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Law And Order: SVU Alum Tamara Tunie's Thoughts On The 'Magnitude' Of 25 Seasons Hit A Little Harder Following Renewal News

 Tamara Tunie attending Law & Order: SVU's 25th anniversary party.
Tamara Tunie attending Law & Order: SVU's 25th anniversary party.

The milestone 25th season of Law & Order: SVU has been celebrated with plenty of fanfare already, ranging from NBC taking over Rockefeller Plaza in New York in Olivia Benson's honor to a big 25th anniversary party that brought in stars past and present. Now, NBC has announced two Law & Order renewals: the original series for Season 24 and SVU for Season 26. In honor of the news, I looked back at SVU alum Tamara Tunie's comments to CinemaBlend earlier this year about the legacy of the show, and they hit even harder for me now in the wake of the renewal.

Tamara Tunie has appeared in so much of SVU over the years as ME Melinda Warner that she ranks among the 25 Law & Order actors to appear in the most episodes of the franchise. She recurred heavily from Season 2 through to Season 17, then appeared less frequently as a guest star and once on Organized Crime opposite Christopher Meloni. Tunie also attended the 25th anniversary party to celebrate SVU. As a longtime fan, I asked the actress back in January what it was like for her to reunite with so many of her former cast members. She shared:

It was fantastic. When I was getting ready, getting dressed to go, I was like, 'Oh, it's a party and we're celebrating 25 years and there'll be some press there. It'll be great.' But it wasn't until I got there that [I felt] the magnitude of what the 25 years of this show really meant and how many people who were on the show, who I worked with, who meant something to me. For example, Richard Belzer, [who is] no longer here. It was just so fresh, and I actually got a little emotional on the carpet when I was talking about Belzer, and just the legacy of this show and the impact that it has had on so many people's lives.

Richard Belzer, who famously played John Munch across many different shows, passed away in February of 2023. In the year since, many co-stars had wonderful messages in his honor, and talking about him hit Tamara Tunie hard back in January. She was able to feel SVU's legacy for herself, as well as its impact on many people in ways that go beyond just something to watch on Thursday nights. The actress went on to share other ways that the show has had an impact:

As far as particularly sexual assault victims, telling their story and actually seeking justice for what was done to them, who were afraid to step forward. Mariska [Hargitay]'s work with getting the rape kits that have been just backlogged and warehoused finally addressed. And as I said, young people coming to me and saying, 'I want to be in forensic medicine, because of your show.' I'm inspired. So it's that kind of thing, that I was just like, 'Wow, this show really did something. It really was meaningful. Is meaningful!’

It was lovely to hear these glowing words straight from Tamara Tunie herself, and she also opened up about how she's still approached regularly by people who share what Melinda Warner means to them and how she inspired them to pursue the sciences. That's truly a mark of Warner's legacy as well as SVU's, not least because the character hasn't appeared on the show since the 500th episode back in 2021.

While she couldn't confirm if she'd return to SVU for Season 25 when we spoke in January, she did share that she's "always happy to come back to the SVU family and make an appearance and solve some crime." Whether or not we do see Warner interacting with Benson again before the end of the spring 2024 TV schedule, it was nice to see her connecting with Stabler on Organized Crime. Even if she doesn't make it back to her longtime show before the end of the milestone season, the renewal means that we can always cross our fingers to see Warner in Season 26!

For now, you can always revisit episodes of Melinda Warner's time on Law & Order: SVU with the series streaming via Peacock Premium subscription, as well as her episode of Organized Crime earlier this year. Unfortunately, Organized Crime is the only one of the Law & Orders that has yet to be renewed, so only time will tell if SVU's spinoff will be back for Season 5.