'Law & Order: SVU' Star Jamie Gray Hyder on Detective Kat Tamin's Life Outside the Badge (Exclusive)

Whenever a new cast member joins Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, their characters' backgrounds become as important as the cases they handle every week. Little is known about the life of the newest character, Det. Katriona "Kat" Azar Tamin, but Jamie Gray Hyder, who plays Kat, hopes we will see more of her life outside the badge. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Hyder detailed what we already know about the new detective, while sharing what she hopes to see.

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(Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

When we were first introduced to Kat, she was already an experienced undercover detective working with the vice squad in the Season 21 premiere. In her breakthrough episode "Redemption In Her Corner," we learned a little more about Kat, and learning how she likes to train at a boxing gym when she's not in the squad room. But there is so much more to the character even Hyder hopes to explore.

"I think that that helps people to understand why a character does what they do in the everyday vibe of the show, helps them to define what makes us different from one another," Hyder explained to PopCulture.com. "Why is Kat so [quick to react] sometimes and what makes her tick. I think those are things that really help people understand the characters beyond just their role in their job. SVU doesn't often dive deep into that all the time, but they kind of give you bits and pieces here and there and I think we're going to keep getting little pieces of Kat along the way."

While we also know Kat is Lebanese-American like Hyder herself, this detail was a "hugely important" aspect for Hyder, since she has often been cast as other races in the past. In addition, it gives her the opportunity to play a positive character in primetime of Middle Eastern descent.

"A Middle Eastern person in the past had kind of roles in action films or they were a spy or it was a terrorist thing or they were a woman in a position where they were being controlled by a particular man in their life," Hyder said. "So to get the play sort of an average American citizen, who's also Middle Eastern and is also a police officer for me was really, really important."

Kat's police experience also comes from a different world than where Capt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team come from. It is going to take time for her to really fit in.

"I just think that she's always worked in a very different style," Hyder explained. "I think having worked a lot undercover and working in [the field], you're often having to think on your feet and do what's best in the situation. In SVU, you're often coming in [from] a more reactionary position where something's already happened and you're having to now deal with it and figure out how to solve this crime and give justice to the person [and] the victims involved. That requires a different process I think that she's not as familiar with and is becoming very quickly familiar with, but still has a little ways to go."

Like Kat, Hyder is also busy outside the SVU squad room. Since she was featured in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016), Hyder has been a vocal advocate for veterans' groups. She is involved with the Call of Duty Endowment, which helps get veterans full-time jobs after completing their service.

"For me, it's sort of one of the most important ways we can support our veterans in aiding in the transition from active duty into veteran life," she said. "That's why I choose to work with organizations such as CODE and SVA who are the Student Veterans of America. They help to put veterans through higher education post-service and provide them with liaison on campus to help ease that transition into civilian life."

Hyder said these groups ae important to her because "that's sort of where we have the most control as citizens when it comes to supporting the troops. We really can be there for them when they get back home. These are great organizations that are doing things to aid in that process."


New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC