|Actor Christopher Meloni is best known for playing bisexual serial killer Chris Keller in grisly prison drama Oz and for starring as Det Elliot Stabler in channel Five cop show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He's also popped up in such diverse offerings as comedy show Scrubs and films Harold & Kumar and Twelve Monkeys. Series three of Law & Order: SVU is out now on Universal Playback.|
Did you know you’d be in nine series of Law & Order: SVU when you signed up?
No way. As an actor, you believe anything you do will last one scene for one episode. If it should go to a season, it’ll last one season and that’ll be it. You get used to doing short-term gigs and moving on. I signed an initial contract for six years but I didn’t think it would last that long. Once you get into the minutiae, you realise that you hadn’t anticipated the stamina required or what you can do with a character over the course of a seasonal story arc.
How much longer do you plan to stick with it?
I’m contracted until season ten and I guess we’ll see after that. I still enjoy doing it. It’s been a great education for me beyond the boundaries of acting. It’s about different ways of storytelling and how the camera moves to tell the story. It’s that old adage: ‘I’m an actor but what I really want to do is direct.’
Are you hoping to direct?
You’ll find more work the more skills you’ve got. They have a rule that they don’t allow actors on the show to direct any episodes. I’ve discussed it with them numerous times. What can I do? It’s the school’s rules.
What’s the wackiest plot you’ve done? Some of them are quite improbable.
We had a couple of growing pains in season one. I thought some of them stretched the boundaries of credulity but even the wackiest stuff is very often based on an actual event. There was one where a guy suddenly became a paedophile because he had a tumour growing on his brain that triggered it. That actually happened in real life. They did the surgery and the guy never did it again.
You played a bisexual serial killer in prison drama Oz. Was it fun?
Yeah, everyone wants carte blanche to do whatever they want. It was great. I’ve always been interested in the dark side of human nature. I was a big fan of True Detective magazine as a child and I’ve been to autopsies and crime scenes.
I’ve always been interested in the dark side of human nature. I’ve been to autopsies
Who is your ‘favourite’ serial killer?
Coral Watts in Houston, Texas, because there wasn’t a single picture of him. He was that strange and paranoid. Maybe he’s my favourite because it gave him a sense of mystery.
You took your clothes off quite a lot in Oz. Was it a problem?
No. I’ve got parts in plays where they’ve asked for nudity but I’ve refused to do it because there was no reason for it in the plot. With Oz, there were the right reasons for nudity, so I did it.
Did that attract any crazy fans?
Yeah, I got sent a lot of crazy stuff. My favourite was a ten-page rambling letter from a guy telling me he was the son in a Mafia family and he couldn’t come out as gay and told me the various things he’d done to himself while watching Oz. I suppose you have to take it as a compliment.
What’s the worst job you’ve had?
I was a bouncer at the Bitter End Club in New York City. It was a dive with pedigree. All the old folk singers, such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, used to play there. It paid $40 (£20) a day. I defy anyone to live on that amount in New York City. I had to find other jobs to make ends meet.
Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal?
No but I was attacked by a St Bernard dog when I was ten. I needed seven stitches in my head.
Do you have any unlikely showbiz pals?
Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of Tool, is a friend. He’s a rock star/wine entrepreneur. I met him through [comedienne] Janeane Garofalo. We have dinner when he comes through town on one of his rock tours. We have the wine in common more than the music. When we get together, he doesn’t want to talk about all that rock s***.
What films are you making?
I have four films in the can. They are in various states of post-production. One is called Carriers, which is a sci-fi horror thing; another is Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. I’m looking to do all sorts of different films. I started out wanting to be an actor and I’m glad to be a hireable guy.