Law & Order: Special Victims Unit starts off the new year with all original episodes, boasting a star studded January filled with guest star appearances by Brian Dennehy, Paget Brewster, Michael Michele, Blair Underwood, Kal Penn and Adam Beach; as well as an SVU directorial debut for actor Eriq LaSalle, reuniting him with some of his former "ER" cast mates. SVU airs on Tuesdays at 10 P.M. ET/PT.
The original slate kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 2, when venerable actor Brian Dennehy and Paget Brewster (Unaccompanied Minors) appear in the episode "Scheherazade." Dennehy plays a dying man (Jud Tierney) who wants to come clean about his criminal past. His dark secrets have the potential to close a number of unsolved cases. Tierney won't speak to the authorities unless he sees his estranged daughter Sheila (guest star Brewster) so Dets. Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) feel compelled to make the reunion happen.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, Eriq LaSalle joins the series in a different role, as director. LaSalle's SVU directorial debut reunites him with former "ER" cast mates Michael Michele ("Kevin Hill") and Mariska Hargitay. In this episode, "Burned," a messy marital estrangement and subsequent custody battle pits Valerie Sennet (Michele) against her estranged husband Miles Sennett, played by Blair Underwood ("Sex and The City). As the detectives investigate and separate fact from fiction in a "he said-she said," the case takes a gripping and grave turn.
"Directing the show was a great opportunity to tell a compelling story with edgy performances, which is right up my alley," LaSalle said of his first turn in the director's chair at "SVU." When asked about directing his old friends, LaSalle said, "There were so many familiar faces that it created a really cool comfort zone that allowed us to have some fun and simultaneously do some good work. It also gave me an excuse to boss Michael Michele around."
The "ER" mini-reunion includes Hargitay, who appeared on the long-running series in '97-'98. In addition, SVU Executive Producer Neal Baer was an Executive Producer on "ER" in 2000.
On Jan.16, the series welcomes two up-and-coming film stars; Adam Beach ("Flags of Our Fathers") and guest star Kal Penn ("Van Wilder") in the episode "Outsider." In this episode, Det. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (Ice-T) is asked by his son, a resident adviser at college, to look into a rape case of a coed at his school. As the case deepens, Fin is joined by an SVU detective from Brooklyn named Chester Lake (guest star Adam Beach) who is working a similar case and believes there is a connection. The trail leads to a women's clinic where Dets. Fin and Lake find the common link between their victims. After further investigation, a game of cat and mouse develops with the doctor's son, Henry (Penn) that takes a twist.
Eriq LaSalle has played numerous popular roles on television and in film. He rose to fame as Mike Rivers on "One Life to Live." In 2002, he ended his eight-year run on "ER" as Dr. Peter Benton. He has also made appearances on "L.A. Law," "Quantum Leap," and "Without A Trace." LaSalle is no stranger to the director's chair, having directed episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "Soul Food."
Michael Michele has enjoyed a successful career in both film and television. She played Dr. Cleo Finch on "ER" from 1999-2002. She also had roles in "Homicide: Life On The Street" and "Kevin Hill." Her film career includes roles in "The Sixth Man," "Ali," and "How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days."
Blair Underwood is a four-time NAACP Image Award winner. He formerly played Jonathan Rollins on "L.A. Law." He has appeared on numerous hit TV shows including "Sex and The City" and most recently on "The New Adventures of Old Christine." Underwood has also appeared in several films including "Gattica" and "Madea's Family Reunion."
Two-time Tony Award and Golden Globe winner Brian Dennehy is known for his work on Broadway and on the screen. He has appeared in a number of successful plays including "Death of A Salesman" and "The Iceman Cometh."
Paget Brewster has made appearances in a number of television programs, including a six-episode stint on "Friends," "Huff" and "Criminal Minds." Her film roles include "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "Unaccompanied Minors," which is currently in theatres.
Adam Beach can be seen in Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed "Flags of Our Fathers," in a role, as one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima, that has earned him a Satellite Award Nomination. He has also appeared in "Joe Dirt," "Windtalkers" and "Mystery, Alaska."
Kal Penn rose to popularity as the socially inept Taj in "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" (2002). Penn reprised the role of Taj in the sequel, "National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj," which is currently in theatres. His work in television includes guest roles on "ER," "NYPD Blue" and "Angel."