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USA NETWORK TO HELP COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING WITH GRIPPING LAW & ORDER: Special Victims Unit MARATHON AND POWERFUL NEW EPISODE OF GRACELAND

Ten-Hour SVU “End Human Trafficking” Marathon Hosted by GRACELAND Stars Daniel Sunjata and Serinda Swan

USA Partners with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime As Well As Polaris to Provide Viewers with Information and Critical Resources to Make a Difference

USA Network today announced the hit drama series GRACELAND and LAW & ORDER: Special Victims Unit teams are joining forces to help raise awareness of and stop human trafficking. The effort kicks off on Sunday, August 17, at 1pm ET, with a ten-hour “End Human Trafficking” marathon of LAW & ORDER: SVU, hosted by GRACELAND cast members Daniel Sunjata and Serinda Swan.

USA is partnering with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Polaris — a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery — to provide viewers with information about human trafficking and resources to help victims during the full day marathon. In addition, USA also will use social media platforms to encourage conversation and inspire greater action.

The ten-episode marathon is the first of two nights during the week that the network will shine a light on this modern-day slavery, impacting more than 20 million people worldwide. Children, women and men are coerced and deceived into working in prostitution or forced labor against their will. The second night features a powerful episode of the series GRACELAND. This season, the show delved into a seven-episode story arc investigating a human trafficking operation, which comes to a head on Wednesday, August 20 at 10pm ET. The episode also will feature a new PSA from Sunjata and Swan encouraging viewers to donate to the UNODC’s Trust Fund for victims of human trafficking.

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Get ready for the return of Olivia Benson and “Law & Order: SVU.”

At the end of last season, Benson (Mariska Hargitay in a first-look photo) was named acting commander of SVU ­­— and she became the court-appointed custodial guardian of orphaned baby Noah Porter for a trial period of one year.

“The challenge for Benson will be the same challenge millions of mothers (including Mariska herself) experience daily: how to juggle job responsibilities while being the caretaker at home,” says “SVU” executive producer Warren Leight. “Like all moms — badass or not — she’ll multi-task, prioritize and put up with crankiness at home and work.”

“SVU” opens its new season Sept. 24 on NBC.

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For LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT fans, the semi-late renewal of the series came as a bit of a stress — especially since the mothership was abruptly canceled in 2010 with no proper resolution/intended series finale.

After NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt participated in the NBC exec session during the Television Critics Association press tour, I asked him how important it was to end the franchise — eventually — on the right note.

“I think it’s always important to end these franchises [on a proper note],” Greenblatt said. “And we try to do that. I think we’re doing that with PARKS AND REC, we’re doing it with PARENTHOOD, we did it with 30 ROCK. You can’t always do it, but I think a show like that — look, I didn’t know if it would last beyond another year when I arrived. It’s one of the oldest shows on television, and I think it’s still one of the best: it grew 20 percent last year. And [series star] Mariska [Hargitay] still wanted to do it. They’re still telling great stories.”

But how long will the show go on?

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “We take it one year at a time.”

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USA NETWORK TO AIR SECOND LAW & ORDER: SVU “NO MORE EXCUSES” MARATHON TO RAISE AWARENESS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT AS PART OF ONGOING PARTNERSHIP WITH JOYFUL HEART FOUNDATION AND THE NO MORE CAMPAIGN

8-Hour Marathon Hosted by SVU Current and Former Cast Members, Featuring a New Special Call to Action by Chris Meloni for More Men to Help Stop Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

USA Network has teamed up with Mariska Hargitay’s Foundation, Joyful Heart, and the NO MORE campaign for the second “No More Excuses” marathon to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. The eight-hour marathon on Sunday, June 22 from 3pm – 11pm ET will feature custom wraps from “Law And Order: SVU” veteran Chris Meloni as well as current stars Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish. The wraps and complimentary digital content will raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, offer help to male and female victims, and encourage more men to get involved and be part of the solution.

“Engaging men is a crucial part of the movement to address and, one day, end sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse,” said Mariska Hargitay. “I am so grateful to USA for their courage, vision and generosity in joining us to involve men in saying NO MORE. Being part of NO MORE from the beginning has been a great privilege. We must confront the myths and excuses that perpetuate violence and abuse. Society continues to misplace shame and blame on survivors – both women and men. That has to end.”

NO MORE is a public awareness movement focused on domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. Supported by the major national and local organizations working to address these urgent issues, the goal of the NO MORE PSA campaign is to help normalize the conversation and break the social stigma surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault. By increasing visibility and fostering more dialogue, NO MORE seeks to change social norms, improve public policies, and generate more resources dedicated to prevention. More information is available at www.nomore.org.

During each episode, viewers will be encouraged to seek out additional information and resources online, including national help hotlines to speak with trained counselors and advocates. Throughout the day, USA, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and NO MORE also will use social media platforms to encourage conversation and inspire greater action to stop and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.

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“You know, I think it’s really interesting that these two characters kind of came into my life around the same time,” said Pablo Schreiber during our recent webcam chat (watch below) about his villainous turns in “Orange is the New Black” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” “I think that these two roles came at a very specific time in my life when I think it was essential for me … to expose and hopefully expunge a little bit of my darker side.”

He expressed that darker side in two very different ways: in a comic role as a corrupt prison guard known as “Pornstache” in “Orange,” and in a dramatic role as depraved serial rapist William Lewis on “SVU,” both of which are being entered for Emmy consideration for guest acting.

He readily admits it was easier for him to tackle a villainous role in a comedy; laughter broke the tension of his character’s nefarious deeds. “Comedy is like the great release valve,” he said, and he found he also had great affection for Pornstache: “I love that guy … He puts up these walls and acts out and behaves in the only way he knows how, which is just being a shit-head. But underneath all that bluster I think is a really, really sensitive and lovable guy.”

His role on “SVU” was much darker, and he credits much of the success of his story arc to the working relationship he developed with Mariska Hargitay during their on-screen battle of wits: “I think that’s really what made it such a memorable saga is the fact that there was this chemistry between these two people that were kind of inevitably drawn to one another, and although what was happening between them was horrid and frightening and terrible, underneath it all there was this very strange, compelling chemistry.”

“SVU” is the last remaining “Law & Order” series still producing new episodes, and Schreiber, who made appearances on the original series and “Criminal Intent” as well as “SVU,” laments their ending: “Money hasn’t always been easy to come by. In those early years, you’re a young actor … you’re getting paid 300 bucks a week to do a play, and just hoping that you’ll be able to make this career work at some point, and the ‘Law & Orders’ – that was it. That was kind of what got us by.”

After having played such dark roles, Schreiber is ready for a change of pace: “Comedy is definitely on the table next for me, something light and fun.” His next project is “The Brink,” a half-hour comedy for HBO co-starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins.

In the meantime, will he pick up a pair of Emmy nominations this year for “Orange is the New Black” and “Law & Order: SVU”? Watch our complete interview here and make your Comedy Guest Actor predictions.




Dunh dunh! “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.”

You can take home the story with a SIGNED SCRIPT from the “Surrender Benson” episode, an official L&O SVU tote bag, official L&O t-shirt, mug, hat, and SIGNED CAST PHOTO!

Bidding ends on June 12th at 6pm EST. Bidding starts at $135. To place a bid click here.




How will Olivia handle being a mother on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit? — Josie
She won’t get off to the best start! In fact, Olivia’s quality time with baby Noah will be interrupted by the ongoing hunt for the real culprits involved in Noah’s mother’s death. Needless to say, the case ultimately puts both Benson and the baby in danger. Fortunately, Benson will call on an old friend who will be instrumental in solving the case.

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[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 15 finale of Law & Order: SVU. Read at your own risk!]

Law & Order: SVU gave Benson (Mariska Hargitay) a much-deserved happy ending, but Amaro (Danny Pino) will have to wait a little longer to see if he’ll get one of his own.

Wednesday’s season finale picked up right before Amaro was handcuffed and taken away for assaulting suspected (but acquitted) sex offender Simon Wilkes (Josh Malina). In a complete role reversal, Amaro had his fingerprints taken, posed for his mug shot and even donned an orange jumpsuit as he sat behind bars waiting to learn his fate.

Although the situation originally looked really bad — as bad as a possible Murder 2 charge — Amaro’s luck started to change for the better. First, Munch (Richard Belzer) bailed him out of jail, and then Rollins (Kelli Giddish) was able to strong-arm Wilkes’ wife to convince her husband not to press charges against Amaro.

But while Benson started a new chapter in her life by agreeing to become a foster mom to Baby Boy Doe, aka Noah, Amaro won’t be able to enjoy a fresh start quite so fast. “Season 16 does not start him off on the SVU squad,” showrunner Warren Leight tells TVGuide.com about Amaro’s fate. “He’s been sent to the bowels of Queens to do traffic stops.”

Following Amaro’s tough season on SVU, which also included him shooting an unarmed 14-year-old boy and punching an undercover cop, Leight says the writers researched what the real-life ramifications would be of a similar assault. “Basically, you get tunnel duty or traffic duties or Staten Island court duty. It’s a little bit what happened to Dean Winters’ character,” Leight says of Cassidy’s demotion from detective to working nights at the Bronx courthouse back in Season 13 after his undercover operation went bust. “The department has ways of making your life miserable. They call it diesel therapy — they make you drive as far as possible to your job.”

