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Ice-T has been playing 'the cop we need' on 'SVU' for over 20 years

We're living in the "renICEance." The king of "Law & Order: SVU" teases the show's upcoming Fin-focused episode: "It's going to be a nice ride with me."
Three photos of Ice-T in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit over the years with police tape in the background.
Ice-T has quite literally had a historic run as Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on "Law & Order: SVU" for three decades.TODAY illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Ice Cold Fact: There will never be another one who can claim the title of longest-running male actor on TV, a Grammy Award and a Walk of Fame star to his name.

Ice-T, who nabbed the longest-running achievement in 2022 for playing Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on “Law & Order: SVU” since 2000, will soon make his legacy even more permanent with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during a ceremony on Feb. 17.

In a recent interview with, the legendary rapper and actor talks about his latest honor, family, favorite “SVU” line and much more.

“Honestly, and please don’t take this wrong, I wasn’t as excited about it as other people were,” Ice-T humbly explains about his upcoming Walk of Fame honor. “I grew up in LA, and I knew the stars, and we used to walk up and down the street and see the stars. I never imagined I could get a star, but when they told me I was going to get one, I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’”

It wasn’t until people pointed out what the achievement would mean to Ice-T’s family members that he began to really absorb the accomplishment. Ice-T has been married to wife Coco Austin for over 20 years, and they share 7-year-old daughter Chanel. He also has two older children from previous relationships: LeTesha Marrow and Ice Tracy Marrow Jr. (“Lil Ice”).

“Everybody else was like, ‘Yo!’ and then people were like, ‘Yo, that’s good for Chanel, that’s good for your kids,’” he adds. “I had to really reassess it, like, ‘Wow! Everyone else is so excited about this — maybe I need to get a little more excited for myself.’ I realize it’s an honor.”

Ice-T added many of his friends, including hip-hop group Cypress Hill and rapper Ice Cube, already have stars on the Walk of Fame.

“So, I think I would probably be feeling salty later on if I didn’t get one,” he says.

Ice-T says Coco “enjoys” watching “SVU,” as does Chanel, Coco’s mom and other family members, who “love” the show.

Ice-T stands beside his wife and daughter.
Ice-T with daughter Chanel and wife Coco Austin.Rob Kim / Getty Images

“My boys that I wouldn’t even think would be into it are telling me about episodes they saw,” he adds.

All of Ice-T’s family and friends will be especially tuned in for an upcoming episode of “SVU,” which Ice-T previewed to fans on Twitter as an “all Fin” episode with a “crazy” script. The Fin-centric episode, “Dutch Tears,” is set to air Feb. 16, which happens to be the same day as Ice-T’s 65th birthday.

The actor didn’t want to give too much away about his character’s big episode, but says Fin has to “address something that comes from his past — pre-SVU.”

Fin worked in Narcotics before transferring to the Special Victims Unit. Shortly after joining the team in Season Two, he told Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) he left Narcotics after his partner “took a bullet” meant for him.

Ice-T and Richard Belzer stand beside each other as their characters in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Ice-T's Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola and Richard Belzer's Detective John Munch made for one of the most entertaining pairs of partners to watch on "SVU."Jessica Burstein / Getty Images

And in the upcoming episode, a man recently out of jail looks for Fin, who was his arresting officer. Then Fin is put in a dangerous situation after the man breaks into his home with a gun. Fin has been in danger before on “SVU,” but he’s usually the one offering support to others after they’re in unstable scenarios.

“It was fun,” Ice-T says about playing his character in a high-risk situation.

“Anytime it’s a script and it’s about you, it’s fun,” he continues. “Usually, ‘Law & Order’ is about 45 scenes, and I’m in about 40 of these scenes. So, it’s going to be a nice ride with me.”

He also teases that “the whole episode happens in one night.”

Ice-T holds a microphone while rapping at a concert.
Rapper Ice-T performs in Chicago in 1988.Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Many of Ice-T’s fans knew him before his historic run on “SVU” as a solo rapper and as a member of the group Body Count, but he has never unleashed his singing skills on “SVU” — and has no plans to.

“I wouldn’t do that: That would be corny,” Ice-T says, “because Fin would be able to rap as good as I rap. So, they would have to try to make me rap half-assed, which I wouldn’t do. Now, I got to draw the line somewhere.”

Now, Ice-T says he writes actual musical lines for his longtime “SVU” co-star and friend Mariska Hargitay, who has played TV’s longest-running prime-time live-action character, Olivia Benson, since 1999.

“It’s funny, though, Mariska has me write her raps,” Ice-T explains. “She wants to rap, like, ‘Write me a rap.’ So yeah, I wrote a rap for Joyful Heart (Hargitay’s foundation). She’s got a little rap I wrote her early. She’s like, ‘It’s time for you to write me a new rap.’ All right, take it easy, Mariska,” he jokes.

Maybe Hargitay will soon write a rap of her own for Ice-T, as she's one of the guest speakers for her longtime friend's Walk of Fame event — along with "Law & Order: SVU" creator and executive producer Dick Wolf.

Many fans especially love Benson and Fin’s friendship. Fin has been there for Benson during some of the biggest moments of her life, including in the aftermath of her longtime partner, Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni), leaving her and after she was rescued from being held for days by a sadistic killer. While Benson, a captain, is a superior to Fin’s sergeant, the balance of power has never been an issue in their relationship.

Actors Ice-T and Mariska Hargitay point their hand guns in front of them on an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Double OGs Fin and Benson, deemed "Finlivia" by the fans, in Season Five.Will Hart / Getty Images

Ice-T credits his real-life friendship with Hargitay for their successful chemistry.

“I told Mariska in my life I have two daughters and a wife, but I said, ‘Mariska, I’ve made more money with you. So you’re, like, No. 1 woman in my life,’” he says, before adding the two “respect” each other and what each of them “brings to the table.”

“She’s always like, ‘Well, Ice, you’re not just on this TV show, you’re Ice-f------ T. You’re a f------ rock star. You’re this, you’re that,’” Ice-T says. “So, she’s aware that my reach is even bigger than television, and that brings power to the show.”

He adds that he appreciates that Hargitay is such a “wonderful” and “nice” person to work with.

Both Ice-T and Hargitay’s characters have had some memorable one-liners on the series over the years, and the actor credits the writers for those because they understand the “tone.”

“They have these things called tone meetings,” Ice-T says. “And I think after 20-something years, the writers kind of know how Benson and Fin would react — and they kind of know Fin’s tone, how he feels about things.”

If he feels something is written out of tone, Ice-T says he’ll consult the writers and that most lines are written into the script and not ad-libbed.

“The only thing that might be off script would be slang,” he explains. “I tell them let me write the slang because they change every week. Don’t put slang words in my mouth. I know what to say.”

Ice-T’s personal style also influences the designers on set who choose outfits for Fin to wear.

“The style is very much very close to the way I dress in real life,” he says.

“A lot of the stuff is just ripped right out of my closet,” he explains. “They’re pulling my clothes that I wear on a normal (day). Then it’s very much close to Ice-T — real life!”

Ice-T and Danny Pino stand beside each other on an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
"A lot of people say these TV shows are police propaganda: They promote police. And they do in a way because I'm wearing Gucci. Cops can't afford to wear Gucci."Michael Parmelee / Getty Images

“This guy’s kind of bled into my psyche, too,” Ice-T says about Fin. “Because they listen to me talk, and they start writing along the lines of what I’m talking about.”

Fin has had some important but also hilarious lines over the past two decades, particularly when he’s clocking perps after arresting them.

This guy’s kind of bled into my psyche, too.

Ice-T on his "SVU" character, fin

Ice-T’s favorite “SVU” line is actually one of the few that were ad-libbed and kept in for Season Five’s “Lowdown,” which aired in 2004. In the episode, an assistant district attorney is found dead, and it’s later revealed he was gay and having an affair with his Black male co-worker. The co-worker participated in a poker group with men who were actually sleeping together “on the down low” instead of playing the game.

“I told Chris (Meloni) and everybody what the ‘down low’ was,” Ice-T explains. “I was like, no, in the Black community, being gay is different. … And a lot of these guys are straight, but they go out at night and have gay sex. And everybody looked at me — and I’m like, ‘Don’t look at me, I just know s---.’”

In the episode, Fin tells his colleagues he thinks the men are “on the down low” and defines it to his confused co-workers, who also point out the men are married, as “Black men having sex with other men.”

