Here’s What It’s Like to Be a ‘Law and Order: SVU’ Extra

Christina Grasso
Here’s What It’s Like to Be a ‘Law and Order: SVU’ Extra
Photo: Getty Images

Being the die-hard ‘Law & Order: SVU’ fan that I am (I have Elliot Stabler votive candles on my mantle, for Pete’s sake), working on the show has been at the top of my bucket list for the entirety of my young adult life. And not just for the sake of being on television, because frankly, I could survive just fine without having to watch myself and every bleach-distressed flyaway in HD. If we’re being specific, and we are, I’ve wanted to appear on ‘SVU’ as a dead or dying crime victim because it doesn’t require a whole lot of skill—or so I thought. And according to the universe, I’m so pale I look slightly post-mortem already, no makeup required. That makes me low-budget! What’s not to love? Dick Wolf, hit me up!

Well, he did. Sort of. A couple of months ago I met a casting director who was interested in my cat for a pet store commercial (weird, I know). Somehow it came up in conversation (read: I relentlessly put it out into the universe every chance I got) that it was my dream to play a dead girl on ‘SVU.’ And he knew some people who knew some people, or something, and lo and behold, I booked an episode shortly thereafter.

My first day on set was a total dream (craft services! Ice T in the flesh!), except for the fact that we were filming outside for 12 hours and it was approximately 101 degrees. To be honest, though, I would have happily braved the incinerating fires of hell because #elitesquadgoals. Everyone else who was working that day appeared to know their shit—and seemed a little miffed that I just got booked on a whim, and did so “for fun.” Fair enough, but hashtag beginner’s luck. It was old hat for most of them, and in the spirit of being an actrice/not getting fired on the job, I played it cool. But just beneath the surface of my unflappable New York façade, I was fan-girling hard over Mariska.

Going into it, I had no idea that I would actually wind up dead (do we ever though?) as I was only told I would be playing the role of “hip college student,” to do my hair and makeup naturally, and to bring several wardrobe changes (and again, I would have been ECSTATIC to play, oh I don’t know, a garbage can). But as fate would have it, the first scene in which I appeared involved a (fictional) shooting in Central Park. I got in the line of fire and had to play dead in front of Carisi. Much to my surprise and delight, however, this would not be the end of my career on ‘SVU.’

I came back to life in the last scene as a park pedestrian (a live one!), walking dramatically slowly alongside Liv. The whole experience was so surreal that until the episode aired (Season 18 premiere!), all I had to show for it were a few souvenir bruises from hitting the pavement in said altercation, and a paycheck (because labor laws are apparently a thing). And it probably would have been enough to check it off my bucket list, but three weeks later I booked another episode. This one filmed at the ‘SVU’ set (see also: The Precinct), and it was every bit as thrilling as it sounds. But it hasn’t aired yet, so I can’t talk about it. Sorry!

But now that it’s over, I kind of want to do it again. I have my sights set on a third episode, playing a dead body in a trunk. Just putting that out there, you know, just in case. Dick Wolf, call me.