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Last Call With Carson Daly

CD: My first guest plays a cop on Law and Order SVU and when he's not doing that he plays a prisoner on HBOs Oz, Which, I guess means after a long day of shooting he's likely to arrest himself and then become his own bitch. Please welcome Christopher Meloni. Chris? I like your shirt.

Chris: Hey man, this is a great space.

CD: What do you think? Are you in, like, family guy cop mode, or like, crazy I'll-kill-you-in-the-shower Oz mode. Which one are you right now?

Chris: I'm in decorator mode. This is wonderful. This is a really comfortable space.

CD: Thanks, man. Thanks for stopping by our little dog and pony 1:35 am NBC show. Obviously here, we're heavily into music. I have to commend you on your choice of Jane's addiction and your Tool shirt.

Chris: Tool. Any Tool fans?

CD: Very cool. I'll start off just by saying, I think that one of the things about you, at least in my own terms is that I just take you as a New York kind of guy, just the way you are, the way you look, obviously from your rolls.

Chris: Yup.

CD: But you actually didn't grow up here in New York .

Chris: Uh, no.

CD: You're freaking me out. I thought he was gonna throw a left hook at me right there. 'Yeah so what about it?'

Chris: 'What does that mean?' No, I'm originally from D.C. Washington, D.C. Yeah.

CD: We've bussed in some of your former school mates.

Chris: Yeah. Katie, hi.

CD: How long did you live in D.C.?

Chris: About 12 years and then we moved out to Alexandria, Virginia and that was about 5 years and then I went to the University of Colorado.

CD: In Boulder.

Chris: In Boulder. Beautiful campus, beautiful area. And it was a good thing because I've never gotten back to the middle of the United States, I've always lived in New York or LA.

CD: Boulder is totally different from D.C.

Chris: Totally. Boulder, you know, that was the first time-- I bought a motorcycle out there, and it was my first experience, because I was always an East Coast guy, First experience of, if you're not in Denver and you're not in Boulder, you're with cows. I mean it's such a weird, you're like (makes motorcycle noise) hurry up.

CD: Where did you drive you're bike from? You bought it in Colorado?

Chris: Yeah.

CD: Where did you take the bike to? Just all over?

Chris: I took it to Hollywood to be discovered. That lasted about 6 weeks. They told me to get lost. I knew I was in over my head, I was about 20 years old, and I walked into an agents office, and I've got bug guts all over my leather jacket, from the ride, you know? I'm like 'how are ya?'

CD: And you couldn't stop and, I don't know, shower?

Chris: I had no place to shower. So, I walk into the office and the women looks at me like this and she said 'Can I help you?' I said 'yeah, I want to be an actor' she's like 'yeah doesn't everyone'. She goes 'why don't you just drop off your picture and résumé' and I said 'what's that?' I didn't know what a picture--I didn't know what a résumé was. So, you know, she was very nice--

CD: You left college to act and you didn't know what a résumé and picture are?

Chris: No.

CD: What were you doing in Boulder before you decided to--

Chris: I did, like, a couple good monologs. My teacher said 'you're very good' I said 'that's good enough for me'.

CD: And a couple of beer bongs too, apparently.

Chris: And I actually--

CD: Speaking of beer bongs.

Chris: Beer bongs, yeah that's a great story. I actually left, I went to California from Colorado not knowing if there were helmet laws along the way, 'cause I had no helmet. So, I'm just driving going 'well, here's Nevada. I hope I don't got a helmet law here.'

CD: Did you get pulled over?

Chris: No, 'cause no one had a helmet law--

CD: It just didn't matter.

Chris: --at that time.

CD: Which is much, much better. What even made you want to act?

Chris: What made me want to act. Well--

CD: We get plenty of people nice enough, but we get a lot of people who usually, I guess, normally it stems from family.

Chris: Right.

CD: I don't know, your story sounds much different. Going from D.C. to Colorado, getting a bike going to Hollywood. Not having a whole lot of pre history into the entertainment business. What was it about acting that made you feel like you could do it? And you've obviously done it.

Chris: Well, I guess it was--reality was so miserable for me, I thought living in a fantasy world would be much better, 'cause after college I did construction. And there I was. I always did construction during the summer to help pay the bills, right? Well, you know, once you graduate college, you're done. There are no more summers and then oh, I'm gonna go back to school. It's like life--this is life. So it's like, oh come August I'll get out of here. It's like no, come August you're still hammering nails. And it never ends, 'cause then you've got October and November. So, I was on a construction sight, and it's February and the weather is miserable, it's cold and rainy, and I'm hammering nails with the guy next to me and we're kind of shooting the...

CD: Right.

