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Guest Star Goodness

Guest Star Goodness Interview: Nia Vardalos, Law & Order: SVU [PHOTOS] 

Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC
Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC

NBC’s Law & Order: SVU is known for hiring some top notch talent to guest star as lawyers, criminals and everything in between. Tonight, Nia Vardalos joins the ranks as a tough (but quirky) defense attorney.

Synopsis for “Criminal Hatred”: ADA BARBA TRIES A MURDER CASE AGAINST AN UNPREDICTABLE DEFENSE ATTORNEY (GUEST STAR NIA VARDALOS) IN A SHOWDOWN THAT STRETCHES THE BOUNDARIES OF THE LAW. The SVU detectives go undercover to arrest a man who targets and brutally attacks other men. They gather enough evidence for ADA Barba to file charges, but the case begins to spiral as he contends with a deceptively tough defense attorney.

“Criminal Hatred” Promo

TV Goodness recently took part in a press call where the My Big Fat Greek Wedding star talked to reporters about taking on this dramatic role.

NIA VARDALOS: I never get offered things like this. I never get roles where I get to say lines like there is a presupposition. The perpetrator is in that lineup. Never. The roles that I’m offered are usually I stand on a cliff with wind blowing my hair and I kiss a guy way out of my league. Those are my roles. It was delightful for me to get to go and do something nerdy again. I’m from Second City [the improv comedy troupe]. And Second City girls – we like to black out a tooth and play a character, so that was extremely freeing. And I got to work with Mariska [Hargitay], and Raul [Esparza], and Ice-T. Like it was just a dream. Like every day, I was calling my husband [Cougar Town‘s Ian Gomez] going no way. It’s awesome.

On her most memorable moment filming SVU

VARDALOS: It happened off camera actually. Raul Esparza leaned into my ear and sang the song that I love so much from [the Broadway musical] Company, and I melted and Mariska absolutely cracked up laughing. I mean I was like – I just loved them. They were really welcoming, and really warm, and I told them all what a fan I was of them, and they just let me gush. It was really a nice set.

On her character’s wardrobe

VARDALOS: The costumer is so good at keeping things from being costume-y and she and I found this really great look that just – it was just a person who is absolutely more focused on her work than her appearance. The producers and I agreed that I would be kempt, but just sort of nerdy. So not slovenly, but just you know – the case is the most important thing to this person and I just felt that was so freeing. I’ve never worn more flammable polyester in my life. The clothes, the shoes, the everything were just really forming for me. Like it helped me create this sort of slouchy walk and stuff like that and so that was great, and also, I love that about the show. That things are never what they seem to be. I think the writing is inspired in that way that you think things are going one way and then they go the other.

On the inspiration for her character

VARDALOS: I have a cousin to illustrate any situation. You know with the 27 of us – 28…there is always somebody. And of course, I have a cousin who is a prosecutor and now a judge in Cook County, Illinois. When I worked at Second City in Chicago, on my days off, I would go and watch here in the courtroom because it was just fascinating to me. And I also, when I was teaching classes at Second City, had a few lawyers taking improvisational classes because they felt that it would make them a little quicker on their feet. So I used my cousin, Anna Demacopoulos, as the inspiration for this character. Not the look, but for the fierceness and the tenacity.

On her character being tough

VARDALOS: I love the character because I get to be pretty intense in a couple of the scenes and come right up against Raul Esparza’s quite condescending character. And I don’t know if he normally plays it condescending, but he really played it so well. In some scenes, he was so sort of abrupt with me that it made me blush. He’s just so good. Because no one wants to feel that way, and he just made it so real. So yes, it’s one of those roles that I just could not believe that was offered to me. I always say it’s a sign of the rapture when the skies part and a role gets offered to me that’s not a romantic comedy, so I was delighted.

On working with the SVU cast

VARDALOS: I tend to be a little tentative in new situations and sort of see what it’s like, but they didn’t even give me a chance. As soon as I walked on the set, Mariska was walking the other way and she went. “Hey I’m so glad you are here” and hugged me before I had even gone into hair and makeup, or costumes, or anything. Just was so warm. And then when I got to the set in my sort of nerdy outfit with the glasses, they all started laughing and were just like really fun, so it was a very warm environment.

Vardalos is no stranger to TV having guest starred on several series including Boy Meets World, Drop Dead Diva, Cougar Town and Grey’s Anatomy. There was also the short-lived show based on My Big Fat Greek Wedding called My Big Fat Greek Life. And during the press call, Vardalos expressed interest in wanting to do more television.

Photos from “Criminal Hatred”

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Law & Order: SVU “Criminal Hatred” airs tonight at 9/8c on NBC.

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