The Oral History of Law & Order: SVU’s Most Beloved (and Reviled) ADAs

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Baer: I have not seen a single SVU since I left the show in 2012 so I can’t say. I always leave it behind. Otherwise you get caught up in the “what was” or “what should be,” and there’s nothing one can do about a show one’s not on. I wish them all the very best.

Winchester: I think that it’s in constant flux. When Chris [Meloni] left and it became Mariska, it became very Benson-focused, so the role of the ADA took the spot that was created because of that. It fell in line.

In a world in which you can’t choose yourself, which is your favorite ADA in SVU history?

March: It’s not an ADA but [Cabot’s] boss. Judith Light, who played the DA is my first choice. I have to tell you, working with Judith… she was just exceptional. It was like taking a masterclass in acting whenever I worked with her.

Neal: Oh Stephanie—Cabot for sure.

Baer: Cabot, because she’s the beginning of the show and she carries through from year one to year 12 when I was there. She just has this riveting presence and when it calls for these emotional cathartic moments that reveal who she is, particularly behind the rape in Congo episode, it’s captivating. I love Diane Neal too because she’s cocky and tough.

Swift: Stephanie March did a fabulous job. I also liked Raúl Esparza’s Rafael Barba. I loved his stint as well.

Winchester: Raúl was great. He had that tense crossover in that episode where I prosecuted him, and I think everybody wanted his character to get away with it—even Peter. Peter was like, “The only way this works is if we do this 100% by the book and the jury still finds him not guilty: that’s the only way redemption is going to happen for this guy.” He walked me into the family. That doesn’t happen all the time. I’m truly grateful for the gift of that.

McManus: I think I’d go with Cabot. I met Stephanie March accidentally while out with friends a couple weeks before I started filming. When I introduced myself to her, she couldn’t have been more warm and kind and gave me some great advice that calmed my nerves, which meant so much at the time. So I guess you could say that made me partial.

Which ADA did Benson have the most chemistry with?

Hargitay: Raúl. Chemistry, right? Raúl’s so smart and so fast. I mean Barba was ahead of everybody. He has such a different kind of intelligence that I just so responded to, and we were on the same page, always working together. And it felt so intimate that if we were both fighting even if we fought, we were fighting for the right thing. There was so much love. You could feel it.

Baer: Cabot. And that goes back to the whole storyline of the witness protection because Benson and Stabler think she’s dead and the look on Benson’s face when she finds out that’s not true is stunning and that speaks more than any words could have done. [Fans] loved Stephanie March. There was a large lesbian contingence who shipped Benson and Cabot getting together. Because Diane Neal left the show I always wanted Stephanie to come back, which is why we had her in witness protection as opposed to just killing off her character in the car explosion, because she was getting married, and she might want to come back. When she came back I remember reading on the fan-fiction site that she put her overnight bag on the bed next to Benson’s and what did that mean? It was so interesting to see how the fans projected their own desires onto these characters.

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