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Chris Meloni's TV bros Dean Norris and Michael Trotter say there's ‘nothing like having the last name Stabler’

Dean Norris and Michael Trotter joined "Law & Order: Organized Crime" in Season Four to play the Stabler brothers — and they've already won over the hearts of fans.
Ellen Burstyn as Bernadette Stabler, Michael Trotter as Joe Stabler Jr., and Dean Norris as Randall Stabler in season 4 of "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Michael Trotter says playing a Stabler brother alongside Dean Norris is "iconic" and that it's been "fun" for the two to "put our own stamp on it."NBC / Virginia Sherwood
/ Source: TODAY

What better way to assemble a family of TV brothers than by recruiting actors who have real-life history together? That’s exactly what the minds behind “Law & Order: Organized Crime” did — and boy, has it paid off.

Casting news broke late last year that Dean Norris would play Randall, the older brother of Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni), and earlier this year that Michael Trotter would portray the youngest Stabler brother, Joe Jr.

Fans of the NBC drama have already been gifted with so many epic scenes with the brothers and other members of the family, like the Stabler brothers’ mother, Bernadette “Bernie” Stabler, who’s portrayed by the iconic Ellen Burstyn.

So far in Season Four, the brothers have endured a chaotic family dinner and had tough conversations, like when Randall revealed to Elliot that their father beat their mother, among other things. It’s taken awhile for Elliot to warm up to the presence of both his brothers in his life again, but he’s coming around to Randall.

In fact, both Randall and Elliot think baby brother Joe may be up to no good. Joe’s return to their lives has left the two with more questions than answers. At the family dinner, Joe told Elliot how he got caught stealing while in the Army and could either serve time in an Afghan prison or be dishonorably discharged — and opted for the latter.

Michael Trotter as Joe Stabler Jr. in season 4 of "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Joe Jr. attempts to explain to older brother Elliot why he was dishonorably discharged from the Army.Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Not long after the gathering, Elliot discovered what appeared to be a controlled substance on foil in his bathroom trash can. Suspecting the contents on the foil belonged to Joe, Elliot visited his younger brother at his job working for a British wine merchant and didn’t appear to see anything out of the ordinary. Elliot had one of his Organized Crime team members trace the drug’s origins and nature and later learned that heroin was the residue on the foil, and it was “a distinctive blend out of Kandahar” — a city in Afghanistan.

In the April 11 episode, “Semper Fi,” Elliot continues investigating the source of the heroin as he and Randall stage an intervention for their younger brother. has a sneak peek at Randall and Elliot confronting Joe about his sketchy behavior, asking him about the drug paraphernalia and heroin they found.

We also recently chatted with Norris and Trotter about how their roles on “OC” came to be, the secrets to the chemistry behind their brotherly bond, working with the “effervescent” Burstyn and more.

Before we get into the specifics of their characters, we show Norris an old post from his Instagram account that he shared nearly 10 years ago to the day. On April 17, 2014, the actor posted a photo of himself along with Meloni during a visit to TODAY to promote their 2014 movie, “Small Time.”

“Not sayin we’d own prime time with our own tv show, but we’d OWN prime time,” he captioned the picture.

“Wow!” Norris responds with a huge smile, and asks us to send along the link to him. (We did!)

It didn’t take long for the brotherly ribbing to begin, either.

“You’re such a prophet!” Trotter chimes in.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Dean, I know you and Chris have history. Did he call you up to play his brother on “OC”?

Norris: (“OC” showrunner) John Shiban, who I have a history with, who was a writer on “Breaking Bad,” called me and talked to me and told me what was going to happen for the season.

I definitely texted Meloni and said, “Hey, I might be your brother. We’ll see how things work out.” (laughs)

I’m glad it did work out, and it’s been a blast.

Michael, you’re no stranger to the “Law & Order” universe. How did this role come about for you?

Trotter: I’ve worked with Chris, as well. I worked with him years ago on a show called “Underground,” and so I had some familiarity there. We kind of stayed in touch, and then I made the move to New York from LA right around the same time that he was starting — Stabler was coming back.

My (casting) was kind of random. I got an email that people at “Organized Crime” had reached out to see what my availability was. And I also shot Chris a text message and was just like, “Hey,” it was kind of funny, like, ”Any insight that you have into this character, I’d love to know. It’s your brother.” I’m pretty sure Chris was like, “Look, man, it’s been 25 years, and I just found out I had a brother. So I can’t really help you on that.”


(I) just kind of waited and waited and wound up getting the part — kind of hit the ground running from there. The familiarity with Chris certainly didn’t hurt.

The first scene that had all three Stabler brothers showed them goofing around and pretend fighting in a bar. Did that just come naturally, or did you do things off camera to make the scene comes across more brotherly?

Norris: We got drunk that morning. (Trotter laughs) And had a couple fights. We had good makeup, though, to cover up the bruises. I think the fact that we all had — well, I didn’t with Michael before but it certainly felt very comfortable with Mike early on — we both had that history with Chris. I think that it’s hard to fake that stuff. It kind of comes out. We were lucky.

What about for you, Michael? Is there any preparation with Chris before? I know you’ve had some intense one-on-one scenes.

Trotter: Yeah, for sure. I knew the way he worked, too. Just being able to work with him on a different show before was hugely valuable. Coming into that, there’s just sort of a freedom — an ease that you can’t replicate if you have already experienced life on set with someone.

Dean — it was two seconds and just chatting with him. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a very long time and was excited to be able to get to share the screen with him. It felt very natural with both of them, but I’m the youngest of three boys in my real life, funny enough. So I’ve got a lot of experience in playing that part. It was very much easy to drop into it with the two of them.

If I remember correctly, Dean, do you remember that (bar) scene? Did you accidentally hit me directly in the …

Norris: In the nuts?

Trotter: In the private parts?

Norris: In the nutsack?

Trotter: Yeah, yeah.

Norris: I did it in an actorly way first, and you didn’t react. So I was like, “F this mother------. I’m going to hit him.” And then that worked.

Trotter: It did, it worked. You got me good.

Norris: You’re the younger brother, you get away with it.

Trotter: I didn’t realize you were such a method actor.

Norris: I loved that scene.

I love watching both of you with Ellen Burstyn. Chris has previously described her as his “surrogate mother.” What are each of your experiences?

Norris: Wow, I mean, that’s just one of the unbelievable perks. Quite honestly, I didn’t know that she was on it. When they said, “Oh, by the way, the mother is Ellen Burstyn,” I was like, “What!” I was so thrilled.

She’s just effervescent, amazing and just a legend. I have some more scenes with her because she moves in with Randall, and so we get to do some more stuff. It’s just magical to get to work with her.

Trotter: To be in her presence is to be a very fortunate actor acting. It’s pretty incredible to get to work with her and to just chat with her. Multiple times (I) said, “Just give me all your secrets. Tell me everything.”

Law & Order: Organized Crime - Season 4
Joe Jr. can do no wrong in the eyes of his mother, but the same can't be said for his brothers.Virginia Sherwood/ / NBC

But she’s so sharp, too. She’s 91 years young and is sharp as can be and takes the work very, very seriously. Her performances speak for themselves.

It’s fun to play the favorite child. I’m the youngest. The youngest is always the most-loved, anyways.

What have each of your favorite scenes been to film so far?

Trotter: Being with Ellen, the dinner scene was my favorite scene. I didn’t have a lot of work necessarily to do in it. In fact, all the work I had to do was try to maintain staying present so it didn’t look like I was a spectator watching (laughs), which is how I felt because it was such an incredible experience to watch them work.

I had been looking forward to that scene — it was all day long. It was fun to kind of watch them work through the language and rehearsals, and figure out what they were going to do and what they were going to change, and then kind of experience the genius that is all three (Meloni, Norris and Burstyn) of their improv ability, too. For me, to just sit back and watch them work was probably my favorite thing so far.

Dean Norris as Randall Stabler and Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler season 4 of "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
The Stabler family dinner scene was "special" for the actors to film together, Norris says.Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Norris: That scene was, obviously, something that was special for us to do. And I really love it, but, in addition to that, there’s some great stuff with the end-of-the-episode kind of chitchat with me and Chris. I always enjoy those, and there are several more of those that kind of come up. I always really just enjoy those scenes. They’re just kind of getting to know my brother better, and I think our relationship starts to thaw out. I enjoy every one of those. There’s a lot of good stuff coming up.

There has been a lot of fan reaction to both of you joining “OC.” What has your experience been like with “Law & Order” fans since you started?

Norris: Yeah! I can’t believe how many people that I didn’t even know who are like, “Oh, my God, it’s my favorite show.” So I love it. It’s been great, and they’re passionate fans. It’s a real joy.

Trotter: It’s been fun. I live in New York, and there certainly have been plenty of times when you’re just experiencing New York City — walking down the street — where you get a reality check of how excited people are. They want to know what’s happening next. (laughs) I tell them your guess is as good as mine, I don’t have any idea yet.

It’s iconic, and it’s been fun to be able to be a part of it, put our own stamp on it.

Nothing like having the last name Stabler.

“Law & Order: Organized Crime” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC after “Law & Order: SVU” at 9 p.m. and “Law & Order” at 8 p.m. The shows all stream the following day on Peacock, which is part of our parent company NBCUniversal.