Chris: ...stuff around, and he says 'oh, what do you do' you know 'what's your story?' And I said 'oh, I just graduated college' and the guys stops hammering and he goes 'what the Hell are you doing here?' And I was like, 'you know, you're right. F this.' And I was out of there. And I went up to New York, I went to the neighborhood playhouse, and uh--

CD: And here you are. And cut to--

Chris: I'm on Carson Daly's show.

CD: Let me tell you something.

Chris: You like me, you really like me.

CD: Hammering those nails next to that smelly bastard might be better then being here. But we're glad you are here.

Chris: Thanks, man.

CD: That's a compliment. So, cut to now, Christopher's got two major shows that I mentioned on TV with Law and Order and Oz. It's weird that you do play both sides of the law, the family guy, the cop, and then the prisoner. As an actor, is it nice to split your time acting on both drastic ends of the spectrum, or is that just make it sort of harder.

Chris: It makes it very hard, but you know, I've been on the opposite side of the coin, which is, I've had no job so, you know, that I've been asked to do two jobs is just manna from heaven. it's paradise. But, to be specific with your question, you know, the bad guy is always fun, cause you know you can really just kick out the jams and just put your foot on the accelerator and roll, and that doesn't mean you're big and you're over the top, but you can play real subtle but you're--

CD: You feel like you don't have to work with any rules.

Chris: Yeah. The boundaries are limitless. and you're range of emotion or--not emotion but your range of behavior and how you express yourself. But, conversely, if you're going to be the cop on SVU and, I guess, how I'm playing the guy, It's a challenge to be the good guy and have people follow your story and still be interesting, still give colors to maybe, you know, a guy who's range of behavior is not as wide, the spectrums not as wide. It's always a challenge to go, 'okay, now how do I come in and make this interesting, give this guy a flavor and a color?'

CD: Do people on the street recognize you more for being the prisoner or the good cop?

Chris: It's about even. It's about even, it used to be it was Oz definitely, at the beginning because he's such a kind of, impactful character, it's an impactful show, and SVU is just getting started, so now it's about even and it's actually very cool. The--all the Oz, this just guys-- gay Oz fans--

CD: Right.

Chris: They go (gasps) like that. And--

CD: They just don't even say anything, they just sort of shudder when they see you.

Chris: Yeah. Black guys go 'oh, your da man! your da man! your da man!' And-- And white girls-- No, just girls in general, they go (bites his lip and nods) like they don't want to let it out, what they're thinking, what they're doing but--

CD: Three distinct reactions.

Chris: Yeah. But, and SVU fans, they're just like, 'Hey that's a really nice show.'

CD: That makes sense.

Chris: 'Go out there and bust those bad guys.'

CD: Oz is entering, I'm sad to say, it's final season. We had your co-worker Dean Winters on the show. It's sixth and final season.

Chris: Did you hand out tissues before this?

CD: No, no, no they're fans that's for sure. I just think it's horrible that it's ending, to be honest with you. But let's talk about your character since you brought it up. Did you know you would be making out with Beecher in this thing, with Lee so much?

Chris: When I hoped on board, No. Tom Fontana, the writer-creator of Oz just, he hired me, I didn't have to audition, So, I said, 'There you go, you're gonna be an inmate. Fine. Great', and I got the first script and the first words out of my mouth are, as I'm entering my cell, and my pod mate is going to be Lee Tergesen, my first words were 'So, you a fag?' I--

CD: Would that lead somebody, when you're reading that to believe that you're enquiring about your cell mates sexuality, or that you're making a derogatory term towards him as like, a tough guy.

Chris: Who knows? I just let it run.

CD: But in your mind, 'okay, I might be the inmate in Fontana's creation of this', and there's many different personalities obviously in prison, 'mine might be the guy that, you know, when you drop the soap, look out.'

Chris: Right.

Chris: Well, I think that was pretty much solidified because the third episode I was grabbing his penis so...

CD: And your, um...uh...

Chris: You okay?

CD: Yeah. It's like a subtle tip-toe here. And you're a married man, and you have a child, what is--I don't know--when you know have a kissing scene with Lee, the guy, let's say the first one, what is your prep for it, I mean the same or for you or a bit-- did you have a mint? Or, do you not on purpose to send a message? I don't know.

Chris: We actually did, we actually had, uh, Binaca Blasts on--

CD: But take us through the mind set just a little bit, on a serious level, for a heterosexual to have a homosexual scene, guy-wise.

Chris: Yeah, when I got the script, so I got the script and it says my character Keller kisses Beecher, Lee Tergesen, and I got it and (deep breath) I went like that, I picked up the phone, I called Lee I go 'Lee, I guess we're gay' hung up-- and we hadn't talked too much about it because it's such a --it was an unknown place for me, personally, I have no experience having contact with another man in that way. So--I'm nervous talking about it. So, that energy you're so hyped up. You're so, 'this is a place I've never been before' and it's real. It's really real, as opposed to, like, the script says I kill a guy, I don't know what that-- I know--

CD: Right, and even when you're shooting it, you know you're not going to go through with it, so you'll never know what that feels like. This is something so tangible, there's a beginning, a middle, and an end to it.

