Detective Amanda Rollins is about to hit her lowest point yet on Wednesday's episode of Law & Order: SVU (9/8c, NBC), and her portrayer, Kelli Giddish, is bracing for the worst.
"I've decided I'm not even going to check Twitter during it," Giddish tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I want to see how much [the viewers] cheer for Rollins, how much they're disgusted by the things that she actually does. Because she's trying to save her own a--."
Anyone who's been tuning into this season of SVU can surmise what will put Rollins into such a precarious situation. Following years of successfully keeping her gambling addiction at bay and attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, Rollins fell off the wagon earlier this season after a string of rough cases. Since then, she's spent many late nights out playing cards, which has led to several late, bleary-eyed arrivals at work, and has appeared increasingly distracted.
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"I always see it as like a release. I know in interviews I get asked a lot, 'You're dealing with such heavy material. How is that?'" Giddish says, identifying with how the demands of Rollins' job have influenced her gambling. "You do need some kind of release and that's what that is for her."
However, unlike her past minor infractions, this time Rollins' addiction will directly collide with her work in a big way when she is forced to make a deal with an illegal gambling club. "It's kind of unlike any other episode the audience has seen of SVU. You get to see Amanda really going down the spiral of her addiction to gambling. She puts everything on the line and she's about to lose everything and you don't know if she's going to or not," Giddish says. "My jaw was dropping when I read the script for the first time."
This episode, and this season, marks the deepest exploration into Rollins' sickness, but it is not the first. Midway through Season 13 —Giddish's first on the series — Rollins was forced to come clean to both Fin (Ice-T) and Capt. Cragen (Dann Florek) about her gambling problem when a bookie she owed money to became involved in a case. Cragen threatened to take away her gun and shield, but instead took her to her first GA meeting. "Right after I was cast on SVU, we talked about her having this problem and the situations it would get her into," Giddish says. [Showrunner Warren Leight and I] fleshed it out and we kind of kept it open as to where it would go, but I knew it would be coming down the pike in the next seasons or so, and here it is."
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In the meantime, Giddish did research and talked with gambling addicts to get better insight into the problem. "Its crazy how many people struggle with this addiction and what they've done to come out of it," Giddish says. "I remember I was listening to the WTF with Marc Maron Podcast, and Norm MacDonald was on there talking about his gambling addiction and he shed some light on it for me. Just little snippets here and there, I've really, really learned a lot from."
Although she's a little worried about how the audience will react to Rollins' dark descent, Giddish says it was a necessary move, and a necessary story line, for longtime viewers to better understand her character. "The audience knows Ice-T by now. They know how he's going to react. They know what he's going to say and they can't wait for it. Danny Pino and I are still relatively new to this ballgame, to this circus of SVU, so they're still learning about us," she says. "I think the audience enjoys that it's fleshed out our characters."
This season's continuing story line has also informed Giddish's own perception of Rollins. "To see someone that's good at their job, that really cares about what they do and they still sacrifice it for something that, it's inexplicable, except to someone who has that addiction," Giddish says. "It makes my job as an actor really, really exciting to see how you compromise how you see someone, how you play someone hit rock bottom and maybe try and redeem themselves."
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But will Rollins even be able to redeem herself after the events of this week's episode? Her personal problems are coming at the worst possible time, in the wake of Sgt. Munch's (Richard Belzer) and Capt. Cragen's departures and Olivia's big promotion. Giddish says Benson (Mariska Hargitay) will have the hardest time learning to trust Rollins again, but is looking forward to their tense interactions. "It's just really satisfying getting to do scenes one-on-one with another strong lady," she says. "I certainly do miss Dann and Richard, but it's been really exciting to see her just be a strong woman and take charge."
An even bigger question is whether Rollins will really be able to keep herself on the straight and narrow since she's bound to have another rough day at work in her future. "She hits rock bottom in this episode, and hitting rock bottom isn't fun," Giddish says. "Once you hit it, I think you're pretty close to hitting it every time you even put yourself out there a little bit, so I think she has to be very, very, very careful."
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.