7 Big Name Actors Who Appeared on Law & Order: SVU Before They Became Superstars

7 Big Name Actors Who Appeared on Law & Order: SVU Before They Became Superstars
Image credit: NBC

These actors nailed their roles on Law & Order: SVU before Hollywood even knew their names.

Law & Order and its spinoffs, especially Special Victims Unit, have been a stepping stone for numerous actors who were yet to become household names. Throughout its long run, the show has featured lots of different actors, and some of them later became big Hollywood stars.

David Harbour

Yes, we know David Harbour for battling otherworldly creatures in Stranger Things and becoming the red-skinned antihero in Hellboy, but his career is deeply connected to the Law & Order franchise.

His appearance in Law & Order is actually his first TV role, and he played five different actors across Law & Order, SVU and Criminal Intent.

Pedro Pascal

Pedro Pascal showed up in an episode of Law & Order: SVU during its intense season 12 finale called Smoked. He took on the role of Special Agent Greer, who sort of stumbled into an SVU case by accident. Plus, he popped up in both the original show and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

This was before he garnered widespread recognition in shows like Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, and The Last of Us.

Lili Reinhart

Mostly known for her role as Betty Cooper in Riverdale, Lili Reinhart had a guest role on Law & Order: SVU in 2011, in the episode Lost Traveler where she played Courtney Lane, a sinister teenager involved in a harrowing crime. This appearance came six years before her star-turning role in Riverdale.

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Norman Reedus

Yes, by the time Norman Reedues appeared on Law & Order: SVU in 2006 he already had a role in The Boondock Saints (1999). But the movie became a cult classic only with time through word of mouth. And let’s be honest, the role in the long-running Walking Dead series is the one he is best known for.

Before that, Reedus was in an episode of SVU's season 7 episode 22, where he played the role of a rockstar named Derek Lord. His character was a big critic of psychiatric medications and found himself tangled up in a murder case. If nothing else, it's worth checking out this episode just to see Norman Reedus in action.

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Ethan Cutkosky

Before earning recognition as Carl Gallagher in Shameless, Ethan Cutkosky had a spine-chilling role on Law & Order: SVU as Henry Mesner, a psychopathic boy suspected of harming his sister.

He first appeared in a season 14 episode titled Born Psychopath in 2013, and later reprised his role in a 2021 episode, where his character tried to escape from prison.

Bradley Cooper

Cooper became a Hollywood A-lister with hits like Silver Linings Playbook and A Star is Born. But before that, Bradley Cooper appeared in Law & Order: SVU in a season 6 episode titled Night.

In this episode, he took on the role of a big-shot lawyer named Jason Whitaker. At first, he seems like he's fighting for justice as, but then he defends a client accused of sexual assault.

Zoe Saldaña

Long before Avatar, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldaña played the role of Gabrielle Vega in an episode titled Criminal during the show’s fifth season.

In this episode, Saldaña portrayed an ambitious law student who seeks justice for her father wrongfully convicted of murder. She also played a different character in the original show’s season 9 and 10 in 1999.