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NBC Insider Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

25 Celebrities Who Guest Starred On Law & Order: SVU

From Julian Sands and Robin Williams to Pedro Pascal and Adam Driver, who did you miss out on seeing?

By Jessica White & Megan Carpentier

One of the best parts of watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit can be the many familiar faces you’re likely to see—as well as those actors who go on to great things after being on set. And while a bona fide celebrity is always a sign of high drama on the horizon for the detectives of the SVU, many once-unknown actors have gotten the opportunity to show their mettle as villains, special victims, witnesses or investigators on the long-running show.

How to Watch

Watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Thursdays on NBC and next day on Peacock.

With over 500 episodes under its belt, hundreds of actors have appeared on SVU, many of whom are unforgettable. Let's look back on some of the celebrities you might not recall seeing on the SVU set. 

Julian Sands

Season 7, Episode 2 (“Design”), 2005

Julian Sands attends an event circa 2005.

Celebrated actor Julian Sands, who passed away in a hiking accident in January 2023, appeared on SVU in September 2005, playing Barclay Pallister, a wealthy intelligent man who was accused of raping and impregnating April Troost (Estella Warren).

However, it turned out that April was actually a con artist and serial rapist who had targeted 34 rich and/or famous men — including ones played by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath, and NFL star/former The Bachelor contestant/current Bachelor host Jesse Palmer — for their sperm as part of her fertility specialist father’s eugenicist efforts and her own desire to have a high-value baby to sell to prospective adoptive parents. Falsely accusing her own sexual assault victim, Pallister, of rape ruined his marriage and professional life but ultimately, the charges against him were dropped. However, April and her con artist mother Lorraine (Linda Carter) then absconded with his daughter, Sarah, and he ended up supporting an immunity deal for April if she would turn over custody of the little girl.

Don’t worry: April and Lorraine stayed on NYPD’s radar in a crossover episode of Law & Order that aired the following night. In Season 16, Episode 2 (“Flaw”), Lorraine was eventually convicted of the murder of her one-time boyfriend, fellow con artist Patrick Sullivan, and April was arrested in the decades-old murder of her newborn child (who was, in fact, the product of her being raped by Sullivan at age 14).

Pedro Pascal

Season 12, Episode 24 ("Smoked"), 2011

Pedro Pascal in 2023

Before our favorite Mandalorian and Game of Thrones star rose to fame, Pascal was a three-time Law & Order franchise veteran, guest-starring in the original series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and in SVU.

On SVU, he depicted corrupt ATF Special Agent Greer in the Season 12 finale, delivering a flawless performance.

Snoop Dogg

Season 20, Episode 22 ("Diss"), 2019

Snoop Dogg on Law And Order SVU

Snoop Dogg depicted R.B Banks, a recording artist who got wrapped into a predicament involving a rival rapper and an assault case.

Martha Stewart

Season 13, Episode 21 ("Learning Curve"), 2012

Martha Stewart on Law And Order SVU

Stewart shone in her SVU performance as Eleanor Hastings, a private school headmistress who defended one of her school teachers accused of sexually abusing a student.

Robin Williams

Season 9, Episode 17 ("Authority"), 2008

Robin Williams on Law And Order SVU

One of the most bone-chilling episodes was thanks to the late guest star, comedy king turned horrifying SVU villain, Williams. Williams portrayed Merritt Rook, an audio engineer who had a problem with authority and a habit of impersonating the police. His performance was chilling as he tortured Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and coerced his victims into committing atrocious acts. 

 Adam Driver

Season 13, Episode 11 ("Theatre Tricks"), 2012

Adam Driver circa 2011

While many might now recognize Driver as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, he also had the honor of depicting a slimy stalker named Jason Roberts who sexually assaulted a woman under the guise of it being an interactive theatrical stunt. 

In 2010, Driver made an appearance on Law & Order in Season 20, Episode 15 (“Brilliant Disguise”) as Robby Vickery, an escort-hiring researcher whose co-worker killed his “date” in an armed robbery.

Alec Baldwin

Season 15, Episode 18 ("Criminal Stories"), 2014

Alec Baldwin on Law And Order SVU

Baldwin made his SVU debut as Jimmy MacArthur, a hot-shop news reporter who caused issues for the SVU while they addressed a hate crime

The 30 Rock star also wrote "Tabloid" (Season 8, Episode 23, 1998) for the original Law & Order, based on his negative experiences with the press.

Serena Williams

Season 5, Episode 12 ("Brotherhood"), 2004

Serena Williams on Law And Order SVU

Tennis star Williams starred as Chloe Spiers, a college basketball star who became the revenge porn victim of a malicious fraternity pledge master. She also had a guest starring role on ER in 2005.

