'SVU' Q&A: Showrunner Warren Leight teases a season of suspicion -- and a '50 Shades'-inspired ep

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Going back to Olivia. She went through a lot of changes last season.
When the season began, she was feeling untethered and wary of the new people [after her partner of 12 years left the unit]. She was beginning to form relationships with Amaro particularly and with Hayden (Harry Connick Jr.). Then it all kind of blew up in her face. Then her captain — who was her rock last year after [Stabler] left — they had some very strong scenes together. Clearly, the captain is a father figure to Olivia. I can’t imagine anything shaking her up more than to find out that he’s possibly not who she thought he was.

And in the midst of this, Dean Winters is back as Cassidy, Olivia’s ex/colleague. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s a good thing and a bad thing. He’s an interesting guy, and he’s not the kid he was from those early SVUs that he was in. He wasn’t right for this unit, and he wasn’t too sharp. He wasn’t well-educated. He’s obviously survived and been doing dangerous work for three years. But can you trust him completely? Certainly Amaro doesn’t.

I can’t imagine the time would be right any time soon for Benson to consider motherhood or a serious relationship.
I think it’s hard. As the season opens, her new partnership is in trouble — with Amaro. Her captain is in serious trouble. The unit she’s worked for is falling apart. She has a new captain she’s supposed to somehow deal with. The DAs she’s worked with are under a cloud of suspicion — or she’s not allowed to talk to them. When it rains, it pours.

I’m hoping amongst all this seriousness and turmoil, we’ll get some good Fin (Ice-T) comic relief in there. He’s my favorite.
Fin’s character is a survivor. He provided a lot of stability for Rollins (Kelli Giddish) last year. We have a scene where Adam Baldwin’s character looks at Fin early on and basically says, “Last I heard, departmental dress code is business attire,” and he looks at Fin.

So Fin is probably the most equipped to deal with the shifting tides, but even he is going to have some issues?
Whether or not Fin actually responds to that… [Laughs] Fin undercover would be in a suit and tie, I think.

What else can you tease this season?
We sort of have two premieres this year. We’re back on Sept. 26 then we got off the air until Oct. 10. That episode deals with the author of a book called 25 Acts, which is a woman’s journey through the world of domination and submission. So we’re keeping time, we hear.

Law & Order ran for 20 seasons. Do you see SVU lasting for another six years?
The idea is not to run on fumes and make sure everyone who’s here wants to be here and wants to keep it alive. There is no end to the number of topics in the news that make for interesting episodes for us and interesting issues to explore. … Raising awareness about certain issues is part of what makes the show valuable. I don’t think we ever want to sensationalize rape or the victimization of people. What we want to do is get people aware of issues in our society and get people thinking and talking about them, and shed light on the dark corners of this world. That’s a valuable function. … I would love to see [how things go this year]. I think most people assumed we wouldn’t make it through last year. It was nice to get a little attention, show that the show had a reason to exist. We’ll see….

SVU premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

Read more:
Fall TV predictions: 10 hits and misses
Fall TV: Dramas We’re Tuning In For
Ex-‘Criminal Minds’ star Paget Brewster books ‘Law & Order: SVU’ gig

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