This week’s Law & Order: SVU is one of those especially brutal ones that directly affects one of the main characters. On the heels of the recent episode in which Detective Rollins (in a devastating performance by Kelli Giddish) revealed that she was once raped comes an intense look into Detective Nick Amaro’s (Danny Pino) past.
In the Mariska Hargitay–directed “Padre Sandunguero,” Nick’s father, Nicolas Sr. (played by veteran actor Armand Assante), shows up at the precinct. He’s there to invite Nick to his May-December wedding. Amaro is visibly traumatized. He hasn’t really spoken to the man at length since he was 15. And with good reason.
In an interview with the EW Community, Danny Pino explained what Nick is feeling:
“I think that seeing his father is a very complicated thing for him,” Pino explained. “I think Nicolas Armaro Sr. is Nick’s biggest trigger. We’ve been seeing certain things about Nick for the last three and a half years. Seeing him act erratically and violently at times. And not quite known why that is. I think in this episode, that trigger comes walking in the door. It’s fear of what this means for his stability and his recovery. He’s in anger management; he wants to keep his job. It shakes his foundation.”
Nick Sr.’s wedding turns violent, and Nick is forced to look back at his traumatic past with his father—and maybe even testify against him. This also pits him against against his family, who insist on seeing his father as the loving, benevolent man he appears to be (but actually isn’t).
“I think we all carry some of that with us,” Pino said. “And to see a character having to face it alone, having his family essentially turn on him and buy what Nick considers to be a con, it’s an incredibly painful thing to go through.”
Behind the scenes, Pino said he was “incredibly grateful and happy and excited and nervous every day” about working with Assante, a Hollywood mainstay.
“He’s incredibly dynamic [and] prepared. When you work with an actor who is so prepared, there’s a tendency to be, I think, married to one way of doing a scene or expressing something. That is so not the case with Armand. His preparation allows him to be free and present and imaginative, which causes the other actors in the scene to be ready for anything.”
And what about taking direction from iconic SVU veteran (and someone Pino considers “a very close, very dear friend”), Mariska Hargitay?
This was Hargitay’s second time in the SVU director’s chair. Pino said her direction enabled him to unearth some of his character’s deeper emotions.
“There was a level of safety, familiarity, of trust that allowed for a lot of that emotional exploration,” the actor explained. “She’s responsible for setting a tone for the set, a level of comfort and confidence. Her understanding of storytelling. She has a very keen understanding of that and what she wants. She’s kind of a champion of that.”
The episode airs Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 9/8C on NBC.
On screen, Olivia Benson has been pulling double duty all season long on Law & Order: SVU, juggling her duties as a new sergeant and a new mom. Off screen, actress and producer Mariska Hargitay can sympathize. Wednesday’s episode (9/8c, NBC) marks Hargitay’s second time in the director’s chair, this time for an episode introducing the estranged father of Det. Nick Amaro (Danny Pino). “It’s an invigorating process for me,” the Emmy winner tells TVGuide.com of her time behind the camera. Hargitay also spoke with TVGuide.com about Benson’s “challenges,” Season 16’s new directions and her SVU future:
You already have a packed schedule on SVU, so what made you want to add to that and direct again? Mariska Hargitay: You know, I loved it. I feel like I’ve been here so long and have found certain rhythms that I find help people stay in the moment. It’s a love of telling stories, of telling the story my way and being able to shape the story. But also my love for actors and my appreciation and respect for the process, but I also love helping to create an environment where I can get an actor’s best work. Just loving the creative process and finding the unexpected.
This episode is a big one for Danny Pino because we get to meet his character’s father [Armand Assante]. What kind of conversations do you have before filming?
Hargitay: It was so beautiful and so great and exciting to work with both Danny and [Assante]. Both of them were so willing to take risks and try different colors. For Danny, it was very exciting because it was this chance to explore a different side of his character. Armand, it was just a great moment-by-moment surprise. Danny and I talked about opposites and trying things differently and finding the humor and the lighter moments, or the unexpected response, or never knowing what was going to happen next. Finding light in dark or dark in light, trying to switch up the moment and how full a moment it can be.
