Joining any show long after it started could be intimidating, especially when that show has been on longer than any other in television history. Thankfully for Jamie Gray Hyder, the newest star to join Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, everyone on the cast has been welcoming. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, the former True Blood actress said she was "super grateful" to the rest of the cast and praised Mariska Hargitay for being open to a new face at the squad room.
Hyderr stars as Detective Katriona "Kat" Azar Tamin, who was first introduced as an undercover officer who helped Captain Olivia Benson (Hargitay) and her team take down a movie mogul who sexually assaulted women during auditions in the Season 21 premiere. Since then, Kat has joined the team full-time, even though Hyder was first cast on a short-term basis.
"It was sort of a trial period," Hyder said. "I knew it was an option for my character to stay maybe if everyone felt it was a good fit, but initially I was just brought on to do a few episodes. Then when everybody kind of felt comfortable and felt like both I, Jamie, and my character Kat were a good fit for the group, I got that fateful call and now a part of a legendary franchise."
Although Hyder was not a die-hard SVU fan before joining, she saw a few episodes. At this point, it is almost more difficult to not see an episode of SVU, since the show has become an institution at this pint.
"I wasn't a die-hard fan, but I absolutely was aware of its place in TV history and very much aware kind of the characters and the conventions of the show," Hyder explained to PopCulture.com. "When I got the opportunity to work on it, it just... I think every actor feels like it's sort of a rite of passage. It's a box you need to check once in your career. To be able to stay on for more than one episode was, for me, just something that I'm super grateful for."
Hargitay has been the face of SVU for years, which could make acting alongside her intimidating for any newcomer. The actress is the only star left from SVU's first season, and now wears different hats on set as executive producer and occasional director.
"Working with Mariska would seem intimidating, but the second you're kind of in her presence, she does what she can to make you feel comfortable and welcome," Hyder said. "For every bit of strength she has, she has a lot of warmth that kind of balances that out. I've really had a great time getting to know her and I've been super grateful that both Mariska and the rest of the cast have all been so warm and welcoming to me."
Kat has also built a strong connection with Fin, the character Ice-T has played since Season 2. As Hyder points out, the two characters clearly see something similar in one another, which makes the pairing organic. Unfortunately, it has been a little harder for Kat to bond with Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish), who are in their own little bubble together. Hopefully that will change soon.
"I think that Fin was probably the first to kind of really accept her and work with her and he kind of gets her," Hyder said. "I think that Rollins and Carisi in particular are still a little a bit skeptical and I think a little bit protective over the bond that they've all shared as a squad over the years. So while I think she gets a little bristling from Rollins and Carisi in particular, I do think you'll see those relationships build as trust in one another builds."
New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air on NBC Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.
Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC