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Cumming's Kelli Giddish talks season 15 'Law & Order: SVU'

Kelli Giddish

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One way Kelli Giddish would calm down at age three if her parents sang the "Jeffersons" theme song... "We're movin' on up...!"

The Cumming native moved on up in 2011 to "Law & Order: SVU" and now enters her third season as Amanda Rollins, a detective who moved from Atlanta to New York City and effectively replaced Chris Meloni. Giddish is having a ball.

"We play cops and robbers in the streets of Manhattan," she said at Einstein's Bagels in Morningside Monday after an affiliate visit with WXIA-TV/11 Alive. "It's a dream!"

The show itself only draws a third of the overnight audience it did its peak year season 3 but given that NBC audiences have shrunken across the board in recent years, the network's oldest drama is still a sustainable brand.

And the show ended season 14 with a doozy of a cliffhanger: Mariska Hargitay, who has played Det. Olivia Benson from day one of the show, was taken hostage at gunpoint by a crazy sex deviant and spends the first hour Wednesday night trying to get out of the mess.

"It's really really courageous of our show runner to take a chance and break such a strong character," she said.  "You'll see her in ways you've never seen her."

As Benson tries to adjust to life after her horrific time with the nutcase, "it gets tense between [Rollins and Benson] the second episode," Giddish said at Einstein's Bagels Monday in Morningside after an affiliate visit with WXIA-TV/11 Alive. (She also appreciates how Hargitay helps sexual assault victims with her Joyful Heart Foundation.)

In future episodes, Rollins also gets to play undercover a couple of times.

"We filmed a thing where I climb up a water tower on Friday morning at 4 a.m.," she said. No stunt woman!

Some of the "torn from the headlines" headlines include variations of the Cleveland female hostage story, Travyon Martin, Anthony Weiner and Paula Deen. Guest stars include Jeffrey Tambor ("He cracked the whole place up") and Cybill Shepherd ("Her dad is part of the Rotary Club in Cumming and she gave a huge donation to my high school that helped form the theater company.")

On a lighter note, she was thrilled that she was able to feature her sweet dog Frannie ("a mutt, a side of the roader")  in that season finale in Central Park. Frannie, on cue, chased down the perp - and ended up licking him. She comes to work with Giddish. Ice-T  and Richard Belzer bring dogs on set, too. "It's like a dog park sometimes in the dressing room," she said.

She is in awe of both Ice-T ("one of the wisest men I've ever met") and Belzer ("a class act"). She is amazed Belzer has played the same character as John Munch across two shows for more than two decades, the longest running current human character on TV.  (Homer Simpson and his clan have been around longer.)

Giddish got to hang with her parents over the weekend and catch that painful Falcons/Dolphins game. ("It's frustrating not being able to watch the Falcons in New York, unless they're playing the Jets or Giants," she said.)

This is Giddish's third series in a row. Her last two ("Past Life" on Fox, shot in Atlanta, and "Chase' on NBC) didn't last long but what's curious is that she's played a cop three times in a row. Why? She is a tough cookie in a pretty package, idyllic for TV.

"There are a lot of  tough women and tough actresses," she said. "I like getting dirty. Maybe it's the southern sensibility" TV execs like. "They think I'm tough but I'm still such a girl."

Here's the video:

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"Law & Order: SVU," 9 p.m. Wednesdays, starting Sept. 25, NBC

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