they’re asking of you extreme things. In this particular case, you know, I – my – I lose my son and, you know, that’s, you know, that’s where you start the scene and it goes from there. So you can imagine the kind of places as an actor that you have to go to prepare yourself for something like that.
Q: Judy, there’s usually an underlying message in the SVU episodes such as sexism, racism and the environment, etc. What would you say the message is in this episode?
Judy Reyes: I would say the message would be the misappropriation – the abuse of power and how you become subject to – submissive to abuses of power, seduced by it. In essence that would be the message of this episode. And I think it’s masterfully conveyed in this episode but – in all dimensions but by all points of view. And either by generations of it, by people who are merely introduced to it by the youngest members of it, by people who are new to the country. I think in essence that would be the message of this particular episode.
Q: Kyle, the Law & Order franchise is usually a rite of passage for actors. What was it like for you to return to this franchise for a second time, this time as a politician?
Kyle MacLachlan: You know, it’s been 11 years. I think in my previous episode the – I had also – the – as the story was written I had also – I’d lost my son as well to a young psychopath. And I took matters into my own hands and actually got away with it which was one of the few times on SVU that that happens. Returning 11 years later and now as an adult and having a three year old boy I had – my life experiences had altered because of that. A, being older, I’m married now, I wasn’t before. And also I’m the father of a three year old. And the change in my emotional response to a – what turned out to be in a general way a very similar situation, a loss of a son, was categorically altered simply because I now as a man, had the experience of having a son. And, you know, as an actor you play a lot with the ifs of life, the what-ifs, you know. And if, you know, if you’re open to it that can be a very powerful process. And I found suddenly that I was able to access things and go through things that I don’t think I would have – I know that I wasn’t capable of experiencing in the previous Law & Order. So I just felt I guess more prepared, more able to create a character that felt deeper and richer. And hopefully he’ll be more believable on screen.
Q: How was it working with Mariska and the new cast members, Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish?
Judy Reyes: It was terrific. I thought Mariska and Danny worked well together. Mariska is a fantastic leader and she’s a great force on the set. She’s just commanding and generous. And Danny was also very generous and kind and held his own as his very first episode coming onto the scene. And it was a very (loose), smooth and terrific, fun experience for such a demanding role and opportunity. So I had a wonderful time and they were terrific.
Kyle MacLachlan: I wanted to say that having had a chance to work with Mariska years ago with Chris Meloni actually I worked primarily in the episode I’d done before, with Chris so it was really nice to be able to work with Mariska. And I agree with what Judy’s saying about just generosity of spirit, a real appreciation and a gratefulness for those actors, Judy and myself, coming in to actually, you know, to play in their playground or to be a part of their playground, you know. And they were really grateful and really welcoming. You can always tell I think in a show about the level of commitment from the stars and it’s how generous they are in giving back to the guest stars. And they – and one of the real ways you can tell that is on – in – on the off camera situations when they’re giving lines to us and they’re in a scene but they’re not necessarily on the camera. It’s at what level they come in at. And both Mariska and Danny were incredibly there and available and giving it 100% every step of the way. And it really – I mean it shows in the quality of the show I think. And it also makes those of us – the guest stars who come in who sometimes maybe a little bit nervous or apprehensive in the very beginning, it puts us right at ease because we know that they are really there for us and they’re really supporting us. And it’s a great feeling.
Q: Do you both still get nervous on your first couple of days on set?
Judy Reyes: Absolutely. Absolutely. And as we were mentioning, because of the high level of drama that shows like this tend to demand of guest stars because the nature of these kinds of shows, of these procedurals for lack of a better term I suppose, they demand a lot from you emotionally. So what you always want to do is deliver because of course they’re episodics and you’re always on a time crunch. So inevitably and because for my – speaking for myself and no doubt for Kyle, I would bet feels similarly, they’re fans of people like Mariska and Danny and the show. And you do like to make an impression that you’re fans of as well, of your peers so to speak. And you want to be a part of making the show run smoothly and swiftly and you want to deliver take after take. So the short answer is yes, you do get nervous. And yes, you want to if not give one good take, two good takes or three good takes or different takes that, you know, that they can count on. So yeah, you do get nervous. And once you deliver a good take then you want to do something else that they can use. So the answer is yes.
