|"BELIEVE IT or not, I have never seen an episode of 'Law & Order' -- not a single one."|
It's difficult to imagine how anyone could miss it, but please read on, say I, the veteran coverer-of-show biz. This TV show is so ubiquitous and is a true phenomenon of 20th- and 21st-century television.
IN THIS context, last night on NBC's new season of "Law & Order: SVU," we had the treat of watching one of our most talented actresses do her stuff.
I am talking about Christine Lahti, a gifted woman who is playing a New York district attorney on this show and one of a different stripe than we are used to.
Christine and I had a little chat the other day after she'd flown back home to California. She had already introduced her DA character in episodes one, two and three (which was last night.) Now, Christine assures me, her character "really comes into her own." This "lady" will dominate the remaining episodes.
WILL THIS be another Emmy or Golden Globe outing for this wonderful actor? Christine Lahti has already won an Emmy, two Golden Globes and what she calls "a little Oscar," for direction of a short film.
But what most fans remember about Christine is that she was in the hotel ladies room during the Golden Globes awards show back in 1998 when her name was announced as "outstanding lead actress in a drama series" for the popular series "Chicago Hope." She rushed to the podium properly flustered.
I asked Christine if her DA is a shady lady?
Christine: Yes, she is pretty shady and the role has been a challenging arc for me and I am so glad I did it. She is a force. The response from viewers has been either "I love her!" or "She's such a bitch. I can't stand her!" Well, it's true she is not what she appears. She is a strong, by-the-book DA and a control freak. She is really "together" and not what she appears. She has demons lurking, which is why the part attracted me so much.
Liz: Christine, are you telling me that there are law enforcement people who have a bit of villainy in their makeup? Can that be true?
Christine: I am afraid to break it to you, Liz, but I fear it's true. I have to burst your bubble.
HERE I switched off on "Law & Order: SVU" and asked about Christine's long happy 26-year marriage to screenwriter-director-producer Thomas Schlamme. The actress responded: "Tom is doing great. He is busy writing six new shows and they will all, naturally, be picked up and be amazing. (Laughter here!) And my twins are in the 11th grade, living at home with us in Santa Monica and my oldest son is a senior at USC film school. We are doing fine!"
I asked Christine if she had made a movie lately and she raved about a little million-dollar independent titled "Flying Lessons," which she made with Hal Holbrook and Maggie Grace of "Lost." It will try its luck at the Sundance Film Festival.
Christine: But I am hoping to get to return to New York, other than coming in to do PR for "Law & Order" and maybe find something in the theater.
Liz: Your terrific PR guy, Allen Eichhorn, tells me you are the first actress to make such a multi-episode appearance on any version of "Law & Order." Most actors only appear once.
Christine: You're kidding. I didn't know that. In fact, Liz, I hate to admit it but I had never seen an episode of 'Law & Order.' I don't know why, I just hadn't.
Liz: Well, that's amazing. The show has so many episodes and permutations and it's sort of a rite of passage for really good actors to guest star on it.
You must have been in your childhood when they started this show and all its spin-offs.
Christine: Well, the guest-starring roles are really interesting. I was contracted for five appearances but I suppose, possibly they could ask me to do more. I just don't know. Episodes three and four are really juicy. And I was amazed because I didn't realize the producers, writers and directors would be so smart. The writing is so good. They maintain a fantastic quality.
Liz: Now listen, Christine, I hope you are keeping up with me on Wowowow.com although, of course, it's directed at women over 40 and you're too young, I guess.
Christine: Oh, Liz, I'm not even close to being 40, you know that. Not even close.
Liz: Oh, I know, kiddo. And you're still a virgin.
MY ADVICE? Watch Christine Lahti next Wednesday, Oct. 14 and wait for the fabulous reruns.