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Tamara Tunie Has 3 Words for Benson & Stabler on SVU: "Get a Room!"
Law & Order veteran Tunie opened up to NBC Insider about returning as Dr. Warner in a recent Organized Crime episode, plus the oft-discussed "Bensler" debate.
Tunie played the SVU's go-to medical examiner for over 20 years. She was a pivotal piece of the long-running procedural, offering insight to Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) about their victims during investigations. Fans grew to love her, which is why they were happy to learn Tunie would be reprising her role for an episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Tamara Tunie talks reprising her role of Dr. Melinda Warner on Law & Order: Organized Crime
That's right: Tunie guest-starred as Warner in Season 4, Episode 2 of the series, titled "Deliver Us From Evil." Stabler sought out Warner's advice on a perplexing murder case, marking the characters' first interaction since Stabler's shocking SVU exit over a decade ago.
When they reunited, Stabler apologized to Warner and gave her an unexpected hug. Apparently, Warner had sent Stabler's now-late wife Kathy messages after he ghosted the entire SVU — and while he never responded to them, he told Warner they meant a lot to him.
NBC Insider chatted with Tunie about her exciting Law & Order: OC debut and her sprawling SVU tenure. Read on, below:
NBC Insider: How does it feel to return to Dr. Melinda Warner?
Tamara Tunie: It is thrilling. It's absolutely thrilling... It's so great. It was so interesting because it was at the same time familiar and yet strange. Because it was familiar, being Warner, being with Stabler, being in the morgue. But it was a completely different crew and directors and location. And so it was weird but wonderful.
You had a great scene with Stabler in the episode with that heartfelt apology. We saw a rare sentimentality that we don't usually see from Stabler. Why do you think that Stabler's apology was so significant?
It's interesting because, historically, Stabler would regularly get on Melinda's nerves. I remember one episode when she commented on the brooding, the heaviness of Stabler. So for him to show vulnerability just really took her by surprise. And it was definitely like a, "Whoa, what's happening here?" moment. But it was really wonderful to have that moment between the two of them and for her to see his evolution. Stabler has evolved as a human being since Warner last saw him.
As the SVU squad's go-to medical examiner for years, Warner has seen a lot of things. She has one of the toughest jobs in the SVU universe. Which autopsy has stuck with you the most?
Oh, wow... The one that I found most kind of humorous in a dark, kind of comedic way was when I was in the lab autopsying, and I had to weigh a liver that had come out of this very petite woman. And then the props department had gotten me a liver from a cow and it was huge. And so, I picked up this massive liver and put it on the scale, and it was like, no way did that come out of a human being's body. So that was memorable.
What's your favorite memory that you've had with Christopher Meloni on SVU's set?
I think it would have to be probably the episode "Blast" where we learned that Warner had gotten her medical education through the military and that she was a vet. Stabler and I, Chris and I, spent the better part of that episode together, and Warner was out of the lab, and they were held hostage in this bank. Just that whole episode. I remember we were barricaded in a room together, and I shared with him that I knew how to handle a gun, and he trusted me. So I think that's the scene that most comes to mind.
What would you say is something about Meloni that fans would be very shocked to find out?
He's one of the funniest human beings on the planet. Truly.
Where do you stand on the Benson-Stabler will-they-won't-they debate?
[Laughing] Get a room!