Kyle MacLachlan: Yeah. I think I agree – I mean I completely agree with everything. Every time I go into something new I always feel like, you know, gee if I can remember what I’m supposed to here, you know, this is a very – it’s a very funny thing because it’s, you know, a minute into doing a scene you’re like oh yeah, yeah. I remember exactly where I am. But for that first moment, the buildup, you’re just kind of like am I going to know what to do? And it’s true because oftentimes in those situations you are nervous and you do feel the weight of the responsibility. And people are – they’re not nervous for you necessarily but they understand that you are nervous so they try and make it as comfortable as possible and really ideally, you know, the death – the killer of good acting is intention, you know? So you’re basically trying to work against this idea that there’s tension. And there is tension there but you really want to be available. And again, I go back to one of the great things about both Mariska and Danny was when you needed to look and feel from them energy and in the scene and emotion and commitment and availability they were right there which makes the job of the guest star so infinitely easier. Because you don’t feel like you’re fighting against something. They’re with you. You know, we’re all in the soup together, you know? And I think that is, you know, it’s not that it’s rare in the business but to have it at such a high level like I experienced from both Danny and Mariska. And I – it was really – it made the places that you have to go as an actor a little easier, you know? It’s still hard to get there, you know, because you’ve got to access some dark things. But it, you know, you’re able to do it without feeling too much nerves after you sort of, you know, get through that first few seconds.
Q: What projects you have coming up next and when we can next see you.
Judy Reyes: Actually I will be leaving for Vancouver this weekend to start shooting a film called the Pregnancy Experiment for Lifetime Television. It’s actually based on a true story of a young woman who faked her – a young high school woman who faked her – a pregnancy for her senior year just to see – as part of a social studies experiment for high school, to see how her senior class would react. She was an Honors student and her mom along with her older brother and sister were all children of the – they were all – her mom was a teen mom and her brother and her sister were all teen parents. And although she was an Honors student she was under pressure to be – she was under pressure to not do the same thing. And in an effort to prove that she was different she faked a pregnancy to see how everybody would react and then revealed that she wasn’t pregnant. And the only people who knew were her mom, her high school principal and her teacher who actually imposed a social studies experiment. And it was actually a true story and they made a Lifetime movie and I’ll be playing the mother. That’s my next gig.
Kyle MacLachlan: That sounds pretty cool. That’s very good. So I just came back from Portland filming a couple of days on a IFC program called Portlandia with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
Judy Reyes: I love that show.
Kyle MacLachlan: It’s a lot of fun. It’s very silly. But yeah, I’m completely the opposite of a Law & Order experience but just in what it, you know, what’s it’s saying. But I had a wonderful time and did a lot of improv. And I created a – or made up or improv’d, whatever, the – a new national – a city anthem for Portland. So, you know, they’re never going to ask me to sing the Star Spangled Banner anywhere but, you know, at least in Portland I have a chance.
Q: Is guest starring on shows as great as Law & Order: SVU something you enjoy doing and something that gets your artistic juices flowing?
Judy Reyes: That’s definitely a plus. It’s definitely something I enjoy doing, you know. Guest starring is a sink your teeth into kind of opportunity. So yeah, that’s good.
Kyle MacLachlan: Yeah. I mean I agree. I think that Law & Order in particular of shows that provide opportunities to guest star are – that’s always a show that I look at if I, you know, if I happen to be at loose ends or if I’m not on, you know, doing something. And it’s primarily for the reasons Judy was saying which is it provides such an incredible opportunity to really, you know, bite into something that can be emotional or physical, something that you really as an actor, you know, you take a few days and you can really – it’s almost like, you know, they give you almost – it’s almost – I mean you’re working but it’s almost like a holiday because you are – you’re really able to do something that is demanding and testing and fun. You know, you’re in an environment that’s great because of all the cast and everybody and they make it really wonderful. But you really get to stretch yourself as an actor. And the emotional demands are always high, you know. And it’s really, you know, it’s one of those things – I said earlier, saying 11 years ago compared to this I – 11 years ago I, you know, I was sort of still – I didn’t feel like I was at a place where I am now. And, you know, maybe ten years from now I’ll, you know, that will happen again. But I felt like wow, I’m really able – I can really feel – I can feel the growth that was there from those ten years as an actor which is – it’s a nice thing to be able to feel that. You know, and say yeah, okay I am continuing to grow and that’s important.
Q: From your perspective what would your advice be to actors?
Judy Reyes: Oh, I’m always reluctant to give advice to any actors because I never listen to anything anybody tells me. That’s a very tricky thing because I think that – I think everybody really should honestly follow – and this is the corniest thing in the world, but to really listen to their own instincts and follow their own heart, you know, in terms of what they really want to do. This is an extremely challenging pursuit, extremely challenging business. And ultimately you’re going to feel those palpitations and – whenever – if this is what you really want to do, you know? So really first get the training that you really want to get and ultimately go for it. And anything feels like I’m – anything else further feels like I’m pontificating. But honestly you just really need to follow it if it’s what you want. And that’s all I’m going to say.
Kyle MacLachlan: I’m sort of agreeing with Judy on that. It’s really hard to parse out advice because everyone’s journey is different. And, you know, my experience is to – I try to watch actors who I like, you know, and who inspire me and whether it’s film or television or stage. And when I – and I do see something that moves me I always try to let them know because it’s nice to be able to share that, you know, actor to actor and to let someone know that the work that they put into something which is, you know, monumental, is actually – it’s moving us. You know, it’s moving people. It’s making people, you know, feel. So it’s nice to know that sometimes.