Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been running on NBC since 1999. The enduring L&O spinoff focuses on Lt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and the ever-changing team at the NYPD’s SVU, working alongside assault survivors on their investigations of crimes in New York City. It’s consistently one of the most popular shows on TV, and one of the most ubiquitously New York shows of all time.
Since the series films on location in New York City, lots of stage stars have found their way on the series when not booked on Broadway. It’s become a theatregoer’s habit to find SVU (or any Law & Order) in actors’ Playbill bios. From guest spots to long-term character arcs, many beloved stars have collected some extra royalties appearing on the iconic crime drama.
The dashing Raúl Esparza is best known for his Tony-nominated performance as Bobby in the John Doyle revival of Stephen Sondheim‘s Company. He’s also Frederick Chilton on Bryan Fuller‘s cult classic Hannibal. His most recent New York stage appearance was as Fagin in the Encores! revival of Oliver!
On SVU, Esparza plays Rafael Barba, assistant district attorney. A fan favorite character, Barba was a mainstay on the series from season 14 through season 19. Esparza (and Barba) returned to the series as a guest in seasons 21, 22, and 23.
Broadway favorite Andy Karl has been a staple in productions from Legally Blonde to Into The Woods. His most iconic Tony-nominated performances include the title role in Rocky and Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. He’s currently about to reprise the latter on the West End, for which he won the Best Actor Olivier the first time around.
First appearing on SVU in 2015, Karl plays Sergeant Mike Dodds. During his run on the show, Sgt. Dodds was Benson’s second-in-command. Sgt. Dodds is the son of Deputy Chief Dodds, played by another Broadway alum, Peter Gallagher – who Karl starred alongside in the Broadway revival of On The Twentieth Century.
Patrick Page‘s imposing bass vocals make him one of Broadway’s go-to villains. He’s played such memorable baddies as Scar in The Lion King, The Grinch, and the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. His most recent Broadway credit is his powerful Tony-nominated turn as Hades in 2019 Best Musical winner Hadestown.
Page has appeared on SVU twice. His most recent appearance was in 2020’s “Dance, Lies, and Videotape” as Alistair Woolford, the creative director of a ballet company being investigated for illegally recording one of its dancers for a pornographic website. This episode was loosely based on a real case involving two dancers fired from the New York City Ballet for similar crimes.
Ethan Slater made his Broadway debut as the most iconic sponge in the world in SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical. He won a Drama Desk and received a Tony nomination for his performance, which he got to reprise for Nickelodeon’s film capture of the musical. Slater is currently filming the screen adaptation of Wicked, in which he’ll be playing Boq.
Slater appeared on SVU in the 2018 episode “Revenge.” Slater played Riley Porter, a member of an online incel community. Since Slater is so well known for playing loveable characters, his unsettling performance on SVU was a surprisingly dark change of pace.
Eva Noblezada is a powerhouse young Broadway actress who first rose to stardom as Kim in the revival of Miss Saigon. Over the past few years she’s been playing Eurydice in Hadestown, a role she originated in the show’s pre-Broadway run at London’s National Theatre. She also frequently performs cabaret shows in repertory with her Hadestown co-star Reeve Carney.
Noblezada appeared on SVU in the 2021 episode “Turn Me On Take Me Private.” In this episode, Noblezada plays Zoey Carrera, a cam girl. The episode itself revolves around her and the SVU’s investigation into a camming roleplay session between her and a client that takes a turn for the worse.
Two-time Tony nominee Alex Brightman has a habit of embodying chaotically loveable characters with big personalities. His best known turns on Broadway include the title ghost in Beetlejuice and as Dewey in the musical adaptation of School of Rock. Brightman is also an accomplished voice actor, with credits including a Beetlejuice cameo on Teen Titans Go!
Brightman appeared in 2021’s “Turn Me On Take Me Private.” Brightman played Gabe Miller, a paralegal and client of a camming website who goes by ShyGabe online. Gabe is so dangerously obsessed with Zoey (Noblezada) he decides to represent himself in court after he assaults her during a roleplay session.
From Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to starring in two Mel Brooks musicals (The Producers and Young Frankenstein,) Tony-winner Roger Bart has played an eclectic array of eccentric musical characters. He’s also the singing voice of Hercules in the Disney film. Bart’s about to reprise his West End role as Doc Brown in the Broadway transfer of Back to the Future: The Musical.
On SVU, Bart appeared in 2012’s “Twenty Five Acts.” Bart played Adam Cain, a salacious TV talk show host who assaults erotica novelist Jocelyn Paley (Anna Chlumsky.) This episode is especially notable for being the debut of fan favorite character ADA Barba (Raúl Esparza.)
The fabulous Billy Porter‘s Tony-winning Broadway breakout as Lola in Kinky Boots paved the way for his career on TV and in LGBTQ+ activism. He made even more waves in the industry with his award-winning performance as ball host Pray Tell on Pose. Currently, Porter is traveling the United States on his “Black Mona Lisa” tour.
Porter appeared on SVU in 2013’s “Dissonant Voices.” Porter played Jackie Walker, a school teacher and voice coach who is accused of sexual assault by two of his young students. Porter’s shattering performance is a far cry from the kind-hearted characters he’s played since.
The sensational Daveed Diggs burst onto the Broadway scene in his Tony-winning performance as Lafayette and Jefferson in the original cast of Hamilton. He’s one of the stars of the Snowpiercer TV series and the voice of Sebastian in the live action remake of The Little Mermaid. Diggs is also a member of experimental hip-hop collective clipping.
On SVU, Diggs appeared as civil rights attorney Louis Henderson in two episodes, 2015’s “Community Policing” and 2016’s “Forty-One Witnesses.” Each episode found Diggs working alongside another Hamilton alum. The 2015 episode also stars Leslie Odom Jr. as Reverend Curtis Scott, and the 2016 episode features Anthony Ramos.
From her Tony-winning turn as Gypsy Rose Lee in the Patti LuPone-led revival of Gypsy to Amalia in the most recent revival of She Loves Me, the divine soprano Laura Benanti is a beloved Broadway favorite. She’s no stranger to TV as well, appearing on Supergirl and Nashville. Audiences also love her satirical appearances as Melania Trump on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
On SVU, Benanti appeared in a recurring role as Maria Grazie, US Army member and wife of Det. Nick Amaro (Danny Pino.) Across nine episodes over three seasons, their relationship fractures. It’s revealed in SVU‘s 500th episode the couple are on good terms despite their divorce, and have started a sort of blended family with Nick’s new partner.