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Interview: Jamie Gray Hyder

Joining the cast of an established television series can be a little daunting for some actors. But, for actor Jamie Gray Hyder, her joining the cast of Law & Order: SVU must have been very intimidating.

Currently in its 21st season, Law & Order: SVU now holds the record as the longest-running drama in the history of television. You would think that would be an insane situation to step into, but for Hyder, she handled it like a professional.

Already carving out her path in Hollywood, many of you may know her from her breakout role on the hit HBO series True Blood. She followed that series with appearances in shows like Graceland, NCIS, Bones, Inhumans, and The Last Ship to name a few. Not one to rest on her laurels, Hyder is also involved with voicework and has lent her voice to series such as Voltron: Legendary Defender and the video games Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Killzone: Shadow Fall.

We had the chance to sit down with the talented actress to talk about what it was like being on set for the first time, what it has been like working with the cast and crew of Law & Order: SVU and what fans can look forward to with her character and the rest of the season.

Pop Culture Principle - You’ve just been promoted to series regular. Does that make you feel that the people behind the show have confidence in your work?

Jamie Gray Hyder – Absolutely. The fact they trust me is huge and that’s definitely not lost on me.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us what it was like stepping on the set of Law & Order: SVU for the very first time?

Jamie Gray Hyder – I’ve kind of described it this way before. For me, it was intimidating right up to the moment that I actually started to do it. In theory, it was much more intimidating than it was in practice. As soon as I got there and met everybody and they were all so warm and welcoming, then it was just convincing myself that I belong here because everyone else seems to think so.

Pop Culture Principle – We’ve learned a little bit about your character’s past, but will we learn more about her backstory as the season progresses?

Jamie Gray Hyder -Yes. I think you will get to know Kat a lot more as we go on. I think she’ll evolve and change as well and the audience gets to be a part of that as she settles into her new role in this whole new world.

Pop Culture Principle – With your character being the youngest on the team, it brings a different perspective and a fresh set of eyes so to speak to the series. Would you agree with that?

Jamie Gray Hyder – I do agree with that. I think Kat is not only a fresh set of eyes but a different set of eyes. Her life experience is a little bit different than the rest of those in the squad room and with that comes a different perspective and a different set of experiences that inform how she conducts herself as a police officer. I also think that from a social standpoint, to have a younger voice representing a lot of these very current issues will resonate with a younger crowd.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you give us one example of how you are like your character and one difference between you and your character?

Jamie Gray Hyder – We are alike in that we both walked into new situations at the same time where we felt like we needed to prove ourselves to an established group of people. My experiences and Kat’s experiences are absolutely mirroring each other in that way. I’m coming on the show as a new person and she is coming in as a new member of the SVU team. They definitely have that in common.

I’m trying to think of ways that we are different because I do believe that we are alike in so many ways. We are both very impulsive and both quick to state our minds. I would say Kat is probably a little calmer and a bit more serious than I am.

Pop Culture Principle – I would say the big word for this season of Law & Order SVU is the word adapt. Not only does Kat have to adapt to her new surroundings and team, but the team has to adapt to her and her ways as well. Would you agree?

Jamie Gray Hyder – One hundred percent! I think it’s not just about Kat fitting in, but it’s also about the team learning how to utilize her strengths and how-to kind of understand her language. We all come in with a different education, so I think in order not to limit ourselves, we really have to learn how to be open to new people.

Pop Culture Principle – It seems that Kat is the kind of detective who reacts first, then deals with the aftermath of her actions. Is that something you would agree with and could it be just her wanting to impress the team and show that she belongs?

Jamie Gray Hyder – You know, I think much like myself when you are doing something that is passion-based, you do sometimes act before thinking. When I was a little girl, my dad gave me a plaque that I kept on my desk that just said the word "think" on it, because much like myself as an adult, I was very impulsive and lacked self-control and would often act without thinking. Now, I think in some ways that can be an asset to a character like Kat, but in this case, she kind of puts her foot in her mouth every now and then and I think it’s something that will evolve with the character over time. I think she will calm down a little bit and trust herself and learn from the mentors she has around her.

Pop Culture Principle – Both Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T have been in over 400 episodes of the series. Can you tell us what it’s been like working with both actors?

Jamie Gray Hyder – Mariska is one of the best mentors that you can have. She is equally as strong as she is warm. As someone who has been doing this show and playing the same character for over two decades, it really is a master class in keeping things fresh.

Ice and I bonded really quickly and were partnered up on the show really early on and since then, he has been a mentor to me, but in a much different way. He has given me a lot of insight on navigating the world of the show and life on set and how to handle success. We’ve shared a lot of fun stories about our past. I worked in a recording studio for many years and dealt with a lot of the same people and situations that he also has experienced. So, we share a common bond there as well.

I am lucky to be where I am and I feel like I’ve taken on new brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and have been welcomed in with open arms.

Pop Culture Principle – Law & Order: SVU is such an iconic series. How does it feel knowing that you are now part of the Law & Order legacy?

Jamie Gray Hyder – It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity not just to be on the show in general, but to be a part of this historic season. It just goes to show you that they really know what they are doing. I walked into a really well-oiled machine and my only job is to not muck up the work. That is sort of how I looked at it. I needed to be able to jump instream without slowing anything down and that was sort of my focus, especially very early on by getting the lay of the land without getting in anybody’s way.

Pop Culture Principle – Law & Order: SVU has never been a show to shy away from difficult subject matter. Do you think the series tackling current issues and problems is one of the reasons the series still continues today?

Jamie Gray Hyder – Absolutely! I think it’s a testament to the relevance this show continues to hold in today’s society. These crimes that we are portraying are crimes that are happening in everyday life and they are not going away any time soon. The way our justice system handles crimes, especially sexual assault crimes, needs to be brought to light and fixed in real life. I think the focus on ripping stories from the headlines really helps to keep things relevant and I think that helps to keep the audience engaged.

Pop Culture Principle – