Behind the scenes at Law & Order: SVU

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, now in its eleventh season, lures in over 43 million (!) viewers worldwide each week with its compelling criminal cases. Tonight's episode, "Hardwired," guest-stars Rosie Perez as the mother of a pedophilia victim (don't miss the preview clip, below!). We sat down with writer and producer Mick Betancourt, who wrote the episode, to find out what we can expect.

Hi Mick! First things first: Are Benson and Stabler ever gonna do it?
Well, I think it's an exciting prospect and it's certainly something that, as a writer, you enjoy writing into. Whether or not that's going to happen definitively, I can't say.

What’s going on with Stabler’s family? Will we be seeing more of the drama we've seen in past seasons?
Yes. I can’t reveal any story lines in advance, but I can tell you there are going to be some very exciting storylines [about Stabler's family].

I can’t help but notice that everyone is really amped up this season. Stabler seems colder than ever, and Olivia seems extra sassy. Why is that?
I don’t necessarily know if that was intentional. The commitment always goes to the story. It’s “story story story,” and everything springs from that. I think if the characters are required to react in an emotionally unavailable way, then that’s driven by the story. Everybody here is inspired to make whatever episode they write next be the best one that they’ve ever written. Because I am a fan of the show, I want to make sure that my episodes as a writer sit on the shelf with the same episodes that made me a fan.

At the start of the season, we briefly met Officer Nate Kendall (Prison Break's Wentworth Miller). Are we going to see more of him?
You know what, I don’t know. You can feel free to put a little wink after that.

The Law & Order franchise is famous for its guest stars. Do you have celebrity guest spots in mind when you’re writing or do you just hope that someone amazing signs on?
Sometimes [we have them in mind]. I think one of the cool things about the show is that a lot of people like it, and some of those people happen to be really huge stars and want to do the show. We've even had Carol Burnett! I wrote the character of Ava Santiago hoping to get Rosie Perez, who almost never does television and who’s very selective about the movies that she does. When we found out that she read the script and that she liked it, I was blown away.

Can you give us any hints or spoilers about what’s going to happen on tonight's episode, which guest-stars Rosie Perez?
I can just tell you that I am more proud of this episode than any episode of television that I have ever written. I don’t just say stuff to say it, and I was really blown away by Rosie's performance. The storyline is about pedophilia as a legitimate sexual orientation.

Everyone at SVU, from the producers to the fictional characters, is really utilizing Twitter this season. Are you adapting to that for any reason other than it’s a great social networking tool that helps get the word out?
There just seemed to be a gap between the show and the fans and their access to the show, and Twitter really seemed to close it. One of the things I think is really unique about the show is that, down to crew, you can get live Tweets while we're shooting and during the airing of the show, from people who are involved with writing to directing to people who are production-assisting to line-producing, all the way up to showrunning. You have total access to all of those people. We decided not to be cheesy, fair-weather fans of our fans. It’s patronizing and everyone’s time is precious. We don’t take it for granted that people are going to watch the show. We’re grateful to everyone who watches the show. (Ed. note: Follow executive producer Neal Baer at for all kinds of scoops and info.)

There's a lot of fan fiction out there. Do you ever surf the message boards for ideas or to find out what fans want to see?
No, we never use fan fiction plots in the show. You know, it's illegal for us to even read anything that has anything to do with Law and Order: SVU storylines. People have tried to send me things and I have to send it back. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that there's a lot of legal gray area there. Even if a relative comes up to me at a party and says, "Oh! I have a great idea for an episode!" I have to say, "You can't tell me that."

As a writer and a fan, what’s your all-time favorite episode of SVU? I liked “Swing,” by Amanda Green, [in which Stabler's daughter committed robbery and forced him to deal with all kinds of issues]. It was about a lot more about the personal side of the character, but there was still that procedural element that is familiar to the show. The acting was superb, the writing was amazing, it’s just one of those episodes that stands out as that experience you get as a viewer.

Which reminds me! What’s going on with Kathleen Stabler? Tell me we’re going to hear more about her after what happened last season.
I think you will. I really think everyone is going to be amazed by what happens in the personal lives of the characters this season. It’s not a huge part of the show, but definitely some questions are going to be answered. There’s an episode coming up really soon that’s going to have a lot to do with Stabler, but I can’t give away too much.

Speaking of the viewer experience, I find myself being really affected by the fate of the victims. Do particular stories ever hit too close to home?
I'm a father of two children. This last episode that I wrote [about pedophilia] was the hardest thing that I’ve ever written. I had to leave my office at least three times a day because of the research I was doing and take a walk.

I’m sure the research process can be totally disturbing.
We’re talking to real cops. They’re not going to sugarcoat a real incident. They’re going to give you the facts. It’s not pretty, it’s real and it’s raw and it’s intense.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday nights at 9pm on NBC. Watch a preview of tonight's episode:

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