|Silence. The question hung in the air.|
Ten seconds, then 30. An eternity. Is this phone working?
Still no response.
"Do you feel like you're a pioneer on TV for gay sex?"
Chris Meloni, 43, hunky alpha male, husband and father, is the star of the wildly popular "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as Det. Elliot Stabler. But he is perhaps best known for playing devious serial killer Chris Keller on the uber-graphic former HBO prison drama "Oz".
As Stabler, Meloni brings sex offenders to justice. As Keller, Meloni was a sex offender – a murderer and sexual predator who had a tumultuous, sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal love affair with fellow inmate Tobias Beecher (played by Lee Torgeson) (sic).
Finally, he answers.
"I don't walk around thinking that," he said, "but if you look at what happened, an argument could be made for that.
"I couldn't have been more pleased with the stuff [director] Tom Fontana wrote for me, and I couldn't have been more pleased to be doing it with Lee Torgeson (sic) [laughs].
"This is stuff that an actor would give his left arm for. You get to show the extremes of human behavior in a very intelligent, thoughtful way, even, if, at times, it was brutal and manipulative."
The rest of the interview, conducted last month, went much more smoothly.
-Hey, how are you, what's going on in the life of Chris Meloni?
--CHRIS MELONI: It's endlessly fascinating. We're finishing up the sixth season here. I'm just enjoying the spring of New York City, getting away when I can and enjoying time with my family.
-Is it more fun to play a good guy or a bad guy?
--You know, the bad guy gets a wider range of behavior, usually, that he's allowed to play. You know, because, he's the guy that I love to hate sort of thing. With the hero, the spectrum of behavior is a little more limited. You take shots where you can show human foibles and weaknesses and strengths.
-Do you see any of yourself in Chris Keller? Is he a guy who was just twisted or a victim of society?
--I don't see much of me in him, but I don't think he's a victim. He has a very clear idea of how he operates and why he operates.
-If you weren't an actor, could you see yourself in law enforcement?
--You couldn't pay me enough to be a law enforcement officer. Their job is a tough job. You have to solve people's problems, you have to baby-sit people, you have to always be doing this cat-and-mouse game with the bad guys. My respect for them is immense.