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Chris Meloni

A native of Washington, D.C., Christopher Meloni returns to the cast of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for his sixth season as Detective Elliot Stabler. “Stabler and I are alike in that we’re focused on our job and couldn’t see doing anything else with our lives,” says Meloni about his character Detective Elliot Stabler. “He’s a rock solid guy, with a great capacity for compassion, the ironic, and the absurd. He can relish the small triumphs when they come and doesn’t allow the horrors of his job to infect him.” Meloni is familiar with difficult work, spending a few years in construction before beginning his acting career. Meloni is well known to television audiences for his portrayal of the duplicitous inmate Chris Keller on HBO’s hard-hitting critically praised series “Oz.” Additionally, he has appeared in a series of memorable guest-starring roles on some of network television’s most acclaimed series such as “Homicide: Life on the Street” as well as “NYPD Blue,” in which Meloni played Jimmy Liery, the volatile undercover target of Emmy Award-winner Kim Delaney’s Detective Russell. Meloni also starred in the series “Leaving L.A.,”several miniseries including “In A Child’s Name” and “Mario Puzo’s The Last Don,” and the telefilms “Shift” and “Dominick Dunne Presents: Murder in Greenwich.” Meloni’s film credits include “Runaway Bride” in which he appeared as Julia Roberts’ fiancé. He has also been seen in such diverse films as “Bound,” “12 Monkeys,” “Junior,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” co-starring Janeanne Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce. Meloni also appeared in the 2004 comedy “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”

Chris Meloni was born April 2, 1961 in Washington, D.C. He married to Sherman Williams from 1995 to present (yes, a woman). His favorite quote: "I'm a nudist at heart." He's wild about Asian-influenced decor and spiritualism. An avid traveler, Meloni has explored from Turkey to Bali and is searching for points in-between to visit. He also enjoys weightlifting, playing basketball, football, and chess and is a martial arts enthusiast. Chris Meloni maintaines residences in both New York and Los Angeles with his wife Sherman and daughter Sophia.


Chris Meloni solves sex crimes

''Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' may be too hot for its time slot. Stars Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay reveal the trouble with bringing sex crimes to primetime. ''Law & Order'' creator Dick Wolf grumbled that NBC execs goofed by slating his new spin-off, ''Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,'' for Mondays at 9 p.m. He said the show , is simply too intense to air before 10 p.m. because of its focus on a team of detectives devoted to solving sex crimes.

But viewers hoping for cheap thrills may be disappointed. ''The show is not here to say, Oh, we're about sex and the worst aspects of it, and we're going to show you something really titillating and gruesome,'' says star Christopher Meloni. ''You're not going to see the bloodbath.'' Adds costar Mariska Hargitay, ''Rape is not about sex, it's about anger and violence towards women, and we're really going to get into what that's all about.''

However, the show will add a touchy-feely aspect to ''Law & Order'''s business as usual. ''Instead of finding the perpetrator and throwing him into the justice system, this show will have the characters ask, 'How is this affecting me? How do I deal with that?''' says Meloni. ''My character has four kids, three of them girls, so for him it's dealing with finding a rapist, then coming home to find his 14-year-old dressed and ready to go out on her first date. There's a lot of personal stuff to deal with.'' And forget any easy good guy/bad guy conclusions. ''What I was drawn to in this show was the shades of gray,'' says Hargitay. ''This is not about the bad rapist and the good victim. There are always extenuating circumstances.''

While Meloni hopes everyone tunes in to the show, he understands why some viewers may shy away from the disturbing subject matter, which won't be hard to do given the lighter fare on competing networks. ''I won't say Americans are puritanical, but they don't deal comfortably with sexual issues, in my opinion,'' he says. ''[Potential problems for viewers] can be anything from the crime we're trying to portray is too brutal, to the language we use to describe the crime.''

Chris Meloni is glad to be a favorite of the gays

With an appearance on the cover of Out magazine and several televised male tongue-wrestling matches on "Oz," Chris Meloni has become the macho heartthrob of the moment. Although he's happily married, he has gallantly displayed his well-built body and growling demeanor to lustlorn fans of six-foot hunks with a soft spot for fashion shows everywhere. His wildly popular personal Web page has turned into a sort of gay fan site, with Meloni occasionally popping in to reassure devotees that he's all for same-sex marriage and that he's glad to be "a favorite of the gays."

Meloni fled his conservative Virginia upbringing (he had developed a taste for AC/DC and motorcycles) for the more psychedelic University of Colorado life. Encouraged by his theater class professor, he dropped out and hit the road for Hollywood with only chutzpah and long brown locks on his resume. After kicking around in bit parts as a B-class thug, he finally got his big break playing "slow-witted stud" Frankie Fanelli on the mercifully short-lived "Fanelli Boys" sitcom in 1990. Fortunately this got him noticed, leading to parts in Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." He showed off an unrestrained sense of goofiness in the otherwise irredeemable "Wet Hot American Summer" in 2001 as a very sexually confused veteran and cook.