“They say it doesn’t mean they’re gay,” Fin explains. “It’s just sex. They hang out, have a few drinks, pretend that what goes on downstairs isn’t who they are. You grow up being Black, you’re supposed to be a man, become a father. Church, your family, your friends, they all see being gay as a white man’s perversion.”

After further explaining how “it’s different for Black men,” Benson, Stabler, Munch and Capt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek) all stare at Fin.

“Don’t look at me, I just know stuff,” Fin says.

“I ad-libbed that (line), and they kept it in,” Ice-T recalls.

Diane Neal, B.D. Wong, Dann Florek, Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T and Richard Belzer stand together as a cast.
"There's so many different levels of 'SVU.' You've got the Chris years, with 12 years with Chris Meloni, which is bananas. And you've got all these different people that have come in ... Danny Pino — the Kelli (Giddish) years — all these different things."Chris Haston / Getty Images

Ice-T also plays the father of a gay son, Ken, on “SVU,” and one episode focused on Fin finding out through a case that Ken was gay (“Strain”).

“It wasn’t difficult for me,” Ice-T says.

“Once you realize if your son is gay, you still love him,” he continues. “That’s still your son.”

“I just tried to address it the way I would in real life,” Ice-T adds.

Bringing his real-world knowledge to “SVU” is nothing new for Ice-T, who was told by Wolf during a phone call after joining the show in the early 2000s to “play the cop we need.”

“He goes, ‘You don’t like cops, do you?’” Ice-T recalls about the call with Wolf. “And I go, ‘Well, Dick, I used to be a criminal, and the cops were the opponent. It wasn’t that we didn’t like them — we knew they were there to do their job, and we were doing our job.’

“He said, ‘But you admit we need them?’ I’m like, ‘Hell yeah.’ He said, ‘Play the cop we need.’”

He said, ‘Play the cop we need.’

Ice-T on an early phone call with "Law & Order" franchise creator Dick wolf

The public’s perception of police has changed since Ice-T joined “SVU” in 2000, with an increase in brutal acts by police, especially against Black men, being caught on camera.

Ice-T says this doesn’t affect how fans on the street perceive his character.

“People don’t really trip off me because … Fin is a character, but Ice-T is bigger,” he explains. “So on the street, they don’t call me Fin like they might call Mariska Olivia. But they don’t call me Fin — they call me Ice.”

Ice-T adds his fans know he’s “about as far from a cop as you can get.”

Erik Palladino and Ice-T play detectives pinning Jason Ritter's character against a car.
Fin nabbing a suspect in Season Four.Will Hart / Getty Images

He believes playing a member of the Special Victims Unit is about “the most honest cop you can have on the force” because SVU detectives are “chasing rapists and pedophiles — and people don’t even like them in prison.”

“So people don’t even really count SVU as cops: They look at it like they’re really cleaning up the sewage out of our streets,” he adds.

“If you’re under 23, you have no reference point to me as a rapper,” he says, adding to those fans he’s only been known to them on their televisions “as a cop.”

Ice-T points a handgun in front of himself in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
"SVU" films rain or shine. Ice-T says "a lot of wild stuff" has happened during his years with the show, but "the things that stick with" him and the cast and crew are the days they "almost froze to death filming outside." "We're all kind of bonded together from the days we almost died filming." Michael Parmelee / Getty Images

“Every once in a while, somebody will call me a cop, and then people straighten them out really quick,” Ice-T says.

Eventually, Ice-T’s time as Fin will come to an end — hopefully not anytime soon — on the series, and he already has a vision in mind for his character’s legacy.

“He’s the last one standing — like, everybody else died, and Fin is alive,” he jokes.

“At the end of the day, hopefully they don’t twist my character and make me go out like a sucker or a rat or some bulls---,” he says. “They let me go out right — in a blaze of glory, some kind of way.”

Ice-T as Detective Odafin 'Fin' Tutuola in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Will Fin eventually be the last man standing in the 1PP?Virginia Sherwood / Getty Images

“This show could be on another five years depending on how it goes,” he adds.

There’s already one thing, however, that Ice-T knows he’ll do before he walks off set for a final time — whenever that may be.

“One thing I do know is when this show does wrap, I’m robbing the wardrobe,” he says.

Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET after Law & Order at 8 p.m. and Law & Order: Organized Crime at 10 p.m on NBC.