What new sides do you think viewers will see to Danny’s character in this episode?
Hargitay: The episode is obviously about fathers and sons and wounds and denial and covering up and our commitment to cover things up to protect those vulnerable areas within us, which we will try at all costs to protect. Amaro’s a cop and he’s a protector and he’s had a lot of rage and anger, and this story line is about finding out what’s under that and why? What is he protecting and how far will he go to protect it?
The squad has undergone lots of changes this season: Rollins just took a break and Carisi joined the team, and Nick started out the season as a traffic cop. Why is it important to shake up the team?
Hargitay: A) It’s interesting and B) different chemistries bring out different things. But also, that’s life, right? People go through their personal journeys and they bring their personalities and journeys to work, and I think it’s more compelling to tell the story of someone trying to do their job with all the baggage from their past. I think it just enriches it so much to know, why is Rollins so guarded? Why is she defensive? Now we know and now we feel for her so deeply. … We all see Amaro’s anger, so we try to rally around him. We all saw that Rollins was hiding something. Just getting to know these characters that we love.
This season has seen Benson become a mom while still being in charge of the squad. What have you enjoyed about this latest chapter for her? How do you think being a mom has changed her so far?
Hargitay: That’s what’s been fun for me to play this season, growing that aspect of her personality. Playing Mama Bear to her squad, Mama Bear to the victims, Mama Bear to Noah, she’s in charge of all these people and still figuring out how to do it. Her job is totally new. Part of her job is to keep herself alive now in a new kind of way for Noah. Where before she’d be so singularly focused on getting it done and being fearless and now it’s like, wait a minute, I got to get it done, but at the end of the day, my most important job description is caring for this child. It’s been fun to evolve the character in that way. Everything is different now. Everything.
Last season was a big one for the show with the “Save Benson” trilogy. How do you think SVU has kept up that momentum and continued to keep things fresh this season?
Hargitay: It feels like these writers are a bottomless well of ideas. Because I have to say that there was concern after last year and the depth that we went to of how they were going to sustain it. But I think the show this year has been so compelling and so interesting and has gone off into such interesting directions. It’s fun to see our other characters get fleshed out, like the Rollins episode or the Amaro episode. I want to see a Carisi episode and I think everybody else does too. And that’s been really exciting to watch. I have to say every week I’m pleasantly surprised at how these shows come together and how they are still so compelling. We get really amazing guest stars. I think we have a first-rate cast and really strong writing that absolutely keeps me glued to the show. I think that the writing has been pretty darn incredible and I’m still in.
Why do you think the show still has more stories to tell?
Hargitay: I look at the news everyday and see the issues and crimes we deal with continually making headlines and being debated as legal issues pushing new and renewed legislation — such as the Violence Against Women Act — and as social issues affecting women and society as a whole. SVU is able to start conversations and humanize these problems. We are able to show all sides of an issue, as we did with our Domestic Violence episode this fall, in an episode that portrayed of institutionalized racism (and was nominated for an NAACP Award), the episodes where we both educated and explored the rise in rapes on college campuses — and even in the episode that explored the problem of the rape kit backlog. I feel very fortunate that our show is in a position where we can start a conversation on national TV about these issues in a way that people can empathize with and see the human element involved. We tell stories that matter, stories that can change the lives of individual viewers — and stories that can change the tenor of the conversation and viewpoints of our entire audience.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.
02/04/2015 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : TWO FAMILIES ARE LEFT TO PICK UP THE PIECES OF THEIR LIVES WHEN A RAPE CASE GOES TERRIBLY WRONG.
Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) find a teenaged girl crying in the street, her clothes torn. Jenna Davis (guest star Haley Lu Richardson) says she was raped in a pizzeria bathroom by Jerome Jones (guest star Kamal Bolden). Jones has a criminal record as well as a pending lawsuit against the NYPD, but with little evidence to go on, the SVU releases him until an arrest can be made. With emotions running high, Jenna’s father (guest star Jamie McShane) takes the law into his own hands with a decision that will change their lives forever. Also starring Ice-T (Det. Odafin Tutuola), Danny Pino (Det. Nick Amaro), Raúl Esparza (ADA Rafael Barba) and Peter Scanavino (Det. Sonny Carisi). Also guest starring Paul Adelstein (Dr. Neil Alexander), Eva Kaminsky (Marcy Davis) and Jason Cerbone (Counselor Desappio)
01/21/2015 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : WHEN HIS FATHER IS ARRESTED, AMARO MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN HIS BADGE AND HIS FAMILY’S HONOR. GUEST STARRING ARMAND ASSANTE.
Amaro’s father, Nicolas (guest star Armand Assante), asks his estranged family to attend his marriage to 28-year-old Gabriella Nuñez (guest star Katty Velasquez), and despite their volatile past, all but Amaro agree. When a fight breaks out at the wedding and Nicolas is put in handcuffs, Amaro becomes a witness in a case that could expose family secrets and tear his family apart. Also starring Mariska Hargitay (Sgt. Olivia Benson), Ice-T (Det. Odafin Tutuola), Raúl Esparza (ADA Rafael Barba) and Peter Scanavino (Det. Sonny Carisi). Guest starring Joseph Lyle Taylor (Counselor Mickey D’Angelo), April Hernandez-Castillo (Sony Amaro), Ivan Hernandez (Javier Arenas), Daniel Zacapa (Luis Nuñez), Robert John Burke (IAB Lt. Tucker) and Nancy Ticotin (Cesaria Amaro).
01/14/2015 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday): A TEENAGER IS LEFT FOR DEAD IN AN ALLEY AFTER MEETING HER CELEBRITY CRUSH. PATTI LUPONE GUEST STARS.
Fifteen year-old Madison Baker (guest star Madison Grace) sneaks out of her uncle’s home to meet breakout movie star Scott Russo (guest star Shiloh Fernandez), who invited her to a party via social media. Later that night, a patrolman finds her in an alley, sexually assaulted and barely alive. Sgt. Benson (Mariska Hargitay) suspects Russo and his manager, Lydia Lebasi (guest star LuPone), are covering up the crime when security footage from the party goes missing. When gossip site mogul Lenny Simmons (guest star John Pankow) airs the stolen footage, he refuses to give up the source material and ADA Barba (Raúl Esparza) takes him to court to find the truth. Also starring Ice-T (Detective Tutuola), Danny Pino (Detective Amaro) and Peter Scanavino (Detective Carisi). Also guest starring Jeremy Jordan (Skye Adderson), Jack Noseworthy (Matt Baker), Carolyn Baeumler (Ivy Baker), Joel Brady (Officer Nolan) and Teresa Moore (Catalina Soren).
01/07/2015 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : WHEN A PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP CROSSES THE LINE, DETECTIVE ROLLINS (KELLI GIDDISH) MUST FACE HER PAST TO SUPPORT ANOTHER FEMALE OFFICER. GUEST STAR HARRY HAMLIN RETURNS.
Atlanta’s Deputy Chief Charles Patton (Hamlin) and his newest detective, Reese Taymor (guest star Dreama Walker) visit New York for a law enforcement conference. When Reese is found unconscious in her hotel bathroom, she cries rape at the scene but changes her story when Sgt. Benson (Mariska Hargitay) arrives. When Rollins uncovers a personal connection to the suspect, ADA Barba (Raúl Esparza) seeks her help in the courtroom and she’s forced to confront the demons of her past to stop a dangerous predator. Also starring Ice-T (Det. Tutuola) and Danny Pino (Det. Nick Amaro). Also guest starring Peter Gallagher (Deputy Chief William Dodds), Delaney Williams (Counselor John Buchanan), Jenna Stern (Judge Elana Barth) and Myk Watford (Captain Sam Reynolds).
Any scoop on Law & Order: SVU you’d be willing to share? –advanteege
Prepare to meet later this season Detective Amaro’s sister Sonya, a “brassy, sassy, buxom” (well that’s specific) and “street smart former party girl” who, despite her “proclivities,” is a great aunt, sister and daughter.
Sorry for the delay in getting these together, but you can finally view screencaps from last week’s episode of SVU in our gallery.
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