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Stephanie March is a powerhouse for justice on ‘SVU.’ How that’s carried over to her real life

The "Law & Order: SVU" star opens up about how the show's storylines influenced her work off-screen and says she would be game for an "Organized Crime" cameo.
Stephanie March as ADA Alexandra Cabot in "Law & Order: SVU."
Stephanie March on what she hopes the legacy of her “SVU” character, ADA Alexandra Cabot, will be: “One of the things that Cabot always stood for was rule of law. The law is the law, and what the law says is meant to be observed and respected. I would like to think that in a world of complicated stories and manipulated truths, that there is a character somewhere on TV that stands for just telling the truth and doing the right thing — whether it’s easy or not.”Virginia Sherwood / NBCUniversal via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

On "Law & Order: SVU," art often imitates life with grim ripped-from-the-headlines episodes, but for former longtime star Stephanie March, the opposite is true.

The actor has used her voice and platform for good for years and says her life has imitated the art of "SVU," adding that those stories influenced her.

Ahead of Giving Tuesday, March spoke to via phone about her work with the nonprofit OneKid OneWorld. She also looked back on her time at "SVU" and responded to a burning question we had about "Law & Order: Organized Crime."

March played the beloved, intelligent Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot starting in the second season of "SVU" in 2000. After three seasons as a full-time cast member, she made scattered appearances over the course of many seasons through the years — the most recent in Season 19's "Sunk Cost Fallacy."

Cabot not only stuck to following the law in her role as the assistant district attorney, but she also showed a great amount of compassion for the victims, which eventually led to her character working in secret to help women escape abusive partners after she no longer worked as an ADA.

And off-screen, March began working with causes important to her at her core.

She teamed up with OneKid OneWorld, which aims to help kids in Kenya and Central America by providing basic education essentials, about 16 years ago through her friendships with two of the group’s co-founders.

"Between that and advocacy for women and girls and body autonomy and education, it's just really in my wheelhouse for what's important to me," she explains, adding her first trip to Kenya was "the most extraordinary experience."

In the Season 11 "SVU" episode "Witness," Cabot helps a woman who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo agree to testify after witnessing a rape. The woman fears for her safety, as she is not a legal U.S. citizen and also experienced the horrors of rape while living in Congo.

"It's funny you say that because one of the boards I most recently joined is the Panzi Foundation, and that was centered in and founded in the DRC," March says, adding the organization was founded "against the use of rape as a tool of war."

"It's something I'm really proud of," she explains about her work with the group, "and there it is, years ago in this episode of the show."

When asked if March influenced any of the "SVU" storylines years ago, she says it's in fact the opposite.

"I think those stories influenced me," she says, referencing that many of the show's episodes are "ripped from the headlines."

"So much of what we were working on and talking about was grounded in real-life problems and real situations," March says. "It's easy enough to be an actor pretending around them, but when you think about the real-life consequences and the people suffering through that, I felt compelled to take more concrete action outside of just my work."

One of March's co-stars and friends who has also been influenced in her real life by the show's subject matter is "SVU" lead Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson), who founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help educate society on sexual assault and domestic violence. The two remain in touch to this day.

Mariska Hargitay and Stephanie March
March shared photos of her reunited with Hargitay in August 2022, to the delight of "SVU" fans everywhere.@marchstephanie via Instagram

March says she "has the utmost respect" for Hargitay and her "huge heart."

"She's an absolute delight to be around," she explains, adding, "She's one of the funniest people I've ever met in my entire life. She has the best sense of humor and the show is not a great place to showcase that, but she cracks me up."

"I really believe in the power of female friendship and honesty and being vulnerable to one another and being able to raise each other up," she says, referencing the importance of her closeness with other women in her life like her sister, mother and sorority sisters.

"The one thing you really can't do with your female friends is you can't BS them," March adds. "It's where you come to tell the truth and be supportive, and if you are around people who are really doing that, other women, then you can do it for them, too."

Another one of March's close female friends is "Law & Order: Organized Crime" makeup artist Rebecca Perkins. The two worked together for years on "SVU," and eventually started a business together, SheSpoke, making custom lipsticks. The beauty brand just dropped a special lipstick color, Sugarplum, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the OneGirl OnePad program, which is an initiative from OneKid OneWorld that hopes to eliminate period poverty. March went to Kenya for a few weeks to work with OneGirl OnePad. She has also spent time in the DRC and Rwanda.

March and Perkins wanted to change the way beauty products are usually advertised and close the gap in the typical messaging.

"It's not just to be pretty for boys," March says.

"We thought makeup should be a tool of self-expression and fun, which is why we called the company SheSpoke," she adds.

When asked if Perkins has tried to talk her into coming on "OC," March says, "Oh, yeah! I get a lot of the good on-set hot goss from Rebecca. She texts all the time."

"I've been working with Becca on set and as a business partner for probably ... 15 years," she adds. "It's fun to hear from her perspective what's going on."

In May 2022, asked "Organized Crime" star Chris Meloni (Elliot Stabler) whom he'd like to see from his original run on "SVU" pop up on "OC," and he said March. It was only right we bring this up during our conversation with her.

"It's very mutual — I would love to see Chris again," March answers. As for if she would be down to appear on "OC," March says, "Hell, yeah!"

Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, Stephanie March as A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot, and Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler in Law & Order: SVU."
Benson and Stabler had a unique bond with Cabot, as they were two of the only people who knew she entered the witness protection program after a Colombian drug cartel nearly took her life. Will Hart / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

"This is true of both Chris and Mariska, but Chris really took his job seriously," she explains about her favorite part of working with Meloni.

"It was important to him that the character be a good balance to Benson, and both of them really worked hard to create this, I think, excellent symbiotic relationship that reads on screen," she continues, "which is why their chemistry is so great for so many seasons. And Chris took that really seriously."

Another "SVU" cast member March's Cabot shared scenes with was Judge Lena Petrovsky, who was portrayed by Joanna Merlin. Merlin died in October at 92, according to The New York Times.

"I'm in my office right now, and I'm literally looking at her book," March says about Merlin. "Joanna was so cool, and she was such a wonderful person. She signed the book, actually, 'Your partner in crime. With love and affection, Joanna.'"

Joanna Merlin as Judge Lena Petrovsky in "Law & Order: SVU"
Joanna Merlin as Judge Lena Petrovsky in "Law & Order: SVU."Peacock

"I was really young when I started on 'SVU.'... And I didn't have any on-camera experience," March adds. "Joanna was so kind to me and so patient and such a great scene partner."

"So much of what we did was just in an office with each other and we'd have these really late nights and we'd be working and we'd be very tired — and she was the most extraordinary teacher. Maybe some of that comes across on screen."

In between watching March in old episodes of "SVU," fans can soon catch her in the movie "Origin" from Ava DuVernay.

March plays a literary agent in the film, which depicts how author Isabel Wilkerson's 2020 bestselling nonfiction book, "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent," came to be.

"There is nothing not to like about working with Ava," March says, noting DuVernay's ability to command an entire room.

"She's directing us, she's directing the extras, she's working on the camera, she's dealing with the lights," she continues. "She's absolutely untiring. Her voice is astonishing. Her presence of mind — her vision of what is going to come onto screen is ... if she told me to sit on the floor and string together paper clips, I would just say, 'OK, she knows what she's doing.' She's incredible."