Although Cassidy was eventually bumped back up to detective and earned a spot working in Internal Affairs, it’s unclear how Amaro will handle his new job description. “He’s a proud guy. He has a certain amount of ego so these things don’t bounce off him,” Leight says. “His character is thin-skinned, I’d say, and that’s not helpful.”

Season 16 will not only bring changes for Amaro, but also changes for the squad in his absence. Because the team was already short-staffed following the exits of Munch and Cragen, a new addition will be brought in to temporarily fill Amaro’s spot. “We’ll probably see somebody in the first three episodes who’s going to come in and shake things up,” says Leight, who suggests that the character may come from another part of New York City. “You’ll see a guy who has a little less polish. Manhattan detectives have a certain swag and polish and the outer borough detectives are a little rougher around the edges. We’ll see a glimpse of a guy who maybe needs a little bit of refining.”

However, no one should start packing up Amaro’s desk at SVU anytime soon. Leight stresses that this new character will not be a permanent new addition to the series, at least not at this time. “15 years in, I thought we were certainly able to attract great actors to come by for a little while so we may be experimenting more with these little mini-arcs throughout the season,” Leight says. “I’m finding these little arcs easier for us to pull off as opposed to, ‘OK, now we’re going to replace a detective.'”

This plan strays from the original Law & Order playbook, which dictated that departing characters be replaced immediately and permanently, but is similar to how ADA Barba (Raul Esparza) and Lt. Declan Murphy (Donal Logue) were introduced to SVU in the past two seasons. “It’s a lot less pressure on the actor and a lot less pressure on the writing. Declan, we knew when we had him in the first episode with Rollins, I just wanted as many [episodes] as I could have with Donal and I thought it would be cool to have him come in and play captain,” Leight says. “If we had introduced him at the beginning of the season as the new captain, it would have set us up very differently and we wouldn’t have taken as many chances. … Sometimes the relationships evolve better over time than in an arranged marriage.”

Law & Order: SVU returns in the fall for Season 16. Catch up on episodes here and weigh in on the season finale below!

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In the most recent episode of “Law & Order: SVU,” once again, one of their own was in a bit of a bad spot.

Detective Amaro, not happy that photographer Simon Wilkes had been acquitted of charges against him, took it upon himself to enact his own brand of justice by confronting Wilkes on the street and assaulting him.

Amaro’s actions will have severe consequences as explained by ‘SVU’ Executive Producer Warren Leight. “Obviously, he just snapped on some level, succumbing to the stress of this guy getting off, but cops are not allowed to punch people randomly on the street, even if you don’t like what happened. This could be the end of Amaro as a cop, and if it isn’t, in what capacity could he possibly come back from this? There’s no mistaking that what Amaro did is not effective police work and he’s made some mistakes in the past as well. He shot an unarmed kid recently. He will be punished for this.”

While Amaro’s career is in jeopardy, his situation isn’t the only thing happening in this episode, entitled “Spring Awakening.” “Our cops catch the case of a male tourist who has a prostitute come to his hotel room and he ends up getting robbed and raped at gunpoint,” explains Leight. “Sometimes in the past, the squad sort of dropped everything to work on the case that involved one of their own, this time they really can’t do that. There’s a bad crew out that and they have to act right now to stop them.”

An unlikely source does step up to help Amaro as Detective John Munch, who left the squad earlier this year, returns to the fold. “Munch was really a guiding force for Amaro since the moment Amaro started in the unit, and Amaro’s been a little lost since Munch left,” explains Leight. “So we felt the time was right to bring Munch back.”

In the past, Amaro has mentioned that the loss of Munch has been hard on him and this was by design says Leight, “I’m always trying to plant things to come, but the audience might not pick up on them because it’s not something that was ever done on the show in the past.”

Leight and his writing staff also like to throw in moments that have not been overtly foreshadowed in any way. Case in point, the recent reveal that Amaro and Rollins are involved outside the job. “I loved the immediate response to that,” Leight revealed. “You could feel it on Twitter the second it aired. There was a spike in comments and everyone was suddenly using ‘Rollaro’ and combinations like that.” But conversely, Leight knows that the pairing was not universally accepted, saying, “There’s always going to be a certain percentage of the audience that when anyone on this show has sex with anyone, they’ll say, ‘What about Olivia?’ ’’

Whether accepted by the audience or not, Leight defends the decision to move those characters in that direction, explaining, “This sort of thing happens in real life. They’re both at pretty lonely, dark places in their lives and they’re two attractive people who maybe just needed someone else at that time and it just happened.” He goes on to say that the nature of the relationship is a bit undefined for a reason. “Are they just ‘office mates with benefits,’ or is this the kind of thing where one of them really cares more about the other person than they’re letting on? At this point, we don’t know too much about it. I kind of like that we just saw a glimpse of it and moved on.”