Chris: Yeah, and very intimate too.

CD: And when you first went in on that first take and you kissed him, just, what went through your mind, honestly?

Chris: [Grins and raises eyebrows] 'I'm gonna have to do this more often.'

CD: All right. We have to take a quick break. Settle down. More with Christopher Meloni right after this....


CD: Welcome back to Last Call. Chris Meloni is hanging out with us. Nice of you again to join us. We had your co-star from Law and Order SVU, Ice-T was on the show.

Chris: Good man.

CD: Yeah. Good man. Has he got you into Hip-Hop yet?

Chris: That bitch. I asked him, like--

CD: You must be on Oz to call Ice-T a bitch.

Chris: I asked him, like, six months ago, I said 'you know something, I'm totally not hip to the Rap thing, you know, I would love it,' you know, he's such a smart guy and, obliviously so connected into that whole scene, I said, you know, 'yo give me just like, a general list, or bring in some of your stuff. I want to educate myself.' He goes ' Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll hook you up, I'll hook you up.' He's too busy with like, his little thing--Like you know- with his uh--

CD: His two way pager.

Chris: Yeah, with like, his dogs on the coast.

CD: Uh-oh.

Chris: We're doing the scene, it'll be like, 'okay rolling sound, and speed, Ice!' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, alright,' 'action' 'yeah we're gonna see it Tuesday night.' That's it. The cameras off him and he's back to--

CD: Cut. Ice-T's great to come on and talk to, he used to come on our show a couple of times, and he's great because the man has a lot of philosophies, he calls the spade of spades, he's a straight up guy, he's always been himself, never compromised anything. We do a thing with him called 'Pimp or Ho'.

Chris: Uh-huh.

CD: Has Ice explained his Pimp and Ho philosophy?

Chris: He goes around the country and he lectures at colleges with this philosophy, I mean really.

CD: Do you want to explain to these people what Pimp or Ho is?

Chris: Well, his philosophy is there are two types of people, you know, 'you either a Pimp or you a ho'.

CD: It's that simple. You either work for the man, or you're the man they're working for.

Chris: There you go.

CD: Did you exchange any philosophies with him?

Chris: Well, you know, mine is kind of the same thing, except coming for Oz, I'm like 'you either a bottom or your a Top.' 'You're either giving it or you're getting it.'

CD: Which is a metaphor for a lot of things in it's own right I mean, if you're submissive or taking charge of things.

Chris: Right.

CD: Which is fair enough, I'm not going to get into that. I want to show everybody a clip of you in action. I think you're a tremendous actor. Law and Order, take a look at Christopher Meloni in this scene.

(Clip from DECEPTION)

CD: There you go. Obviously the topics of Law and Order SVU are sex crimes. How many law and Orders are there on this network now?

Chris: Seventeen.

CD: My question is, is it, for you as an actor, a cool thing to be part of something the network has branded because it's been successful, and sort of branched off into these different facets, or do you feel like 'hey I feel especially connected to SVU and they're taking kind of a good thing and spreading it too thin.'

Chris: That's a good question. You know, I don't get to crazy about that. I feel as though I fell into very good hands with Dick Wolf, who is, you know, the head cat, the head producer, and Neal Baer who is the head writer on our show, and all the other people involved. We just kind of focus on our shtick. A little rocky at the beginning, but you know, I think we've found our pace, and how we want to tell stories and, you know--

CD: How many are there, really?

Chris: There are four.

CD: Four? Yeah, one of them is a new reality--

Chris: Yeah, that reality gig.

CD: Well, you're great in it. You still riding bikes?

Chris: No. Not anymore, but you know--

CD: That's it?

Chris: Don't cry for me Argentina. I'd actually love to . I've got an 18 month old girl now though, I'm trying to figure out where I would put her on the bike. I'm gonna bungee cord her down.

CD: You're gonna need the helmet law.

Chris: Yeah, I got the huge helmet.

CD: And your wife and kid are out in LA, right?

Chris: No, they're here. They're here. Oh, yeah.

CD: That's good.

Chris: Oh, yeah. The furthest--the longest I've been away from my kid is 2 weeks and it nearly dropped me.

CD: Yeah. You're a proud father.

Chris: Yeah, man.

CD: Proud father and prisoner. Nice to have you on, man. Appreciate it. Christopher Meloni everybody. Oz on HBO and Law and Order: SVU Fridays at 10 right here on NBC.