On Acting and Balancing Career
With Family Life
By Beverly Cohn
Christopher Meloni as Detective
Elliot Stabler with Mariska Hargitay who played his partner Olivia
Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
hristopher Meloni cut his teeth on episodic television beginning
with his breakout role on NYPD Blue. Following that
series, he had a recurring role on HBOs Oz
where he played a bisexual serial killer. Doing a 360
in the character he portrayed, he then co-starred with Mariska Hargitay
in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where he
played Detective Elliot Stabler for twelve seasons, leaving the
show in 2011. He also had a continuing role on the popular True
Blood series where he was a vampire named Roman Zimojic.
Moving seamless from television to film, Meloni
has racked up a number of credits including, Man of Steel,
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys,
Runaway Bride, Nights in Rodanthe,
Wet Hot American Summer, Harold & Kumar
Go to White Castle, Harold & Kumar Escape from
Guantanamo Bay, They Came Together, Man
of Steel, Small Time, 42,
and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. His latest film,
The Diary of a Teenage Girl, hasnt been released
White Bird in a Blizzard cast L-R: Shiloh Fernandez,
Christopher Meloni, Shailene Woodley, Mark Indelicato, and Gabourey
Sidibe. Courtesy Photo
One of his latest films is White Bird in
a Blizzard. Written and directed by Gregg Araki, the
film is a familiar tale covering teenage angst, (Shailene Woodley)
an alcoholic mother (Eva Green) and a milque-toast of a husband
(Christopher Meloni.) The cast also includes Shiloh Fernandez,
Gabourney Sidibe, Thomas Jane, and Angela Bassett.
The film received mixed reviews and had a limited run.
Meloni sat down with your reporter for an exclusive
interview and the following has been edited for content and continuity.
If you dont mind, I would like start off
topic before we talk about White Bird in a Blizzard.
Meloni: Fire away.
Ive been asked by a lot of people to tell
you that you are very missed on Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit and that its just not the same without you.
Meloni: Thank you for saying that.
The first episode of Law & Order
was aired in September of 1990 and has been continuously successful
for almost 24 years, spinning off several other shows. To what do you
attribute the success of this franchise?
Meloni: I think its the genius of Dick Wolf
who came out of advertising and had a clear idea of what pushed peoples
buttons. You have to get your message across in thirty seconds and you
have to make things snappy so people recognize them. Its almost
like a jingle that brings people back. I think he brought that concept
into the series. But you have to have great story telling and his process
was to make it intellectually stimulating. The stories were ripped from
the headlines, which the audience instantly recognized. I think thats
what drew them in.
You move seamlessly from television to film to
stage. Which discipline is the most difficult?
Meloni: Without question the stage is the most difficult
so it better be a project that you truly love because its a tough
grind. When I did the Dublin gig, my family came to visit. We
had plans to explore Ireland, but I couldnt do it. I needed
my off day to rest. I felt bad, but I couldnt help it. (He
played Eddie Carbone in Arthur Millers A View From the Bridge
at Dublins Gate Theatre)
Was there a pivetal point in your life when you
knew you had to be an actor and did you parents support you career choice?
Meloni: My parents were surprisingly cool. They always
encouraged me to make my own decisions. As I got through my teen years
it was What college do you want to go to? Your decision.
What do you want to major in? Your decision. I want
to be an actor. Your decision. When I graduated college, I denied
that acting was a viable career. I called a friend on a lark and asked
him what he was doing with his life. He told me he was going to New
York to study acting. I said, Me too. Where are you
going to study? The Neighborhood Playhouse. I said,
Great. Whats the number? Once I committed, that was
You studied with the famous Sandy Meisner. What
was the one thing that stuck in your brain?
Meloni: I just remember the simplicity of it. As an
actor, when youre starting out, they throw so much at you that
you become angsty. Meisner would say answer. Just
answer. If you say but Im not feeling it, he would say who
gives a shit. Just answer. Then all of a sudden you realize its
action, reaction, action, reaction.
When youre developing a character, do you
have a specific technique or is it different for each character. Inside
out? Outside in? A physical life?
Meloni: Its always different within an underlying
structure behind it. You have to find out what strikes you about the
character. For example, Robert Duvall was trying to figure out
his character of Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies. He
found himself on the set on the first day, still clueless as to how
to play this guy. He slipped on the cowboy boots and went ohhh.
That always struck me and Ive come to realize thats the
way it is for me. What strikes you is the small things and off of that
you try to make connections. Where is he from? Why this? Why do you
think this right for the character?
Do you do a back-story?
Meloni: Yup. Very often I do it more almost as an exercise
of comfort because very often it gets thrown out and just kind of gets
in the way of freedom.
Shailene Woodley as Kat with Christopher Meloni
as her henpecked father Brock in Gregg Araki's "White Bird in a
Blizzard." Courtesy Photo
Lets talk a bit about White Bird in
a Blizzard. How did you become attached and what drew you to the
character of Brock.
Meloni: I was sent the script and had a meeting with
Gregg Araki. I knew his work and was a huge fan. I thought the
script was fantastic from the first page to the last. I had a lot of
ideas about Brock and what he meant to me and how I felt he operated
in this story and in his world. What appealed to me was that he was
a departure from how I think people see me. I dont think I naturally
give off a sense of being henpecked or being bowled over by another
What was the hardest part of Brocks character
to get a handle on?
Melon: The hardest part was the sense of loneliness.
I was lonely that whole shoot because of him. He didnt have the
tools to connect honestly. Everything was very superficial.
Christopher Meloni with
his wife Sherman.
Youve got this incredible career. Youre
married and have three children. How do you balance husband, father,
and your profession?
Meloni: Ahh. Keep breathing and appreciate. Its
very Zen and I often fail at it, but I do believe that the tenets
are there for a purpose and are right and true. Just keep breathing.
Appreciate the moment. Be in the moment.
Are you a hands-on dad?
Meloni: Yes. Im assistant coach of my sons
football and basketball teams. I also go to my daughters swim
meets and her acting gigs. Its taken me a while to be calm and
take in the moments I have with my children, but Im very clear
how important it is.
I was under the impression that you live on the
East Coast. Did that change recently?
Meloni: Ive been here a year.
You didnt call me to tell me? (Laughs)
Meloni: Sorry. You didnt pick up. (Laughs)
Whats on tap for you?
Meloni: I want to pick a good next project so that requires
that I just dont take anything that comes across my desk, and
thats difficult for me.
"Its taken me a while to be calm and
take in the moments I have with my children." Courtesy
Ive got one more question. Is that true that youre
a card shark?
Meloni: (Laughs) Nope. Its a lie. Its
floating around and its a lie and you can put that in print. Im
actually the guy you want to play cards with because I have no feel
for it. (Laughs)