Things started heating up for his TV career as well, with appearances on "Homicide," "NYPD Blue," and a starring role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" transforming him from anonymous goon to professional police detective. But just as he was in danger of being typecast as the brooding blue pig who always gets the blond, along came "Oz."

As felon Chris Keller in the hit prison drama, Chris definitely took a step off the diving board into the deep end of stereotypical gay fantasy, combining hard muscle and unpredictable brutality with budding homosexual passion. Repeatedly sodomized fellow inmate Beecher, played by Lee Tergeson, served as the conduit for all this wish fulfillment, getting to play Tina to Keller's Ike and receiving several broken bones for it. Still, it must have been worth it when Keller finally relented to a sloppy kiss on death row. Although "Oz" was not exclusively a graphic gay soap opera, it certainly brought to the fore several of the quandaries those who lust for rough trade face every day. And beefcake shots of Keller's naked body in the communal showers helped.

Now that "Oz" has wrapped up, Chris is concentrating on solidifying his presence on the silver screen, appearing in more theater productions and capitalizing on his current wave of popularity.

Chris Meloni: Cop or Hood

Now, a New York cop; now, an imprisoned murderer The actor from "Law and Order: SVU" and "Oz" has had all kinds of jobs

Cop and hood. Christopher Meloni is a chameleon. Indeed, he can be Det. Elliot Stabler in Law and Order: SVU investigating horrible crimes "worthy" of those for which Chris Keller (him again) – in Oz – has been sentenced to 28 (88) years in prison. However, the actor rejects any combination of the two. "People often believe that cops are just bad guys who have turned good. Especially in New York where cops and gangsters are everywhere. But I don't see any link between them, in any case between Stabler and Keller."

The past of this 42-year-old Italian-Quebecois (not really) is, however, rich enough for him to find inspiration in it. He has, in fact, been a bouncer, a bartender, a building contractor (construction worker) and a fitness trainer before starting a career as a comedian (Fanelli Boys?). "You couldn't imagine the places where I hung out in order to prepare to be Keller – and the Oz set, because it was so realistic, was equally oppressive. Stabler, at least, gets to work in the streets of New York . . "

Why, when his celebrity status guarantees him the best tables, does he hide behind a beard? "I'm on vacation! When I portray Stabler, I have to shave every day and cut my hair every week! And then, I really like to change my looks for films like "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" where I have the pleasure of playing the ugliest man in the world!"

TV viewers know Chris Meloni as the quietly intense Detective Elliot Stabler on "Law & Order: SVU" or twisted inmate Chris Keller on "Oz."
So what the heck is he doing as a pediatrician who carries around a puppet on "Scrubs"?

Having a great deal of fun getting away from the serious world of "SVU," as it turns out. On Thursday's (Oct. 23) "Scrubs," Meloni guest-stars as Dr. Dave Norris, a pediatrician who Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and his ex-wife Jordan (Christa Miller) ask to be their baby's doctor.
TV viewers know Chris Meloni as the quietly intense Detective Elliot Stabler on "Law & Order: SVU" or twisted inmate Chris Keller on "Oz."
So what the heck is he doing as a pediatrician who carries around a puppet on "Scrubs"?

Having a great deal of fun getting away from the serious world of "SVU," as it turns out. On Thursday's (Oct. 23) "Scrubs," Meloni guest-stars as Dr. Dave Norris, a pediatrician who Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and his ex-wife Jordan (Christa Miller) ask to be their baby's doctor.

Chris Meloni is free to act

There's a reason some people can leave their personalities behind and take on a different character. Actor Chris Meloni (Hist'83) has a hunch it entails achieving a certain type of freedom.
"For an actor, you have to free yourself - even in the decision to become an actor," Meloni says. "Thank God there was an acting class at CU that facilitated the first steps to that freedom for me."

These days you can find Meloni on the set of the NBC hit series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where he plays detective Elliot Stabler. Or tune in to HBO for reruns of the grim prison series Oz in which he played the sociopath murderer and inmate Chris Keller for five of the six seasons the series ran.

The characters couldn't be more different. Stabler is an even-tempered family man who solves sex crimes. Keller kills, maims, seduces and breaks the limbs of his fellow inmates while managing to give weak knees to both gay and female fans.

He's played the gamut of types from a studly buffoon in his first TV series, The Fanelli Boys, to the movie role as the jilted fiancée and jock, Coach Bob, alongside Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. There's nothing he won't do to get a character right - a trait that requires some abandon and draws on a certain freedom.

Meloni claims he got the first whiff of that freedom when he arrived at CU. Reminiscing about his college years he waxes poetic on the theme of freedom - of Boulder, open spaces, ribbons of curving highways on which to unleash a motorcycle and, perhaps mostly, the freedom of new ideas.

"The whole place, the whole mindset was very important. Freedom. It was a world away from anything I knew. It was so nice to be around it - to see it as an important component of life," says Meloni, who grew up in Washington, D.C. "Between Boston and Philly there's nothing but civilization and people, traffic. Boulder - that was a freeing of the mind. I think the best that a university can offer you is the idea of freedom - in all respects. For me that was really revelatory."

Meloni is amazingly articulate with a wit that adds spice to his macho, New York-accented repartee. In an industry that chews up and spits out most who choose it, Meloni owes his growing success in part to his shoot-from-the-hip impulsiveness as well as dogged persistence.

Take his decision to come to CU. Never having laid eyes on the place and with no research whatsoever, Meloni applied to, of all things, the engineering college. "My grades in math were horrible. I'd never taken physics. I wasn't very good in chemistry," Meloni says. "I got rejected." Why engineering? He doesn't know. He just felt like it.

Undaunted, he reapplied - this time to arts and sciences. It was 1979, and the young man who had never been west of Michigan was escaping the East Coast.

"I'll never forget coming over that ridge on Highway 36. I had driven all the way with a friend and we were so ready for that trip to be over. Man, coming over that ridge, wow! Amazing.

"The second thing I remember is that they didn't have any housing for us in the dorms. They put me and a bunch of other freshmen in family housing. We called ourselves the Family Housing Orphans. We had T-shirts made and everything. It was a great little community." In his free time he took Tae Kwon Do classes and rode his motorcycle. "I didn't have the money to ski so that was my recreation - going to Estes, Fort Collins, heading to the mountains on different canyon routes."

In what he calls a "goof," he took an acting class his sophomore year. "It was so great," he recalls. "I understood. I was finally smart at something. I knew certain things - inherently - like the guys in math class who just had a feeling for numbers. I had that with acting.

"But I felt I couldn't justify going to my dad and saying, 'Pay my tuition so I can take 16th-century makeup and costuming.' Acting didn't seem like a real thing and, because I was good, it was like a game. I didn't think you could earn a living at a game."

When faced with declaring a major at the end of his sophomore year, Meloni quit school, got on his motorcycle and "headed to Hollywood to be discovered. It didn't happen." His date with celebrity was still years of cast calls and hard work away. In the meantime he returned to Boulder discouraged, out of money with no clue what he wanted to do.

"It was miserable to be in Boulder without a job," Meloni says. "So I started back to school." His favorite classes were in history - particularly intellectual history. So he declared it as his major and was determined to finish on time - even having missed a semester. Meloni took as many acting classes as he could as a nonmajor, while focusing on modern U.S. diplomatic history.

In December '83, diploma in hand, Meloni returned to the East Coast. "I still didn't see acting as a reality," Meloni says, "But being on a construction site in the middle of February in the freezing rain also was not a very good reality for me. So I went to New York."

Although he doesn't recall being a child who thought about becoming an actor, his mother, Cecile Meloni, says he did have performing in his character at an early age. "He never talked about wanting to be an actor. But we did get calls from school because he'd get into trouble for always making people laugh. He was the class clown, I guess."

Meloni goes so far as to admit an early discomfort with theater types. "I wasn't that guy. I didn't fit in there. An example. I was at a party in high school one time. It was some theater kids. They all started belting out the lyrics to Rocky Horror Picture Show. 'I'm not connecting to this scene,' I thought."

Fortunately for Meloni fans, that aversion didn't stop him from pursuing acting or persisting at acting, even after his initial disappointment in Hollywood. Cecile recalls, "He asked me if I would sponsor him in New York for six months at the Neighborhood Playhouse. We were shocked, but I said, 'Sure.' If that's what he wants to try out, why not?"

The rest is history - still in the making as Meloni shapes a career that he hopes will have the offers coming his way wherever he is. He'd like to live somewhere more laid-back, not necessarily on one of the two coasts. "I'm still not there yet. I'm the guy who hears, 'We have an audition for you. Go hump it, go prove yourself and get the job.'"

So what's next? Before filming for Law & Order: SVU resumes and after a vacation with his wife of eight years, Sherman, and 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, Meloni tackles his next role, a small part in the movie, Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.

"My agent said to me, 'Chris you've got an offer. It's three days' work.' That's good. I don't have to carry the movie. I'm exhausted. 'They want to do a prosthetic fitting for you. The name of the character is Freakshow.' I say, 'I'm in. Talk about freedom."

Chris Meloni as prisoner of OZ

If you're catching Oz for the first time on HBO (or on the season 1 and 2 DVDs), here's a useful guide to who's who, and who's gay.

A Tobias Beecher (played by Lee Tergesen): A lawyer jailed for killing a girl while driving drunk, Beecher has been with us since the show's beginning. At first, Schillinger turned him into his "prag (bitch)" branding a swastika on his ass, raping him, and forcing him to cross-dress. Having fought back since, today's Beecher prefers to be Keller's consensual lover and is fighting to get him off death row.

