Day one of the second Tribeca TV Festival kicked off today at Spring Studios, with a special 20th anniversary celebration of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the world premiere of Madam Secretary’s fifth season. The casts of both series were on hand to celebrate including Law & Order: SVU star and Executive Producer Mariska Hargitay, co-stars Ice T, visibly pregnant Kelli Giddish, Peter Scanavino, and Philip Winchester, and series creator and Executive Producer Dick Wolf, and the stars of Madam Secretary, Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, Erich Bergen, Keith Carradine, and Zeljko Ivanek, in addition to Executive Producer Lori McCreary.
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When talking about the origins of the series, Creator and Executive Producer Dick Wolf called star and Executive Producer Mariska Hargitay the “grandmother of the #MeToo Movement” which got vigorous applause. “Ain’t no grandmother wearing these shoes,” Mariska joked, showing off her stilettos to the crowd.
Mariska also spoke about her initial involvement with the series saying “It’s so unprecedented to be on a show that’s gone twenty years, even though Dick’s done it twice.” When reading the script for the first time, Mariska loved how progressive and brave it was. She learned how important talking about these issues are for society. “It’s a topic that has been swept under the carpet and has brought the victims so much shame, to bring these stories to the water cooler has been a privilege and a gift,” Mariska said. Ice T laughed saying “Dick called me and asked me to do four episodes… now it’s been twenty years.”
Moderator Savannah Sellers (NBC News Correspondent), asked Mariska who inspires the character Olivia Benson. Mariska responded with, “I think Olivia Benson is an amalgamation of my strong female friends. There are so many women I admire and look up to and I try to grab pieces of those and also that part of me that is a fierce badass lioness.”
When speaking about the impact the show has had over the years, Mariska touched on how Law & Order: SVU is the ideal version of how sexual assault victims should be received in the world. “Victims are believed. The stories have always been there. The stats are the same. The stories are just in the news now.”
Téa Leoni and her Madam Secretary on-screen and off-screen love Tim Daly reunited on the red carpet with a kiss before posing with co-stars Erich Bergen, Keith Carradine, and Zeljko Ivanek.
During the panel, moderated by Jackie Strauss from The Hollywood Reporter, Erich Bergen talked about their crew’s attention to detail. “There’s a globe in Elizabeth’s office, and the crew will even make sure the country that we’re focusing on for that episode is front and center on the globe.” When the rest of the cast told him that was something that shouldn’t have been pointed out, Erich exclaimed, “I just got fired live on stage at the Tribeca TV Festival!”
Executive Producer, Lori McCreary, discussed how they secured the three Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Hillary Clinton to appear on the show. Of Hillary Clinton, she said, “I was at Hillary Clinton’s husband birthday party last summer, and Hillary came up to me saying how much she liked the show and asked if we could write a role for her. I wasn’t sure if, in the light of day, this was something that she’d say yes to, but she did and she agreed to play herself.”
Téa noted that filming with the former Secretaries was “a true crowning jewel moment. The energy on the set the moment these great minds of foreign policy came in was so moving. These are three brilliant minds from three administrations and two parties, and they’re still actively fighting for us.”
Of the politics on the show, Tim said, “The most brilliant thing the show does is remove the ‘D’ and the ‘R’. I believe humans are imbued with common sense and when confronted with it, they understand it. This show allows someone to recognize something that makes sense. It’s also important that on the show there is both a strong powerful woman and competent men.”