Scott Bakula was able to speak with TV Equals during a conference call about his upcoming guest role in Law and Order: SVU. During the call, we were able to learn more about his episode, “Vanity’s Bonfire,” how he was able to channel his character, Kent Webster and what makes Law and Order: SVU still popular after all these years.
Who is Kent Webster?
Bakula explained who his character is in this upcoming episode. Suffice it to say, you’ll see a lot of similarities to a certain former Democrat politician.
“I play a relatively prominent New York City law professor at a college…[My character's] father is on the Supreme Court and I’m kind of being geared up to become a member of the Supreme Court,” said Bakula. “But lo and behold, a young woman — Bijou Phillips is playing her — steals a baby from a city park. And then she claims she’s the baby’s mother and that I am the baby’s father. I have a wife at home [Jessica Hecht] who is ill and very seriously ill and a daughter, a teenaged daughter and it kind of gets crazy after that.”
Finding sympathy with the character
Bakula said that his character is “tricky” and “has a couple of different sides to him.” “I thought it was going to be a blast to play him and it ended up being really fun,” he said. Bakula talked about how he found the sympathetic side to the character.
“Well, you know, again he’s tricky and I don’t want to give too much away. But he loves his wife. He loves his daughter. And he’s made also some mistakes outside of his marriage. So he’s not the first person to have done that,” he said. “And I was able, you know, I’m able to access that kind of role and understand how that all works. And you’re able to, you know, keep the audience guessing about where the character is going to do.”
Researching the role
The research Bakula did for the role included reading up on some public figures and their transgressions.
“…I’m always interested in trying to just find the human angle. And I might reference some people that have had similar experiences in their lives in the public eye and do a little research in that sense. That’s more of what I did for this,” he said.
“I did a little bit of kind of re-research on some of the story surrounding John Edwards and some of the press conferences and things that he went through. And I did some work in that sense. But beyond that, I didn’t do anything more than that,” he said.
Working with the cast
Bakula loved working with the cast of Law and Order: SVU, especially since he and Mariska Hargitay are working buddies.
“It was so much fun. I’ve known Mariska for a very, very long time. But we’ve never worked together. She actually worked with my wife together a long time ago. And we were on the lot during the Quantum Leap and Tequila and Bonetti days. So we’ve known each other for a very, very long time,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of hers. And, you know, I’ve kind of always wanted to do the show. And ironically, I’ve never shot in New York before and I’ve always wanted to do that. So it was great fun.”
“I tip my hat to her,” he continued. “I think this is their 11th season and she is enthusiastic. And more importantly, she is still on top of what’s being said, what’s going on. She’s not walking in any manner of speech, sleepwalking through showing up and doing her thing. She’s very much concerned about what’s on the page and how the scenes are playing. And I really, really appreciate that…after 11 years, I was pretty amazed by that. But that’s the kind of gal she is. She’s a fabulous actress, A, and then she’s a great leader on the set.”
Bakula’s lawyer connection
It’s almost ironic that Bakula would be playing a character that’s a law professor, seeing how he has been surrounded by law most of his life.
“You know, I’ve always had an affinity for lawyers. My dad is a lawyer; you know, he’s retired now. My brother is a lawyer,” he said. “It’s always been easy, the legalese. And I’ve always felt comfortable certainly in a courtroom because you’re just performing. And there was a time in my life when I thought when I grew up I’d be a trial lawyer myself. So I’m not afraid of those kinds of parts at all. So I do have a certain affinity for it.”
What makes Law and Order:SVU popular
Bakula said that Law and Order:SVU is still a hit with fans because of the show’s ability to continually tell stories that excite viewers and draw them in.
“…You know, the stories continue to be I think compelling. And I think, you know…people continue to make bad headlines everyday. And they have a knack of being able to pull those out and make terrific stories. And, you know, it’s amazing,” he said. “You tell people you’re doing SVU. And I was just so delighted by how people said ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve watched that for years. We’ve never missed an episode. And we love that show and we still watch it.’ And it’s a testament to really just keeping, you know, your eye on the prize every week. And not letting go of being thorough and having passion for the work and the story telling. And that’s the writing, the directing. And again, it’s Mariska and the folks that have been there a long time that just keep everybody focused and doing good work.”
The new Law and Order: SVU episode “Vanity’s Bonfire” airs Wednesday at 9/8c on NBC.