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NBC Insider Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Sarah Hyland's Chilling SVU Guest Appearance From 2009 Is Going Viral

Now a star in her own right, one of the Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin actor's earliest roles was playing a prep-school student who murdered her genius best friend. 



By Elizabeth Logan

Now a star of shows like Peacock's Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin and, famously, Modern Family, actress Sarah Hyland naturally got her start with smaller roles — including two memorable guest spots on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Sarah Hyland's Law & Order: SVU guest appearances

How to Watch

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

In the Season 3 premiere of SVU, "Repression," Hyland plays Lily, the possibly-mistreated daughter of a man accused of abuse. To find out more about the father-daughter relationship, Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) gently questions Lily about her dad, and though the child admits he sometimes "yells and says bad things," she doesn't understand why he would be blamed for anything more. Benson exhibits her trademark patience and compassion during their conversation, while Hyland does a great job of showing her character's discomfort and innocence. 

This episode, from 2001, is the first of three (so far) roles Hyland has played in the L&O universe. She also appeared in a 2005 episode of the short-lived Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and then returned to SVU in 2009 to play a competitive prep-school student. Her latter appearance went viral on social media in summer 2023, particularly the scene where her character admits to murdering her best friend so she could be the smartest kid in their class.

RELATED: Who Was In The Original Cast of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit?

In 2020, a fan posted that same clip to social media, and Hyland succinctly responded to it. "Point is. Don’t call me dumb," she wrote. Point taken, Sarah! You can watch this episode (and all SVU episodes, including the newer seasons) on Peacock! 

Sarah Hyland poses at an event wearing a purple top with a floral wall in the background.

Sarah Hyland is far from the only big-name actor to arrive in the SVU precinct before they found fame. Actors like Idris Elba, Sarah Paulson, and Pedro Pascal all made appearances on the show before they were household names

RELATED: See Kelli Giddish on SVU as a Different Character 4 Years Before She Played Rollins

To see a much lighter side of Sarah Hyland, definitely check her out in Bumper in Berlin, which showcases not only her comedic chops but also her lovely singing voice.

And speaking of Hyland's pipes: In an April episode of That's My Jam, she performed Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" in the style of Avril Lavigne, and it was truly so good. Maybe her next L&O appearance could be as a rock star! We can hope!