'Law & Order: SVU' Actress Brought to Tears After Cruel Messages From Fans

Law & Order: SVU fans brought actress Isabel Gillies to tears this week as she explained in a thoughtful essay published on her Substack page. Gillies has played Elliott Stabler's (Chris Meloni) wife, Kathy Stabler for years, but she is not accustomed to the intense reactions of fans on social media. Her first experience with them was jarring.

Warning: there are spoilers for Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime ahead! Gillies started her acting career in films in 1990, and landed the role of Kathy Stabler starting in 1999. She continued to play Kathy until 2011, when Meloni left the franchise. Now that Meloni is back, Kathy is too, but she met a tragic end in this week's crossover episode, which launched Organized Crime by leaving Elliott a widower.

As Gillies explained, she was aware that SVU fans generally did not like Kathy, seeing her as an obstacle to the potential romance between Stabler and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). However, having been away from the acting world for a decade and focused more heavily on writing and other career pursuits, she was shocked to see how readily commenters will spew their hate for Kathy directly at her as if she is the character.

"When I started working on Law & Order, social media didn't exist," she wrote. "If fans liked what your character did, or didn't do, you were kind of in the dark about it. Not so today. After last week's episode, I woke up in the morning, shuffled around in my robe, said goodbye to my child and husband, made a cup of tea and opened Twitter to see what was going on in the world."

"My feed, which is normally pretty sleepy... was a stream of eye-popping-bile posts, at me!" she continued. "My character, the deceased Kathy Stabler, was trending on Twitter. Gliding over links and threads, memes and emojis, I started, well, crying." Gillies shared some of the cruelest digs aimed at her character, including one viral meme that became the header image for her essay.

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"After reading a lot — but not all — of the personal attacks, barbs, jabs and just plain ol' meanness, I caved and called my husband in tears," Gillies went on. "I'm only human, when you portray a character for 23 years (I'm including re-runs) it gets personal!" In her shock, Gillies also considered what other public figures must experience — actors, politicians and activists. She wrote: "Lying on the floor, (the only place that felt safe frankly) the weight of the hatred that must come daily at these people — they are just people, people — got me up off the ground and on my computer."

Gillies called on fans and readers everywhere to be more thoughtful with their discourse on social media, proposing the acronym "T.H.I.N.K." - "Is it thoughtful? is it honest? Is it interesting? Is it necessary? Is it kind? I'm going to try to put everything I say or write through this little fail-safe." Gillies' essay got an outpouring of support from co-stars, colleagues and fans. Law & Order: SVU airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.