It may have been a quick look but Leight did divulge that, “I think there will be some aftereffects, or let’s say, repercussions, resulting from their relationship in the finale, and possibly going forward.”

Also in the finale, fans will have to say goodbye to Lieutenant Murphy as Donal Logue is off to star in “Gotham” for FOX. “We closed out his story as much as we could,” says Leight, “but that one just broke my heart. I would have loved to have him as a permanent addition to the squad.”

The loss of Logue hasn’t been the only challenge ‘SVU’ faced this year, “Doing 24 episodes is difficult no matter how you look at it,” explains Leight, “but creatively, we all felt very energized. We worked really hard and I feel like this year is my first year as a showrunner on a procedural in which we didn’t have any episodes that just fell apart. A lot of things have to go wrong for an episode to really miss but it always seems to happen at least once a season and this year it didn’t happen. That feels pretty great. We just didn’t have that unmitigated disaster episode and I’m proud of that.”

Leight also seems to beam when he talks about some other aspects of season 15 of ‘SVU’ that he’s pleased about. “I like that we shifted to doing a lot more with the personal aspects of these characters,” he begins. “The Olivia/William Lewis arc was so powerful. The visual look of those episodes was right on target, very striking, but more importantly, every time those two were together, in every piece of that storyline, everything just seemed to get deeper and stronger. I also loved bringing in Murphy. That new blood in the station house really seemed in reinvigorate everything and everyone in the squad. Then there’s the way we told stories this year. I think that our methods of using different storytelling techniques and how we pushed things forward really evolved. By constantly adjusting the mix of procedural to personal, we kept things moving in unique ways. Our goal was to keep engaging viewers week after week using innovative methods every time out and I really think we accomplished that.”

Returning to discuss the finale a bit more, Leight goes on to say, “It has a lot of closure to it. It was a high wire act this year. There was a lot of jeopardy, but if you just do pure jeopardy all the time it’s like crack for the audience and they need more and more of it and they don’t want anything else and that’s hard to maintain. We worked hard to find a good balance, we kept the show jumping and off of that high wire from time to time and that was great. Keeping in mind everything that’s gone on in the past 23 episodes, I feel like we really nailed this last one.”

Leight admits that this season finale doesn’t have a shocking closing scene like season 14’s did last May did, explaining, “I can’t end two seasons in a row with a gun to someone’s head. It’s a very different type of finale than last year’s, but, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be extremely full. We have our case that we’re trying to solve, Amaro’s dealing with his situation, and there are some other things going on as well.”

All of these things lead to some interaction that Leight promises will be very satisfying for viewers. “Munch has a scene with Amaro that’s one of the best scenes Munch has ever had and there are a lot of great moments for everyone that have been earned because of the backstory we’ve been building all year.”

These moments include a certain infant that fans have been speculating about since he was first introduced earlier in the season. Yes, Baby Boy Doe has a featured role in this episode.

“We find out Baby Boy Doe’s real name, who he is, and how he came to be in this situation,” confirms Leight. “What we find out about his family is harrowing. All of the stories in this episode intersect in an interesting way.”

This doesn’t answer the question that fans have been asking since Olivia first set eyes on the little boy; will she finally have her chance to be a mother?

Leight wouldn’t, or more appropriately, couldn’t, verify that outcome one way or another, because he disclosed that as of late last week the last few scenes were still being tweaked in the editing room. He did offer this; “The mystery of his maternity will be solved in a heartbreaking way. Baby Boy Doe is out there, and he’s waiting for a bit of luck.”

As season 15 wraps up, Leight wanted to convey to the fans that he’s very appreciative of the relationship that they have with the show. “You can just feel when an episode is connecting and that’s amazing. I thought it was great the way the fans were so supportive of the show while we were in ‘purgatory.’ That was a big help.

While this season doesn’t close out with a cliffhanger, Leight believes that the ending of the finale will still have viewers anxious for next season to begin. “There’s a nice little turn at the end of this. I think the audience will definitely want to come back.”

This week’s hashtags = #SpringAwakening and #SVUFinale

Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on NBC.

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Last month, Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight had to face the dilemma so many TV writers deal with when the flowers start blooming and upfronts near: write a season finale that leaves stories unresolved or write a season finale that can also serve as a series finale if the show is not renewed.

“I didn’t want to make it too easy for the network,” Leight tells TVGuide.com of his decision to go the former route. “I wasn’t looking to drive to the edge of another abyss and dare them, but I also didn’t want to sort of wrap everything up neatly with a bow so that people could end the show without any thought about it.”

Mission accomplished. NBC renewed SVU for its 16th season on May 7, which also marked the last day of shooting on the current season. “That’s a much less bitter, drunken wrap party than it otherwise might have been,” Leight says with a laugh.

Instead of the jaw-dropping cliff-hangers of seasons past, such as when Cragen (Dann Florek) woke up with a dead hooker in his bed or when Benson (Mariska Hargitay) was taken hostage by a serial rapist, Leight says the Season 15 finale will give some closure to this season’s ongoing story lines. “There were a lot of balls in play, a lot of plates spinning,” he says. “So I felt that part of this year’s finale was sticking the landing and making sure that a lot of the things we had going on came to at least a temporary and logical stopping point.”

In order to achieve that, SVU moved up the cliff-hanger intended for the last episode — in which Amaro (Danny Pino) is arrested after assaulting an acquitted sex offender — to the final moments of last week’s episode. “All the anger he has towards his wife, all the anger he has towards guys who have gotten away with crimes, it all gets projected onto [Josh Malina’s character] and he just snapped,” Leight says. “We had little moments in this season where you saw these different guys under pressure. Three years into his job, he hasn’t figured out how to deal with the stresses of SVU.”

Subsequently, Wednesday’s season finale (9/8c, NBC) will pick up with Amaro behind bars and on the verge of losing his job. “What’s hard for him is that there’s not much he can do to save his job. He snapped, he beat somebody up,” Leight says. “He broke the law and he’s dispirited and imprisoned when we see him. He’s not fighting to save himself the way he has in the past. At some point, Rollins visits him in prison and she says, ‘People are trying to help you, but you got to take their hand.’ Both Rollins and Munch do what they can to defend him because he’s not really defending himself.”

Although the episode will feature the celebrated return of veteran squad member Munch (Richard Belzer), who served as Amaro’s mentor before retiring earlier this season, most eyes will probably be on the scenes between Amaro and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) after the reveal two weeks ago that the two are — or should we say were? — sleeping together. “We didn’t linger on it, but these things happen,” Leight says of the surprise pairing.

Leight defended the “Rollaro” pairing despite the negative reaction by some fans who were, as he says, “personally offended” by the story line after years of longing glances (and nothing more) between Benson and Stabler (Christopher Meloni). “I think they’re both having a hard year and sometimes, there’s a port in the storm, somebody else is having a bad year and you work together,” he says. “Is it partners with benefits? Is it just blowing off steam? Do they care for each other more than we want to admit? We don’t know too much of it.”

But obviously Amaro has much bigger problems to deal with at the moment. “If he gets a speeding ticket, he’s off the force. He’s basically as close to losing his job as you can possibly be,” Leight says. “So if he survives it, it’s not going to be any sort of a picnic for him.”

While Amaro waits to find out whether he needs to clean out his desk, Benson will also be dealing with a possible life change — becoming a mother — when baby boy Doe becomes in need (again) of a proper home. “It’s a huge commitment and if you couple that with being a sergeant with unpredictable work hours and obviously, it’s a riskier job than most jobs,” Leight says. “In her heart, she wants to do it and she’s worried about, ‘Can I be a mother and continue in my job? … Is there a way to find balance in your life? Can I be there for a child or a baby and what happens if I take this on and something happens to me?’ Those are all very big questions that she’ll be grappling with as next season goes on as well.”

This isn’t the first brush Benson has had with motherhood. In Season 9, she revealed that she was turned down to adopt because she would be a single mother, and in Season 12, she was a foster mother to Vivian’s son, Calvin, before Vivian sent him away. “She’s been burned a couple of times and that’s in the back of her mind too,” Leight says. “There’s always the self doubt. We all think she’d be a great mom, but you never know what you’re in for until you get in there. There’s nothing easy about parenting. Then being a single mom on top of that is extremely difficult.”

But despite going back and forth on the matter several times before, “in this episode she’s forced to answer that question,” Leight says.

Although this season finale may not be as shocking as years past, with the questions surrounding Amaro’s professional life and Benson’s personal life, Leight teases that the last two scenes are not to be missed. “The audience will freak out in a way that they did at the end of last season,” he says. “It’s a different emotional response, but it’s a big change coming.”

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday at 9/8c on NBC. Catch up on episodes here.

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