This week’s SVU featured an excellent performance from Callie Thorne as Nikki Staines, and she spoke to One Chicago Center about making Blackout.
Thursday’s Law & Order: SVU gave the spotlight to Callie Thorne, who’s recurred on the series as defense attorney Nikki Staines. But in this episode, she wasn’t defending the perpetrator; she was the victim.
Nikki’s difficult situation allowed Callie to show off what a phenomenal actress she is, and it was one of the season’s best installments because of her work and the work of the other actors who brought a challenging story to life.
One Chicago Center connected with Callie Thorne to discuss the experience of “Blackout,” what it meant for Nikki Staines to have a bigger role, and the other TV projects she’s had outside of the Dick Wolf universe.
Learn more about Callie in our interview below, and if you missed the episode last night, you can stream it now for free on Hulu.
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One Chicago Center: What was your reaction when you found out there would be a Nikki Staines story?
Callie Thorne: I was excited. I’ve been very lucky to have the recurring [role] of Nikki Staines. I love it when they ask me to come play her, because even though you usually just see Nikki Staines in the court room, I love those scenes.
When I read it, I was even more sort of overcome, because Peter Blauner is such an amazing writer, and I could immediately tell that this was going to be an incredibly fulfilling job.
To work on this episode, not only delving deeper into the SVU world and being involved in a more complex way, but also the fact that I was gonna be able to have these scenes with Mariska [Hargitay], and Kelli [Giddish], and Peter [Scanavino], and Ice-T, which haven’t really happened before. There’s been a couple of interview room scenes, interrogation room scenes, or whatever, but to have these opportunities of real dialogue and action with these men and women who are the icons, also was very thrilling to me as I started to work on it.
I just felt really honored that they thought of me, and then I wanted to do them proud.
Did having her role in the episode change mean that you got to explore of her personal life, as it’s not about her being a defense attorney now?
There’s nothing that’s sort of hammered over the head about Nikki’s personal life, but you do find out these little things in certain scenes.
One of the investigators, for instance, comes to her home to ask her some questions after they have sort of realized that they do have to look. They do have to take her seriously, even though she can’t remember anything from the assault, that they have to look in their own [ranks] and not sweep it under the rug for fear of higher-ups, or whatever it is.
You do find out little things about her personal life, but it’s beautifully woven into the actual mystery and crime. Nikki Staines has often made reference to her soon-to-be ex husband, but again, they’re all very subtly thrown in there. So you do learn a bit more about that, and I was like, oh, she has a daughter, that’s awesome. I definitely was learning things, and was really happy with what they had built into her story, and life.
She has this incredibly traumatizing event happen to her. How was it to film this SVU episode and take on that intense material?
I love it, because when something is well-written, then the challenge feels like nourishment. It isn’t a challenge of oh god, how am I gonna do this? How am I gonna get through this? How am I gonna prepare? If something is well-written, and you’ve got a director that you trust, and scene partners that you trust, then the work feels like nourishment, and [it’s] leading you to honest moments about whatever trauma occurs.
They’re so good at that, and so yes, it was a challenge because it’s such a heavy plot point, as it always is on their shows. But for me to prepare and work on it, it was the beautiful kind of hard. I couldn’t wait to do these scenes because of how close they touched me, and I wanted to do justice to those moments, and hopefully touch other people’s hearts in regards to being a survivor, and having strength to come forward. Or push through the resistance of coming forward. It was fantastic. I feel very lucky for it.
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You’re an incredibly busy actress, too. Aside from recurring on SVU, what else have you been working on?
I’ve just been auditioning through pilot season, and having the good fortune to also do work on shows like SVU. I did an episode of Blue Bloods that aired a couple months ago, and I just shot another episode of Blue Bloods that I’m not sure when it airs.
Amy Sedaris is one of my favorite friends I’ve ever had in my life, and I had the luck of doing an episode of the second season of her show, At Home with Amy Sedaris. I think that was a couple or a few weeks ago as well.
For the latest SVU season 20 spoilers and news, plus more on all of Dick Wolf’s other series, follow the Dick Wolf category at One Chicago Center.