T.R. Knight isn't afraid of anything. Just ask him.
"I think it's dangerous as an actor to get too comfortable, but maybe sometimes I go towards the discomfort a little too much," Knight tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "There are a lot of things I maybe should have walked away from, but instead they kind of draw me in a little bit more because there's that terror to it."
Since leaving Grey's Anatomy in 2009, he's starred in his first musical (Parade) and performed David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre on Broadway. For his return to TV on Wednesday's Law & Order: SVU (10/9c on NBC), Knight is again embracing the unexpected to play a suspected rapist — a (seemingly) far cry from Grey's sweet, soft-spoken Dr. George O'Malley.
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In the episode, Knight plays Gabriel Thomas, a family man who stands by his innocence despite the fact his description and DNA match a string of rape cases. "It was just out of the blue," he says about his invitation to guest-star. "It's cool when you get that phone call and they want to invite you to the party."
It also didn't hurt that Knight knew both Mariska Hargitay and new series regular Danny Pino. "It was good to get a chance to work with people that you've always wanted to work with," he says. "It's very interesting because you have a show that's been on the air for 12 years so you've got a lot of people who have been there for the entire time, and then you've got the new people too so it's a great combination of energies."
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The revolving door of dramatic series television is one Knight is familiar with. After rising to household stardom and earning an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of George on Grey's Anatomy, he departed the hit medical drama at the end of Season 5. Since hanging up his Seattle Grace scrubs, Knight has mainly appeared on stage. "I had been away from it for awhile, so you get those little voices in the back of your head saying, 'Oh I'm never going to be able to do it again because I've been away so long,'" he says. "It's been nice to get back to the stage in the last couple of years. That was all I did really previously before Grey's. Theater's been in my life longer than television has."
Between Parade and A Life in the Theatre, two years have passed since Knight last stood in front of the camera, which made his return to TV that much more thrilling. "They're so completely opposite as far as rehearsal and preparation. In theater, you have so much time to work on something and figure stuff out and then the challenge is to keep it fresh constantly even though you've worked on it so much," he says. "Television moves so fast, there's so much work. You try to do as work as you can do before, but a lot of it is right then as you're doing it when you're filming, which has its own level of excitement to it."
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Looking to the future, Knight says he would love to continue jumping back and forth between the stage and the small screen. However, he says picking projects is more about the role than the medium. "You play a certain character for five years, and the character was a wonderful character and I loved playing him, but part of the reason you want to be an actor is you don't want to just do the same thing all the time. Part of the reason why you put up with the constant job-to-job thing is because you want to do as varied and as interesting roles as possible," Knight says. "Every actor has their own scale of what they're right for, so I like to stretch that as much as possible if people allow me to."
But would that ever include a foray back into a series regular role? Knight isn't ruling anything out. "If that comes along and that's in the cards — that's wonderful," he says.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC.
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