|"Do you watch OZ?" is usually how it starts. "How about Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit? Well he's the hot cop Elliott in that, and the hot inmate Keller in OZ." |
For some reason, temperature keeps rising when describing actor Christopher Meloni. Not since Heather Locklear did double-series duty on Dynasty and T.J. Hooker has a star pulled off a two-show casting coup like this -- and La Locklear never appeared nude regularly, had multiple all-male sex scenes or pissed in a bucket...at least not on camera.
Meloni recently talked to Gay Wired contributor Andrew Mersmann about his life, his work and the new season of OZ premiering January 6, 2002, on HBO.
Andrew Mersmann: SVU is running now (NBC, Fridays @ 10:00), and OZ premieres in January. Any other projects coming up?
Christopher Meloni: I did an independent film, Wet, Hot American Summer that is out. I think it's coming out on DVD in January. The OZ people are getting it out.
On OZ, Keller got transferred out of Em City, but you're back on the show for six of the eight episodes this season. Whose decision was writing your character out of the prison, yours or the writers'?
I had just gotten SVU and wanted to do both. Both producers, Dick Wolf and Tom Fontana, were cool with it, letting me work both sides of the fence. I kind of fell on my own sword. I didn't want to get anybody bent out of shape. Both sides said, 'It's cool' as long as it didn't work out conflicting with SVU, since I am under contract to them. It seemed to be working so I begged Tom to let me come back.
I know you're in the middle of shooting an episode of SVU right now and I'm pulling you back to OZ, but there's a little more interest from the gay audience in OZ -- actually, an OZ obsession.
Really? You don't think there's a big Special Victim's Unit obsession, huh?
Maybe just a touch less, but there is an overriding Meloni obsession.
[Laughs] Now that's the scary one. That can be cured, you know.
So, obviously your parameters are pretty wide as far as risks you will take on screen and you have pushed the envelope more than most stars are ever going to. Are there scenes or type of content that you would refuse to do?
Anything that didn't make sense. It has to make sense or I have to be able to make sense out of it. I'm not worried about anything if it's right. As long as I can understand it, I'll do it. It's the humdrum and mundane that I chafe at doing. Words written that hit the audience over the head. I've had conversations with writers like, 'Let's never have anyone say 'I'm a good cop.' Nobody says, 'He ate his gun.' Clich s I can't do.
What show do you wish would ask you to do a guest spot?
South Park. Maybe Saturday Night Live. Ab Fab.
What, your TV only gets Comedy Central?
It would seem that way, wouldn't it?
OK, the web. www.christopher-meloni.com is extensive to say the least. Does the web world ever freak you out in its obsession? Do they go too far? I'm not asking you to slam the fans.
I guess what amazes me is how much time they have to devote to it, only because I don't have any fucking time. But on hiatus I look around and ask, 'What should I do? Fuck it, I'll jump on the web,' and then I've got nothing but time. I'm really proud and happy with the work Brian Rogers has done. He's the guy who created the site and updates and maintains and mediates it.
Have you seen the site completely dedicated to the love between Beecher and Keller featuring the 'Keller Doll' paper doll?
Your face is sketched onto a nude body and there are paper doll clothes, a tank top and underwear and a pair of work pants.
I had fans make me a Keller action figure. It was presented in the original packaging, which was a cardboard box made up to look like a prison cell and came complete with a bucket, a piss bucket. All I need now is to be in Mad magazine and I'll be complete.
Any roles you regret turning down? What's the best role that you were passed over for?
The Matrix, the bad guy -- Agent Smith that Hugo Weaving did so great -- I was very close to getting that. I was really bummed out but when I saw the movie and what he did, it was brilliant. And what he did, I would never have done. I was actually surprised at myself for not beating myself up more when I saw it. I think this next hiatus will be the one that really tests my market potential...we'll see.
My partner went to school with Mariska [Hargitay, Meloni's co-star on SVU]. Are you still in touch with people from high school or college? What would they remember most about you?
[Laughs] I bumped into a girl from fifth grade and she comes up and says, 'Do you remember me? Because I remember you, yeah, you were really annoying!' You know, one person's opinion, but they'd probably all say I was really annoying. They might say I was funny. Kind of a jock. I didn't think of myself in those terms at all, but we never do. I thought I was funny, but didn't we all?
You recently returned from Spain. What's next on the list, where do you want to travel?
You've never been?
I was there for 12 hours once when my agent called and told me to fly back and screen test for Special Victim's Unit. I got the part and decided to celebrate. My wife had stayed in Hawaii so I flew back and got a gall bladder attack. I flew to L.A. eighteen hours later to get it out.
OK, kind of a gay audience question...
Hang on, I'll put on my seatbelt.
Working out -- do you do it regularly or have to really get focused when shooting the shows?
It's my form of meditation.
Speaking of meditation, in your New York apartment you've got statues of Ganesh and Buddha posters and lots of Eastern religious items...
Western too. There are lots of crucifixes.
How would you describe your spirituality? Is it specific or a blend of East and West or what?
It's kind of a lazy search on my part.
Before you go, what else? What should I have asked?
I don't know, man -- this is your game. This is your sandbox, man. I'm just playing over here in the corner with my truck.
What has been asked too often or is, ultimately, none of our business?
Probably the ones about the whole acting process. 'How are you able to do...such-and-such?' You study something for so long and then try to talk about it. It's not explainable. It's like history to a historian, someone who makes history their life. It's a bigger, grander thing and explaining it doesn't work. The acting thing is difficult, fucking difficult to explain. Like: explain being a surgeon. [Laughs] I'm a surgeon of emotions. I'll kill you if you quote me on that.
Are you kidding me? That's the headline, bold face print.
You gotta at least write that I'm mocking myself.
Nope, I'll be saying, 'In all sincerity...'
[Sincerely] Yeah, I'm the Surgeon General of Actors.
There we go. Now I've got a title.
Andrew Mersmann is a freelance travel, lifestyle and health writer living in Brooklyn. He also runs an off-Broadway theatre in Manhattan and has written two children's books, The Secret Things I Do To Help and Thursday Night....