Williams later went on to featured roles in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Oceans 8, and, most recently, Glass Onion.

Bradley Cooper

Season 6, Episode 20 ("Night"), 2005

Bradley Cooper on Law And Order SVU

Before Cooper was starring in hit films like The Hangover or A Star Is Born, he appeared in an episode of SVU as Jason Whitaker, a defense attorney tasked with representing a wealthy client, played by Alfred Molina, accused of sexually assaulting undocumented immigrants. (In a bonus, the mother of Molina’s character is portrayed by none other then Angela Lansbury.)

Elizabeth Banks

Season 3, Episode 7 ("Sacrifice"), 2001

Elizabeth Banks circa 2002

Banks made an appearance in Season 3 of SVU as Jaina Jansen, a mother who turned to a job in the porn industry to be able to afford her daughter's medical bills.

The Spider-Man and Hunger Games actress also appeared in 15 episodes of 30 Rock as Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) conservative news reporter wife Avery Jessup. She most recently directed and produced the slasher comedy Cocaine Bear.

Whoopi Goldberg

Season 17, Episode 4 ("Institutional Fail"), 2015

Whoopi on Law And Order SVU

The EGOT-awarded Goldberg took on a darker role in 2015 as Janette Grayson, a Department Of Child Services supervisor responsible for pressuring her employees not to make home visits and altering welfare reports after one young child is found wandering the streets and another died of child abuse despite being under the department’s supervision.

In 2006, Goldberg appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent  (Season 5, Episode 20, “To The Bone”) as Chelsea Watkins, a foster mother who used her charges to commit a series of armed home invasion murders.

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Season 12, Episode 3 ("Behave"), 2010

Jennifer Love Hewitt on Law And Order SVU

The I Know What You Did Last Summer actress played rape victim Vicki Sayers in the 2010 episode, who was stalked and sexually assaulted by the same man four times across the span of 15 years. The episode, which included a Law & Order: Los Angeles crossover, was intended to draw attention to the nationwide rape kit testing backlog, as showrunner Neal Baer and Hargitay wrote in an editorial at the time. 

Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation, a charity dedicated to victims and survivors of abuse and sexual assault, launched its End The Backlog campaign at the same time. They estimated that 100,000 rape kits remained untested in January 2022.

Hilary Duff

Season 10, Episode 19 ("Selfish"), 2009

Hilary Duff on Law And Order SVU

Duff played Ashlee Walker, whose own mother accused her of killing her infant. The team instead discovered that she only buried her daughter, after the child died of measles contracted from an unvaccinated classmate. 


Season 7, Episode 18 ("Venom"), 2006

Ludacris on Law And Order SVU

Rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges—a Fast and the Furious franchise alum—played Darius Parker, the nephew of Det. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice T). He was tried for the rape and murder of woman in whose death Tutuola’s son was initially implicated. 

Sarah Paulson

Season 11, Episode 12 ("Shadow"), 2010

Sarah Paulson on Law And Order SVU

Paulson played Anne Gillette, the daughter of affluent parents who detectives though died in a murder-suicide. They ultimately discovered that Anne, “a psychopath with extremely violent tendencies,” murdered both to keep them from cutting her out of their will and then took out hits on Benson and a British detective who assisted in her capture.

However, her first on-screen acting gig was on the original Law & Order in 1994, portraying Maggie Conner in Season 5, Episode 4 (“Family Values”). Conner was put on trial for the murder of her mother, only to confess that her stepfather initiated a sexual relationship with her and accidentally killed her mother when she found out about it. They used pictures from the 1994 appearance in her 2010 show.

Martin Short

Season 6, Episode 18 ("Pure"), 2005

Martin Short on Law And Order SVU

The Emmy-award Short portrayed “psychic” Sebastian Ballentine on SVU. Ballentine helped the team locate the body of a missing girl, but it turned out that his real name was Henry Pallaver and he and his wife were codependent rapist/serial killers of virgins. 

Short is currently starring as theater director Oliver Putnam in the mystery show “Only Murders In The Building,” playing a true crime podcaster.

Carol Burnett

Season 10, Episode 16 ("Ballerina"), 2009

Carol Burnett on Law And Order Svu

 The Emmy-award winning Burnett played Bridgette “Birdie” Sulloway in this 2009 episode. Her husband was accused of the rape and murder of a young woman, as well as the murder of that victim's boyfriend, but fell to his death shortly before his arrest. 

