Law and Order: SVU Has Had Tons of Famous Guest Stars, and These Are Our 18 Faves
There's an old joke that pretty much every actor has appeared on one (or more) of the Law and Order shows, but it's a great joke because it's true! The long-running Law and Order: SVU, for instance, has been the starting ground for a ton of future A-listers. Plus, the intense storylines and characters have been appealing to plenty of existing stars, many of whom pop up unexpectedly in one-off but memorable guest spots. Don't believe us? We've got the proof. In the gallery ahead, check out several of Hollywood's biggest names, all of whom have taken a spin on the twisty crime drama over the years.
Unlike some other guest stars, Baldwin was already famous when he appeared on SVU in 2013 as a controversial journalist. Bonus points: his episode was also Mariska Hargitay's directorial debut!
When Banks appeared on SVU in 2001, her only role of note was in Wet Hot American Summer and her major stardom was years away. In hindsight, her dark role as a ruthless porn star and mom might be surprising to those who are used to her as a quippy, acerbic comic actress.
The comedy legend went dark with her season 10 cameo in 2010. Her character Birdie was revealed (spoiler!) to be the episode's serial killer, a "black widow" character who had murdered her unworthy husbands.
Years before his career took off, Cooper was just one of many actors making guest appearances on the L&O franchise. In season six, back in 2005, he played a charming lawyer who was helping clients conceal some dark secrets.
In a 2009 episode, during her post-Lizzie McGuire and pre-Younger days, Duff starred in an episode focused on an angry mother whose daughter died after being exposed to measles by an unvaccinated child.
Fanning has been acting from a very young age, and SVU was one of her earliest roles. In a season eight episode, she played an abused little girl who's carrying some major psychological baggage.
Before he was everyone's favorite charmer on Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, Foley showed up in a 2009 episode as an alcoholic murder suspect.
There's a joke that every up-and-coming actor has been on Law & Order at some point, but not many can say they've been on it twice, as two different characters! Hyland first played a young victim in a 2001 episode, then returned in 2009 as the villain of the episode.
Lambert was already famous when she appeared on SVU, but as a singer, not an actress. That made her season 15 appearance in 2013, as a singer downplaying her assault by a producer, all the more impressive.
In her first appearance on SVU, Panettiere was a relatively unknown child actress in a 2001 episode. By the time she returned to the show in 2004, she'd started clicking into more teen roles and played a manipulative high school student.
Paulson's guest spot on SVU came in 2009, but that wasn't her first appearance in the Law & Order universe. She had a guest role on the flagship show back in 1994 — and that was her very first screen acting credit!
Ramirez is also part of the "two separate roles" SVU club: first in 2000, as a mother involved in a tragic case, then in 2002 as part of a story about a murdered prostitute and a disappeared suspect.
Years before Reedus was one of The Walking Dead's major heroes, he was heroic in a different way in a 2006 SVU episode. He played a reformed rock star who encouraged a near-suicidal star to seek out help and spoke publicly about mental health treatment.
Way back in 2004, long before Saldana was a go-to action heroine, she was a young guest star in an SVU episode as a young woman seeking justice for her wrongfully convicted father.
Fresh off the success of Mean Girls but years before her leading lady roles in Mamma Mia! and Les Miserables, Seyfried played a rape victim with a complicated story in a 2004 SVU episode.
A couple of years before he broke out with his role on Lost — and several years before stealing hearts on The Vampire Diaries — Somerhalder had a guest role in a 2003 episode as a decidedly dark villain of the week.
Williams guest-starred in the show's landmark 200th episode, playing an anti-authoritarian activist whose tactics go too far when he targets a key member of the SVU team.
She's a star on the court, but did you know she's an actress too? Williams has guest starred on several TV shows over the years, including a 2004 SVU appearance as a victim-of-the-week whose case helps untangle a bigger mystery.