Vern Schillinger (played by J.K. Simmons): Head of the neo-Nazi Aryan Brotherhood and a perpetual thorn in Beecher's side. He's responsible for the murder of one of Beecher's children and suffered the loss of his own two teen sons, all casualties of their war.

Chris Keller (played by Christopher Meloni): When introduced in season 2, Keller appeared to be Beecher's adoring guardian angel. It was a ruse; Schillinger had enlisted him to break Beecher's arms and legs. Secretly endeared, however, Keller spent the next several seasons in a fierce love-hate struggle to win Beecher's heart, at one point famously showing what Genet would call his "bronze eye" in taunting flirtation. "To me, it was never a gay relationship per se", says series creator Fontana. "It's two men or two people struggling to find and maintain love in an environment that completely works against them.

James Robson (played by R.E.Rodgers): An exiled member of the Aryan Brotherhood - rejected after receiving a black man's gums in a transplant - he's currently reduced to prag and taking spoons up the rear. Yes, spoons.

The gates are finally closing on Oz. HBO's mesmerizing, no-holds-barred dramatic series about an experimental men's prison block, well into its sixth season, runs through February 23, when the show caps off with a 100-minute finale. Gays have been tuning in to Oz fervently - besides the hot men, omnipresent nudity, and queer characters, we've been following the twisted, tortured, yet deeply loving romance between inmates Chris Keller & Tobias Beecher. Today on the set in Bayonne, NJ, the actors who fill those roles - Christopher Meloni & Lee Tergesen, respectively - relax between scenes at a table within the 120,000 square foot Emeral City prioson complex.

The pair needle each other like real-life (and less dysfunctional) lovers in between recollections. Tergesen laments the terrible drag he was forced to don as bitch to diabolical white supremacist Schillinger (Spiderman's JK Simmons) during the first season. "That fucking bullshit, two ripped t-shirts for a dress and those fucking gold heels," he grouses. "Give me something higher up that's going to show off my butt a little more." More fondly recalled are thenumerous onscreen French kisses, which Tergesen & Meloni took off-set with playfull lip-locks at the 2000 GLAAD Media Awards.

"It made perfect sense to me that they would kiss," proffers series creator Tom Fontana. "Here are these two happily married guys kissing at the gay awards and letting it be photographed because their attitude is, 'If people don't understand, fuck 'em.' Those guys in particular have been incredibly ballsy in doing anything I asked them to do."

In fact, Meloni & Tergesen had to push for even more explicitly gay content. While shooting a scene that ended with a show of affection, the director of that episode grew uncomfortable, calling "Cut!" early and giggling. "Finally we were like, "hey can you just let it run for a minute?' which they always do on these scenes," Tergesen recalls. "And the director goes, 'Why, are you going to blow him?' The truth was, a real moment was happening."

"And you called him out," Meloni recalls proudly. "Lee goes, 'Look, just because you're uncomfortable with the sexuality going on here doesn't meanyou have to rain on our fucking parade.''"

Also tough to negotiate are the show's plethora of nude scenes. Practically every Oz character has shown all for the cameras, but Fontana reveals why some actors show more than others. "The truth is," he says, "every actor who said they couldn't (do frontal) - and they go into elaborate 'I'm protecting my family' excuses - just have the smallest penises! When you see their butts but not their fronts, you know the story."

And while Tergesen & Meloni aren't gay, a number of gay actors have appeard on the program. Charles Busch portrayed a gay murderer two seasons ago. Tony-winner B.D. Wong has inhabited the sexually ambiguous Father Ray Mukada since the beginning, and James Pelacio - a.k.a. Fiona St. James, ex-empress of the Imperial Court of New York - has played a gender-bending Oz gay gang member since season 2. Pelacio credits the show for breaking new ground before Queer as Folk, bringing homoeroticism home even if the characters weren't outwardly gay. "Oz definitely was one of a kind, and I think it broke the mold," he nods.

Oz's final season boasts Broadway legends Joel Grey and Patti LuPone as well as a new queer character that Fontana calls "kind of a cross between Peter Gatien and Michael Alig." As for that long-strained Beecher-Keller romance - will it go out with a smile, a shanking, or Keller's execution? "Oh, it's Oz," observes Fontana, laughing sardonically. "I don't want to make any false promises. It's another year in Oz is all I can say."

For their part, Meloni & Tergesen are sad their sentence together has finally ended. Or has it? "It's sad, but I'm excited," says Tergesen, sighing, "I am going to miss working with Chris. He and I went to see Tool on Halloween night. We just went out as ourselves, which I guess you can interpret however you like."

''Last Call'' with Chris Meloni

CD: My first guest plays a cop on Law and Order SVU and when he's not doing that he plays a prisoner on HBOs Oz, Which, I guess means after a long day of shooting he's likely to arrest himself and then become his own bitch. Please welcome Christopher Meloni. Chris?

CD: I like your shirt.

Chris: Hey man, this is a great space.

CD: what do you think? Are you in, like, family guy cop mode, or like, crazy I'll-kill-you-in-the-shower Oz mode. Which one are you right now?

Chris: I'm in decorator mode. This is wonderful. This is a really comfortable space.

CD: Thanks, man. Thanks for stopping by our little dog and pony 1:35 am NBC show. Obviously here, we're heavily into music. I have to commend you on your choice of Jane's addiction and your Tool shirt.

Chris: Tool. Any Tool fans?

CD: Very cool. I'll start off just by saying, I think that one of the things about you, at least in my own terms is that I just take you as a New York kind of guy, just the way you are, the way you look, obviously from your rolls.

Chris: yup.

CD: But you actually didn't grow up here in New York .

Chris: Uh, no.

CD: You're freaking me out. I thought he was gonna throw a left hook at me right there. 'Yeah so what about it?'

Chris: What does that mean? No, I'm originally from D.C. Washington, D.C. Yeah.

CD: We've bussed in some of your former school mates.

Chris: Yeah. Katie, hi.

CD: How long did you live in D.C.?

Chris: About 12 years and then we moved out to Alexandria, Virginia and that was about 5 years and then I went to the University of Colorado.

CD: In Boulder.

Chris: In Boulder. Beautiful campus, beautiful area. And it was a good thing because I've never gotten back to the middle of the United States, I've always lived in New York or LA.

CD: Boulder is totally different from D.C.

Chris: Totally. Boulder, you know, that was the first time-- I bought a motorcycle out there, and it was my first experience, because I was always an East Coast guy, First experience of, if you're not in Denver and you're not in Boulder, you're with cows. I mean it's such a weird, you're like (makes motorcycle noise) hurry up.

CD: Where did you drive you're bike from? you bought it in Colorado?

Chris: yeah.

CD: Where did you take the bike to? Just all over?

Chris: I took it to Hollywood to be discovered. That lasted about 6 weeks. They told me to get lost. I knew I was in over my head, I was about 20 years old, and I walked into an agents office, and I've got bug guts all over my leather jacket, from the ride, you know? I'm like 'how are ya?'

CD: And you couldn't stop and, I don't know, shower?

Chris: I had no place to shower. So, I walk into the office and the women looks at me like this and she said 'Can I help you?' I said 'yeah, I want to be an actor' she's like 'yeah doesn't everyone'. She goes 'why don't you just drop off your picture and résumé' and I said 'what's that?' I didn't know what a picture--I didn't know what a résumé was. So, you know, she was very nice--

CD: You left college to act and you didn't know what a résumé and picture are?

Chris: No.

CD: What were you doing in Boulder before you decided to--

Chris: I did, like, a couple good monologs. My teacher said 'you're very good' I said 'that's good enough for me'.

CD: And a couple of beer bongs too, apparently.

Chris: And I actually--

CD: Speaking of beer bongs.

Chris: Beer bongs, yeah that's a great story. I actually left, I went to California from Colorado not knowing if there were helmet laws along the way, 'cause I had no helmet. So, I'm just driving going 'well, here's Nevada. I hope I don't got a helmet law here.'

CD: Did you get pulled over?

Chris: No, 'cause no one had a helmet law--

CD: It just didn't matter.

Chris: --at that time.

CD: Which is much, much better. What even made you want to act?

Chris: What made me want to act. Well--

CD: We get plenty of people nice enough, but we get a lot of people who usually, I guess, normally it stems from family.

Chris: Right.

CD: I don't know, your story sounds much different. Going from D.C. to Colorado, getting a bike going to Hollywood. Not having a whole lot of pre history into the entertainment business. What was it about acting that made you feel like you could do it? And you've obviously done it.

Chris: Well, I guess it was--reality was so miserable for me, I thought living in a fantasy world would be much better, 'cause after college I did construction. And there I was. I always did construction during the summer to help pay the bills, right? Well, you know, once you graduate college, you're done. There are no more summers and then oh, I'm gonna go back to school. It's like life--this is life. So it's like, oh come August I'll get out of here. it's like no, come August you're still. hammering. nails. And it never ends, cause then you've got October and November. So, I was on a construction sight, and it's February and the weather is miserable, it's cold and rainy, and I'm hammering nails with the guy next to me and we're kind of shooting the...

CD: Right.

Chris: ...stuff around, and he says 'oh, what do you do' you know 'what's your story?' And I said 'oh, I just graduated college' and the guys stops hammering and he goes 'what the Hell are you doing here?' And I was like, 'you know, you're right. F this.' And I was out of there. And I went up to New York, I went to the neighborhood playhouse, and uh--

CD: And here you are. And cut to--

Chris: I'm on Carson Daly's show.

