Even Law & Order Cast Agrees: This Actor Was SVU's Best Guest Star

Even Law & Order Cast Agrees: This Actor Was SVU's Best Guest Star
Image credit: NBC

With more than 500 episodes under their belts, there were a lot to choose from.


  • In honor of SVU’s 25th anniversary, US Magazine asked the cast to name their favorite guest stars from over the years
  • Many famous names came up – but Robin Williams stood out
  • His episode was based on a terrifyingly real case
  • The actor earned an Emmy nod for his performance.

A Silver Anniversary

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has officially been running for 25 seasons – that’s two years longer than the original show that it spun off from. While the OG Law & Order is entering its 23rd season (thanks to a hiatus of 11 years), SVU has hit its silver anniversary and may actually be more popular than the original show.

That’s thanks in large part to the cast, particularly the iconic Mariska Hargitay as Captain (formerly Detective) Olivia Benson. And though he’s been gone from the series for a number of years, the hearts of fans also still beat for Benson’s longtime partner Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni).

Guest Stars

But if there’s one thing that’s made SVU tick along for so many seasons, it’s the amazing stable of guest stars that have featured as suspects, cops, civilians, mobsters, and victims over the years. Some were nobodies when they were cast on the show (look back far enough and you’ll see Bradley Cooper and Sarah Paulson in some of their first tv gigs), while others were already famous when they made their SVU appearance.

In honor of SVU’s 25th anniversary, US Magazine recently asked the regulars of the SVU cast who their favorite guest stars were to work with. Of course, with so much history there were a lot of names to choose from… but one name came up again and again.

Honorable Mentions:

Some famous names that came up during the interview included:

  • Whoopi Goldberg, who played an overworked case worker in S17’s 'Institutional Fail.'

  • Marcia Gay Harden, who appeared several times over the years as FBI agent Dana Lewis.

  • Martin Short, appearing as a sinister 'psychic' trying to help the police find a missing girl (S6, 'Pure').

  • Alfred Molina in the S6 episode 'Night'. He played a man that Benson and Stabler believe is preying on undocumented immigrant women.

  • American stage and screen legend Stacy Keach was called out by three members of the cast for his work in S16’s 'American Disgrace'.

  • Viola Davis is now famous as a winner of the Triple Crown of Acting (she has an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award), but when she appeared on SVU she was relatively unknown. Still, the cast remembers her as a powerhouse even in those early days.

But the winner is…

In spite of the stiff competition, the name that came up over and over as the SVU cast’s favorite guest star is none other than the late, great Robin Williams. In the S9 episode 'Authority', Williams plays Merritt Rook, an anti-authority zealot who impersonates a police officer and calls citizens, demanding that they perform criminal acts. Rook eventually kidnaps Detective Benson and puts Stabler in a difficult position.

'Authority' wasn’t just an episode with an incredible guest star: it was also the 200th episode of SVU. The episode was written specifically for Robin Williams when he made it known to producers that he was interested in appearing on the show.

Based on a True Story

Chillingly, the episode was based on the real-life case of the 'strip search phone scam' that occurred in Mount Washington between 1994 and 2004. A still-unidentified caller got in touch with managers at restaurants and grocery stores, telling them that an employee was under arrest and instructing the manager to perform increasingly humiliating strip searches. Some refused, while others were so cowed by the 'authority' behind the phone call that they did as they were told, with some employees even being sexually assaulted.


'Authority' was watched live by a whopping 12 million people, and Williams was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

It’s been 16 years since this episode aired on NBC, and ten years since the tragic death of Robin Williams. Still, the fact that he is remembered so fondly so many years later speaks to the power of his acting and his personality.

RIP Robin!

Source: US Magazine.