Tonight’s Law & Order: SVU finale told a powerful story of a woman named Lourdes who, after enduring unspeakable evil and sexual assault, decided to take revenge on the man she felt responsible in Miguel. While Miguel was eventually brought to justice for his crimes, the blowback here was severe. In the midst of pursuing the case and not giving into threats, Stone’s sister Pamela was shot only to then die in his arms. This leads to Stone wondering why he ever decided to stay in New York City in the first place.
Showrunner Michael Chernuchin breaks down this particular decision along with Philip Winchester’s future on the show, plus also what could be coming up in season 20 for Benson, Fin, and some of the other characters. Check out our interview with Chernuchin below.
CarterMatt – Stone seems to be questioning ever leaving Chicago. What’s the status of Philip Winchester for next season?
Chernuchin – Stone is more involved in the show than ever next season. This isn’t going to make him leave; it’s going to make the whole team accept him more because his pursuit of justice led to his sister’s death. They see him now as not just the intruder, but as a human being.
Was that the plan for the finale going in, to put Stone, who started off going against Barba, on a path to eventually becoming more of a part of the team?
Yes. The arc I wanted to give him is that he is somewhat of an outsider for most of the episodes. Every now and then, he makes a little inroad, but they don’t like him because they loved Barba. They will love him after this.
We didn’t want to do it where he walked in and he was immediately welcomed by everyone. That was why his first case was prosecuting Barba.
You talk about everyone maybe rallying behind him now. Will we see some of that coming into season 20?
Absolutely. He just suffered a tragedy and it’s not going to be brushed over.
Where are you right now in the writing process? Has the room opened yet?
No. We’re all on different parts of the earth right now, but it’s funny — in this business, you never really have a vacation.
I’ve always said that one of the keys to the show’s longevity is that there is a lot of material out there, but then the sad thing is that it means there are a lot of terrible things happening. Are you starting to look towards stories that you want to tell next season?
Yes. Obviously, with Me Too we will be dealing with it head-on. We’ve been dealing with it for 19 years. That’s what keeps the show going, but I think we will do something to address that movement.
Were there any issues this season with timing especially when it comes to Me Too, at least in that you wanted to tell a story based on something that happened at a certain point, but didn’t have the time to turn it around?
Not really, because we move so quickly that within a month of reading an article, you can see an episode on the air. A year before, SVU did the Roger Ailes story, so we didn’t want to do something like that again in the same way. Like the way we address immigration in the final two-partner, we will address that through that through the backdoor, so to speak, coming out of left field and not just saying ‘this is Me Too.’
But I don’t really know yet — I just had two days off (laughs).
Let’s talk a little about some of the other characters. Does Fin’s change in position to Sergeant mean anything different for him in season 20?
No, he’ll approach them the same way. He’ll just have a little more money in his pocket and a little more authority around the office.
There were some scenes that were cut out of that episode that show some of what he would be doing as a Sergeant, which is not Fin kind of stuff. It also showed how he talked his way back in, and we’ll bring that part of it up again. That’s the famous memo that he waved in front of Dodds’ face. He used that to get himself brought back.
You said before season 19 that it was going to test Olivia and you definitely came through with that. Do you have any sort of feeling as to where things go with her next?
Not yet, but I guarantee that there will be something — an arc like what we did with Brooke Shields.
This is season 20 and it’s not lost on anyone that this is a big season. Do you look at it with a different lens or pressure or feel the need to craft any big milestone episodes?
Not really. My approach is that every script we’re doing is the best script ever written. I want to have no fluff in any episode. That’s the approach we take, and obviously you can’t do that with every episode, but that’s what we are aiming for. I’m just taking the same approach I took last season: Making this script the best script I can. We’re also one of the few shows on network television that are dealing with serious issues so I’m not going to give it short shrift, ever.
When it comes to writing and planning out certain episodes, how do you figure out that one episode is going to be big for individual characters? We’ve had this run now where we’ve seen big episodes for Rollins and Fin leading up to the finale. Was that a deliberate plan?
It’s a deliberate plan while we’re beating out that episode. We go ‘this feels like a Kelli [Giddish] episode,’ so we then give them the lead in it. Each one is particularly attracted to a particular subject. There are no rules — it’s just a gut feel. We are so blessed with the cast that we have that any one of them could be the lead.
As we’re starting to wind down this season, is there a sentiment at the start of next season that you have to address what happened in the finale? Or, does the format of the show really afford for something like that?
I think with the end of this season, I don’t think we can not deal with what Stone went through. It will be dealt with. It’s not going to turn into a soap opera, but that part of his character will be built into the story.
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