But there was more to Birdie than just a horrified wife, as the episode eventually revealed. Check out a fuller recap of her Emmy-nominated episode here.

Milo Ventimiglia

Season 5, Episode 11 ("Escape"), 2003

Milo Ventimiglia circa 2003

This Is Us, Heroes, and Gilmore Girls star Milo Ventimiglia guest starred on SVU as a victim of childhood sexual assault who falsely accused his stepfather and is then kidnapped by the man in an effort to prove his innocence.

Amanda Seyfried

Season 6, Episode 5 ("Outcry"), 2004

Amanda Seyfried on Law And Order SVU

In one of her earliest on-screen roles, Seyfried delivered a powerful performance as Tandi McCain, a teenage sexual assault victim who tries to protect her beloved stepfather by falsely accusing four cadets of a rape committed by her father’s boss.

Ian Somerhalder

Season 4, Episode 20 ("Dominance"), 2003

Ian Somerhalder on Law And Order SVU

Before his widespread popularity on The Vampire Diaries and Lost, Somerhalder made SVU squirm as Charlie Barker, a serial killer who kidnapped, raped and killed multiple men and women, coerced the brother he abused into helping and ultimately tried to frame his brother for his crimes.. 

John Stamos

Season 12, Episode 22 ("Bang"), 2011

John Stamos on Law And Order SVU

Everyone loves Jesse from Full House, but John Stamos took on a much darker role as a reproductive abuser—a man who lies about using or sabotages contraception in order to deliberately impregnate unknowing partners—in SVU. Stamos’ character, Ken Turner, eventually admitted to having 47 children with multiple women, but was killed while attempting to seduce the therapist who the unit had called in to consult on the case.

Laverne Cox

Season 9, Episode 16 ("Closet"), 2008

Laverne Cox in 2023

Like Paulson, Cox got one of her first once-screen roles in SVU. During her episode in April 2008—which tackled LGBT inclusion in professional sports—Cox played gym manager Candance, who chatted with Benson and Stabler about an early suspect in the murder case.

That December, she also made an appearance on the flagship Law & Order (Seasons 19, Episode 6, “Sweetie”) as a sex worker at a truck stop who propositions Det. Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) as he’s working undercover.

Nicholas Braun

SVU's Season 3, Episode 17, “Surveillance,” 2002

Law And Order Guest Nicholas Braun

Before his iconic role in Succession, a 13-year-old Nicholas Braun landed a role on Law & Order: SVU in March 2002, appearing with Ice T and Christopher Meloni

“It was a very exciting role. I played, I think, a character without a name, ‘Boy in Internet Café’ because those existed at the time,” Braun said in a March interview with Live With Kelly and Ryan. (IMDB lists his character as "Kid.")

“I was looking at a video of the woman who got murdered or sexually assaulted because that’s the show," he added. "And then Chris Meloni and Ice-T, I think, come and sit down and are like, ‘Why are you watching this video?'”

Bradley Whitford

Season 24, Episode 15 (“King of the Moon”), 2023
Season 15, Episode 22 (“Reasonable Doubt”), 2014

Bradley Whitford on Law And Order SVU

West Wing alum Bradley Whitford appeared on this heart-wrenching episode, directed by Mariska Hargitay, as Pence Humphrey. He’s an author who, while suffering from early onset dementia, finds his wife raped and murdered on the floor of the apartment and confesses to the crime—of which he has no memory.

Whitford, who currently has an ongoing role in The Handmaid’s Tale, previously appeared in Season 15 portraying director Frank Maddux. Maddux was accused by his ex-wife of molesting their daughter, Chelsea, and subsequently fled the country to avoid trial. He was convicted in absentia.

The Get Out star also portrayed Roger Peralta in four episodes of Brooklyn 99, Councilman Pillner on a 2012 episode of Parks and Recreation, and a lawyer on a 2011 episode of Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Cynthia Nixon

Season 9, Episode 1 ("Alternate"), 2007

Cynthia Nixon circa 2008

Sex and the City’s Nixon starred in the Season 9 premiere as Janis Donovan, a woman with significant mental health issues wrongly accused of abusing her sister’s child. Instead, it turns out she was faking her mental health issues in order to get away with the murders of her parents—which she did with the help of her sister, who is arrested in the murders.

She appeared on Law & Order Criminal Intent in 2009 (Season 10, Episode 7, “Icarus”) as Broadway director Amanda Rollins, whose leading man dies after falling from a rigging during a performance.

This story was originally published on July 8, 2022. It was updated June 29, 2023.

Watch Law & Order: SVU Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC and next day on Peacock