How 'Law and Order: SVU' plans to tackle George Floyd's death, protests against police brutality

"Presumably our cops will still be trying to do the right thing, but it will be harder for them and they will understand why it will be harder for them," the show's executive producer said.
Celebrity Sightings In New York - March 07, 2019
Mariska Hargitay on the set of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" on March 07, 2019 in New York City.Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
/ Source: TODAY

“Law and Order: SVU” is planning to tackle the current events surrounding the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that have happened across the United States and around the world against police brutality and social injustice.

The show’s executive producer and showrunner, Warren Leight, appeared on a recent podcast to talk about how he plans to handle the shifting public opinion.

He said in the last year, the show has tried “really hard” to add more storylines about how race and class impact the outcome of justice in society but plan to do more.

“I’m beginning to suspect really hard wasn’t enough,” he said. "This has to be a moment where people make themselves uncomfortable, where people in power have to make themselves uncomfortable."

He said the team was already at work writing episodes about how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic — the uptick in domestic abuse, suspects taking advantage of the shut down and victims of sexual assault not going to the hospital — when Floyd died in police custody.

"It has to come up and it will," he said. The characters, especially Carisi, will face several obstacles like how to win over a jury when trust in police officers testimony is low.

"There are ways, we will find our way in to tell the story. Presumably our cops will still be trying to do the right thing, but it will be harder for them and they will understand why it will be harder for them," he said.

He added he “can’t make every episode about a bad cop” but is trying to “depict how justice should be handled.”

“Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) makes mistakes…but she’s empathetic, which I think is what separates cops on our television show from a lot of what we’re seeing these days on our live streams,” Leigh explained. "People watch the shows to see heroes. You have the responsibility to at least depict the reality—as close to the reality as you can.”

Leight also explained that last season, he had opened the writers room to people who had never written an episode of TV before and for the first time, women outnumbered men.

“Law & Order: SVU” has been renewed for its 24th season and a spinoff show — starring Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler — is in the works. Leight is also working on another spinoff, “Law & Order: Hate Crimes,” which could arrive on NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock, E! News reports.

Leight appeared on The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast released on Friday.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)