'Law & Order: SVU': This Is How The Show Could Change After COVID-19 & Police Protests
Come season 22, Law & Order: SVU is prepared to address the colossal real-world events of 2020. Read the comments of showrunner Warren Leight, who just shared how the show will respond to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests.
The social and cultural landscape has changed visibly in the months since season 21 of Law & Order: SVU concluded earlier this year.
And SVU showrunner Warren Leight just revealed that these events won't go unnoticed in the upcoming seasons of the show.
Leight joined THR podcast TV's Top 5 for a new interview, where he discussed how the writers room is reflecting on COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, which led to the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality.
In particular, Leight expressed an awareness of concerns surrounding the "hero cop" narrative and racial inequalities as they relate to crime and law enforcement.
Law & Order: SVU season 21 had new writing staff
Leight told TV's Top 5 that SVU began to address social change by hiring new writers ahead of season 21. "I put together a new staff and I made a conscious effort to bring in new voices, fresh voices, different voices and it was a radically different writers room than we had seen, even than the ones I put together years earlier," he explained.
"I think we've tried really hard in the last year to show how class and race affect the outcomes of justice in society, but I'm beginning to suspect 'really hard' wasn't enough," Leight admitted.
"This has to be a moment where people make themselves uncomfortable, where people in power have to make themselves uncomfortable."
Special Victims Unit to reflect on COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter
Leight, who's served as showrunner since season 13, also got candid about SVU's history with "hero cops" and police violence — themes which have come under the microscope in light of the Black Lives Matter protests.
"People watch the shows to see heroes. You have the responsibility to at least depict the reality—as close to the reality as you can. There are shows with flawed cops at their center… I don't mind a flawed cop at the center, but a flawed cop with a tendency towards violence who's glorified, to me, is a real recipe for legitimizing police brutality," Leight said.
"That's what I see the most that disturbs me… I really hate watching shows that depict the lifting the desk and throwing it in the middle of the interrogation room. I understand that that was a trope even at times on Law & Order, but I think that will be a harder trope to maintain in the current environment—or I hope that it would be a harder trope maintain."
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the writers have taken notice of the increase of domestic violence crimes during quarantine, Leight shared. But this focus has already been modified by the cultural moment of the Black Lives Matter protests.
"How do you reflect in the midst of a pandemic, an insurrection caused by systemic racism and police brutality? There's a lot going on, we're reeling," Leight revealed.
"We altered a teaser today to have somebody who's assumed to be guilty because he's black and he's in the wrong place. We added the extra beat that they could arrest him on the spot because he was arrested during demonstrations and he didn't show up for a desk appearance, so there's a warrant out for him. That was today's addition. God help me, what's next week? ... We try to be of the moment," he said.
Law & Order: SVU season 22
But fans of the series shouldn't fear these adjustments. The foundation of the Law & Order universe appears to be firmly set and prepared for the future.
"There are ways, we will find our way in to tell the story. Presumably our cops will still be trying to do the right thing, but it will be harder for them and they will understand why it will be harder for them," Leight concluded.
NBC's hit crime drama series is already renewed through season 24, and fans eagerly await the return of Christopher Meloni's "Elliot Stabler" in the season 22 premiere. And, as Leight's interview confirms, the writers are hard at work on the new season despite the pause on production amid the COVID-19 pandemic.