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9 Décembre 2022

Good Cop, Bad Perp
Publié par Robert Schork dans Soap Opera Weekly le 09/04/02.

Acting students seeking to improve their range beyond A-C need look no further than Chrsitpoher Meloni. For the past five years he has played Chris Keller, a sociopathic, serial-murdering sexual predator behind bars on HBO's prison soap, OZ. And since 1999, he has also starred on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Elliott Stabler, a buttoned-up NYPD detective who apprehends sexual offenders just like the type he plays on OZ.

For two months of the year both shows' production schedules overlap, meaning Meloni must literally hop out of his gumshoe threads and into his orange prison jumpsuit on the same day. "Both productions have been more than kind in my desire to do both shows," Meloni asserts. "What happens is usually I'll film all my stuff on OZ on Friday mornings. That means that if I wrap at three in the morning on Friday at SVU, I get about two hours of sleep, and then I have to wake up and catch the bus to the OZ set, work for about six hours there, and then go straight back to SVU for another fun-filled, 20-hour day."

Meloni confesses that the rigors of the schedule, coupled with the psycho-emotional 180 he must make to switch from Keller to Stabler and back again have taken their toll. "It's been exceedingly difficult for me. I never wanted to admit that before." He Pauses. "But it's true. I think that part of the problem is I live with just the detective for nine months out of the year and then all of the sudden while I'm still playing this detective, I'm asked to be this other entity."

Still, Meloni must be doing something right. Law & Order: SVU has been an out-of-the-box, top-20 hit, and OZ has grown in popularity, thanks in some measure to his character's homosexual romance with another inmate. "It's a unique element to the show. I was just playing one script at a time, one scene at a time. I'm not one to look too further or too grander than that. So I was surprised by their popularity and have found it wonderfully curious. It's the only ongoing relationship and semblance of romance in this twisted world that Tom (Fontana, OZ's creator) has painted. Anybody who does have a relationship in Oz ends up getting raped, killed or blinded. Beecher and Keller have definitely had their ups and downs, but at least their relationship is going strong."

So how does Meloni make you believe that he's a straight and straitlaced cop one minute and a cunning sexual omnivore the next? "A pinch of voodoo here, a prayer there," he deadpans. "Actually, if I had my way, I think it'd be easier for me to go from OZ to SVU. It's easier to have the aperture wide open for the Keller character and then tighten it up for Stabler, as opposed to going from a very tight, linear character into a more openly expressive guy."

In Meloni's perfect scenario, Stabler and the other SVU characters would be a tiny bit more expressive too. "At times, we stoop to very pedestrian standards when we don't use language that's fitting to the scene and the emotional content of what's being expressed. It doesn't have to be [the F word], or anything like that, but a good 's___' and a 'goddamn' can go a long way. For me as a viewer, [not having dialogue like that] takes me out of a scene. This is not the world we live in generally, and especially not at a police station. These people are under duress and stressed out. But aside from that, I feel as though I've got a good handle on what to do at SVU. I know who we're playing and what it's all about."

Despite Meloni's pin-up looks and everyman aura, the actor doesn't seek out the perks of celebrity, which grew exponentially after SVU took off. "Yeah, I can actually get a table at a restaurant without a reservation. Not on Saturday night – I'm not that big," he jokes. "It's just nice to work hard and be rewarded, which is having lots of people watch. And the icing on the cake is for me is to be able to walk around with pride, feeling that the product you put out is worthy of being watched. But honestly, it's not a big deal. I don't put too much stock in fame or celebrity anyway. I don't put it in the 'important' box."

The "important" box in Meloni's life is filled with his wife, Sherman Williams, a production designer, and their daughter, Sophia, now 11 months. "She's like a growth on my hip," Meloni says with a laugh. When he got two weeks off from both shows last December - his first vacation in more than three years – he went to Hawaii with his wife. But far from a long-overdue romantic fling, he made it a family vacation with Sophia in tow.

"I had no expectations about fatherhood, really, but it's definitely a journey I'm glad to be taking. Number one, it's a great learning experience. When my mother told me it's a 24/7 job, she wasn't kidding. But it's been great. Secondly, I feel blessed with and even-tempered, smart, fun kid. But hey, maybe all parents say that. One of the great things, god bless her, is that for the most part she sleeps through the night. She's not back-talking. And she's not dating!"

Article issu de Soap Opera Weekly et
initialement publié le 09/04/02.

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