In his seventh year playing Elliot Stabler on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Christopher Meloni snagged his first Emmy nomination. We asked the 45-year-old newbie about finally getting recognized and what his costar (and three-time nominee) Mariska Hargitay had to say.
TV Guide: How are you feeling about your first Emmy nomination?
Christopher Meloni: I'm feeling quite honestly, the best part about it is the congratulatory calls I've gotten from friends, colleagues. I think, actually, they're a little happier than I am. [Laughs] So I pretty much glom on to their enthusiasm and say, "Yeah, yeah, it is pretty cool."
TV Guide: What was the most special call?
Meloni: I have to tell you, I think it was Tim Busfield (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), who just started screaming and repeating this mad gibberish.
TV Guide: Why Tim Busfield?
Meloni: He and I worked together on an independent movie and later we bumped into each other a couple of times. I loved working with him; I respected him immensely because he really expanded himself into producing and directing, and I respected him on the film for his taste, his talent and his eye for things. The film was called The Souler Opposite. And then we bumped into each other recently at the NBC upfronts.
TV Guide: Did you hear from Mariska?
Meloni: She was funny, because she was the salty old veteran giving me loving advice. [Laughs] "See Chris, now this is the truth. You have been nominated, and that's the truth." Whenever I didn't get nominated, and everyone around me would be disappointed, I would say, "Look, I tell you truthfully, it's fine. Awards don't mean anything." But then once it happens... [Laughs] Mariska was kind of my Zen master. So I embraced it and accepted it and said, "Yes, it is the way."
TV Guide: Does this nomination give you a little kick in the butt? Show you that you're still appreciated?
Meloni: I'll be honest, it did give me a little jolt. "Oh! Someone is watching." Honestly, I've always felt that I was doing good work. Whether it deserved to be nominated for anything is far beyond me. I never really tackled that angle.
TV Guide: Do you have any idea why it's taken so long for you to be honored for your work?
Meloni: No, I never gave it too much thought. I must say, I was more shocked when I wasn't thrown out there for Oz, because I thought that was a much more arresting thing that hadn't been on TV before. Once that didn't happen, I really didn't give it too much thought, because I just [figured] I didn't know the dynamics of it, and that's fine. I'll just leave it be.
TV Guide: If you win, where will you keep the Emmy?
Meloni: [Cracks up] Uh... in a place of honor?
TV Guide: Yeah, like....
Meloni: I don't even have an office. These are great and important questions. That spurs me on to get a damned office.
TV Guide: You don't seem a dress-up kind of guy. What are you planning to wear to the Emmys?
Meloni: Can you use some of your connections and just have some tuxedo guy send me something? I've got my best ripped jeans, and I'll see if my wife puts the kibosh on them or not.
TV Guide: Have you gone so far as to investigate which designer to wear?
Meloni: I have people for that. Not because I'm aloof and out of taste. It's because I have no taste and I'm out of touch.
TV Guide: Does your wife, Sherman, know who she's wearing?
Meloni: That was Sherman's reaction when she heard I got nominated. She gave me a big hug, looked me lovingly in the eye and said, "I get to go shopping." [Laughs]
TV Guide: Since this came after years of working, do you feel you're still improving as an actor?
Meloni: I take this art very seriously and passionately. I love what I do. You can't help but grow. That's not to say you don't make mistakes or make bad choices, but that's part of the art. Painters paint [bad] paintings. [Laughs] I give so much credit to the writers because they're always looking to give us juicy stuff to play, to intertwine our personal lives into the mandate, which is to tell a good crime story. Hopefully, we're ever evolving.
TV Guide: What's up for Stabler this season?
Meloni: He has to deal with a new partner [played by] Connie Nielsen. And Mariska and I have to figure out who we are and what we are and where we are in our professional relationship. Stabler's wife comes back in the picture a little bit. That's been fun, and... weird.
TV Guide: That's interesting, considering she hasn't been in your life for a season. In what way does she come back into Stabler's life?
Meloni: She and I have to figure out who we are, what we are and where we are in our personal relationship. [Laughs]
TV Guide: And what is he figuring out with the beautiful Dani, his new partner? We hear the professional might become, let's say, personal? A little romance happening?
Meloni: We can only hope and pray, can't we? [Chuckles]
TV Guide: Here are three gorgeous women trying to figure out their relationships with you. What's up with that?
Meloni: Damn, baby. It's about time I got a little bit of this action!
TV Guide: What can you tell me about the relationship between Stabler and Dani?
Meloni: She plays a warrants officer, transferred to the unit, who's a little clunky in how she does her job. She's a little hotheaded, so I got to calm her down. We've got to figure out how best to work together. And... other stuff happens.
TV Guide: Do you get to kiss?
Meloni: I don't know how much I can reveal.
TV Guide: Do you get close?
TV Guide: What kind of surprises can we expect?
Meloni: That's a question for [executive producer] Neal [Baer]. But there's a lot of room to play. We were very happy with what was happening between my wife and I, so we decided to go with that.
TV Guide: You might get back with her?
Meloni: I don't know what the dynamics are, but she'll play a little larger role in my life, yeah.
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