CD: Let me tell you something.

Chris: You like me, you really like me.

CD: Hammering those nails next to that smelly bastard might be better then being here. But we're glad you are here.

Chris: Thanks, man.

CD: That's a compliment. So, cut to now, Christopher's got two major shows that I mentioned on TV with Law and Order and Oz. It's weird that you do play both sides of the law, the family guy, the cop, and then the prisoner. As an actor, is it nice to split your time acting on both drastic ends of the spectrum, or is that just make it sort of harder.

Chris: It makes it very hard, but you know, I've been on the opposite side of the coin, which is, I've had no job so, you know, that I've been asked to do two jobs is just manna from heaven. it's paradise. But, to be specific with your question, you know, the bad guy is always fun, cause you know you can really just kick out the jams and just put your foot on the accelerator and roll, and that doesn't mean you're big and you're over the top, but you can play real subtle but you're--

CD:You feel like you don't have to work with any rules.

Chris: Yeah. The boundaries are limitless. and you're range of emotion or--not emotion but your range of behavior and how you express yourself. But, conversely, if you're going to be the cop on SVU and, I guess, how I'm playing the guy, It's a challenge to be the good guy and have people follow your story and still be interesting, still give colors to maybe, you know, a guy who's range of behavior is not as wide, the spectrums not as wide. it's always a challenge to go, 'okay, now how do I come in and make this interesting, give this guy a flavor and a color?'

CD: Do people on the street recognize you more for being the prisoner or the good cop?

Chris: It's about even. It's about even, it used to be it was Oz definitely, at the beginning because he's such a kind of, impactful character, it's an impactful show, and SVU is just getting started, so now it's about even and it's actually very cool. The--all the Oz people...like, this just happened...gay guys-- gay Oz fans--

CD: Right.

Chris: They go (gasps) like that. And--

CD: They just don't even say anything, they just sort of shudder when they see you.

Chris: Yeah. Black guys go 'oh, your da man! your da man! your da man!' And-- And white girls-- No, just girls in general, they go (bites his lip and nods) like they don't want to let it out, what they're thinking, what they're doing but--

CD: Three distinct reactions.

Chris: Yeah. But, and SVU fans, they're just like, 'Hey that's a really nice show.'

CD: That makes sense.

Chris: 'Go out there and bust those bad guys.'

CD: Oz is entering, I'm sad to say, it's final season. We had your co-worker Dean Winters on the show. It's sixth and final season.

Chris: Did you hand out tissues before this?

CD: No, no, no they're fans that's for sure. I just think it's horrible that it's ending, to be honest with you. But let's talk about your character since you brought it up. Did you know you would be making out with Beecher in this thing, with Lee so much?

Chris: When I hoped on board, No. Tom Fontana, the writer-creator of Oz just, he hired me, I didn't have to audition, So, I said, 'There you go, you're gonna be an inmate. Fine. Great', and I got the first script and the first words out of my mouth are, as I'm entering my cell, and my pod mate is going to be Lee Tergesen, my first words were 'So, you a fag?' I--

CD: Would that lead somebody, when you're reading that to believe that you're enquiring about your cell mates sexuality, or that you're making a derogatory term towards him as like, a tough guy.

Chris: Who knows? I just let it run.

CD: But in your mind, 'okay, I might be the inmate in Fontana's creation of this', and there's many different personalities obviously in prison, 'mine might be the guy that, you know, when you drop the soap, look out.'

Chris: Right.

Chris: Well, I think that was pretty much solidified because the third episode I was grabbing his penis so...

CD: And your, um...uh...

Chris: You okay?

CD: Yeah. It's like a subtle tip-toe here. And you're a married man, and you have a child, what is--I don't know--when you know have a kissing scene with Lee, the guy, let's say the first one, what is your prep for it, I mean the same or for you or a bit-- did you have a mint? Or, do you not on purpose to send a message? I don't know.

Chris: We actually did, we actually had, uh, Binaca Blasts on--

CD: But take us through the mind set just a little bit, on a serious level, for a heterosexual to have a homosexual scene guy-wise.

Chris: Yeah, when I got the script, so I got the script and it says my character Keller kisses Beecher, Lee Tergesen, and I got it and (deep breath) I went like that, I picked up the phone, I called Lee I go 'Lee, I guess we're gay' hung up-- and we hadn't talked to much about it because it's such a --it was an unknown place for me, personally, I have no experience having contact with another man in that way. So--I'm nervous talking about it. So, that energy you're so hyped up. You're so, 'this is a place I've never been before' and it's real. It's really real, as opposed to, like, the script says I kill a guy, I don't know what that-- I know--

CD: Right, and even when you're shooting it, you know you're not going to go through with it, so you'll never know what that feels like. This is something so tangible, there's a beginning, a middle, and an end to it.

Chris: Yeah, and very intimate too.

CD: And when you first went in on that first take and you kissed him, just, what went through your mind, honestly?

Chris: (Grins and raises eyebrows) 'I'm gonna have to do this more often.'

CD: All right. We have to take a quick break. Settle down. More with Christopher Meloni right after this....

(Commercial break)

CD: Welcome back to Last Call. Chris Meloni is hanging out with us. Nice of you again to join us. we had your co-star from Law and Order SVU Ice-T was on the show.

Chris: Good man.

CD: Yeah. good man. Has he got you into Hip-Hop yet?

Chris: That bitch. I asked him, like--

CD: You must be on Oz to call Ice-T a bitch.

Chris: I asked him, like, six months ago, I said 'you know something, I'm totally not hip to the Rap thing, you know, I would love it,' you know, he's such a smart guy and, obliviously so connected into that whole scene, I said, you know, 'yo give me just like, a general list, or bring in some of your stuff. I want to educate myself.' He goes ' Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll hook you up, I'll hook you up.' He's to busy with like, his little thing--Like you know- with his uh--

CD: His two way pager.

Chris: Yeah, with like, his dogs on the coast.

CD: Uh-oh.

Chris: We're doing the scene, it'll be like, 'okay rolling sound, and speed, Ice!' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, alright,' 'action' 'yeah we're gonna see it Tuesday night.' That's it. The cameras off him and he's back to--

CD: Cut. Ice-T's great to come on and talk to, he used to come on our show a couple of times, and he's great because the man has a lot of philosophies, he calls the spade of spades, he's a straight up guy, he's always been himself, never compromised anything. We do a thing with him called 'Pimp or Ho'.

Chris: Uh-huh.

CD: Has Ice explained his Pimp and Ho philosophy?

Chris: He goes around the country and he lectures at colleges with this philosophy, I mean really.

CD: Do you want to explain to these people what Pimp or Ho is?

Chris: Well, his philosophy is there are two types of people, you know, 'you either a Pimp or you a ho'.

CD: It's that simple. You either work for the man, or you're the man they're working for.

Chris: There you go.

CD: Did you exchange any philosophies with him?

Chris: Well, you know, mine is kind of the same thing, except coming for Oz, I'm like 'you either a bottom or your a Top.' 'You're either giving it or you're getting it.'

CD: Which is a metaphor for a lot of things in it's own right I mean, if you're submissive or taking charge of things.

Chris: Right.

CD: Which is fair enough, I'm not going to get into that. I want to show everybody a clip of you in action. I think you're a tremendous actor. Law and Order, take a look at Christopher Meloni in this scene.

(Clip from DECEPTION)

CD: There you go. Obviously the topics of Law and Order SVU are sex crimes. How many law and Orders are there on this network now?

Chris: 17.

CD: My question is, is it, for you as an actor, a cool thing to be part of something the network has branded because it's been successful, and sort of branched off into these different facets, or do you feel like 'hey I feel especially connected to SVU and they're taking kind of a good thing and spreading it too thin.'

Chris: That's a good question. You know, I don't get to crazy about that. I feel as though I fell into very good hands with Dick Wolf, who is, you know, the head cat, the head producer, and Neal Baer who is the head writer on our show, and all the other people involved. We just kind of focus on our shtick. A little rocky at the beginning, but you know, I think we've found our pace, and how we want to tell stories and, you know--

CD: How many are there, really?

Chris There are four.

CD: Four? Yeah, one of them is a new reality--

Chris: Yeah, that reality gig.

CD: Well, you're great in it. You still riding bikes?

Chris: No. Not anymore, but you know--

CD: That's it?

Chris: Don't cry for me Argentina. I'd actually love to . I've got an 18 month old girl now though, I'm trying to figure out where I would put her on the bike. I'm gonna bungi cord her down.

CD: You're gonna need the helmet law.

Chris: Yeah, I got the huge helmet.

CD: And your wife and kid are out in LA, right?

Chris: No, they're here. They're here. Oh, yeah.

CD: That's good.

Chris: Oh, yeah. The furthest--the longest I've been away from my kid is 2 weeks and it nearly dropped me.

CD: Yeah. You're a proud father.

Chris: Yeah, man.

CD: Proud father and prisoner. Nice to have you on, man. Appreciate it. Christopher Meloni everybody. Oz on HBO and Law and Order: SVU Fridays at 10 right here on NBC.

Chris Meloni's next movie is a comedy

Chris Meloni jumps from TV drama to big-screen laughs in the retro spoof Wet Hot American Summer, where you may not recognize the gruff detective from Special Victims Unit (or the sex psycho from Oz)

Christopher Meloni is holding together well for someone working on three hours of sleep. For the last half-hour, he's been clammed up in a dingy NYPD filing room with co-star Mariska Hargitay, filming one last scene for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit before breaking for dinner. Meloni, who plays sex-crime detective Elliot Stabler, and Hargitay, who plays detective Olivia Benson, are repeating the same snatch of hard-boiled dialogue while the crew gets increasingly antsy for the break.

Nine, ten, eleven takes later, the director is finally satisfied with the shot. Meloni swaggers off the set, fingers snapping, eyes winking, thumbs up in a goofy chicken dance his colleagues have apparently grown accustomed to. Ten minutes later, he's sitting with his wife, Sherman, and four-month-old daughter, Sophia, at Zutto, a Japanese restaurant on Hudson Street. He admits he forgot about the interview but begs my indulgence. "I'm so busy these days," he says, "I forget everything but my lines."

That's no exaggeration. While playing the sensitive, hard-working copper on SVU, he also stars in HBO's prison drama Oz, a show whose explicit violence and male nudity make The Sopranos look like Romper Room. Meloni plays Chris Keller, a sexual carnivore and sociopath who slaughters or sodomizes anyone in sight.

"When my schedule's at its worst," the 40-year-old actor says, "I'll work a 22-hour shift on SVU, take a two-hour nap, and work a 16-hour shift on Oz." He generally sees his family for about an hour a day. "Actually, a little more," he says, "when she starts squawking at 7:30 in the morning. My baby, not my wife."

"When Chris auditioned," says Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain, "he was so bizarre, there was no way I was willing to let anybody else have that role."

Earlier this year, between playing good guy on SVU and bad guy on Oz, he somehow managed to co-star in this week's Wet Hot American Summer--not the triple-X porno suggested by its title, but a slightly twisted homage to summer-camp movies (some of which were twisted to begin with--remember Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings?). It begins in a light mode (talent shows, arts and crafts) before going weird (a piece of Skylab hurtles toward the campground). Co-written and directed by David Wain, a longtime member of MTV's sketch-comedy troupe The State, the ensemble satire stars David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, and Molly Shannon. Meloni plays "a shell-shocked Vietnam vet-slash-summer-camp cook," he says, adding that he enjoyed his brief respite from prisons and police stations: "Many a night was spent getting inebriated with bright, young, funny people. The whole thing was a goof, really . . ."

Wain now gets unnerved when he catches Meloni at night in his darker roles. "When we first wrote that character, we weren't really sure if anyone could actually play it," the director recalls. "But when Chris auditioned, he was so bizarre, there was no way I was willing to let anybody else have that role. He doesn't let the script dictate what his performance will be like. He always takes his roles in another direction."

Chris-meloni.com, the actor's official home page, is the brainchild of Brian Rodgers, a Canadian accountant for whom spreading the word about the star's talent has become a personal mission. "For being able to shake me emotionally with a drop in his voice, with the dying of his eyes, with the burying of his face in his hands, with a single kiss," Rodgers writes, by way of explanation. "Chris did that for me."

Meloni loves the site, chatting up his online fans and answering sundry requests, such as whether he'd ever pose for Playgirl ("No," but feel free to download wallpaper of Meloni lying buck naked on his stomach on the floor of his Oz cell). About 80 percent of the site's fans are women, but he also gets a fair share of praise from police officers, ex-cons, and gay men who appreciate his portrayal of Chris Keller (not to mention his six-foot stature, sizable brow, and swarthy "wish he'd put in my cable box" good looks.)

Ask him how he met his wife of six years, and Sherman jumps into the conversation. "O.J. Simpson brought us together!" she says, and this turns out to be true. They met on the set of 1st and Ten, a 1984 HBO drama about the California Bulls, a fictitious football team. Meloni played quarterback, O.J. played manager, Sherman designed the production. "Great show," Meloni scoffs. "Soooo bad. And so racy! They figured people would only watch if they showed topless cheerleaders every week. But I was just happy to have a gig."

Two years later, he was cast as a henchman in the cult hit Bound, which drew enough attention to win him roles in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and 1999's Runaway Bride, where he played one of Julia Roberts's jilted fiancés.

Scarfing down spider rolls and more than a few shots of sake, he snaps out of work mode, pausing between bites to devote some time to his daughter, nuzzling her and whispering, "You're my little Buddha, imparting her wisdom . . ."

In two days, the family's off to Spain for vacation. "I'm taking a little 'me' time," he says, now doing the flaky actor thing. It's clear he's relieved to be fleeing Manhattan, and work, at least for a while. By now, somewhere between the sake and the sleep deprivation, mild dementia seems to have set in: "Sure, my wife and baby will be in Spain, but I'm going to fend them off," he riffs. " 'Cuz I need time to just be me. 'Me' time. Me time. What part of 'me time' don't you understand?"

Finished with dinner, he makes some suggestions for the story ("as the actor slurs out his last pathetic words . . ."). Meloni lifts his pot of sake in one hand and his baby daughter in the other. "Take a picture for the Post," he says. "Preferably one with my belly hanging out."

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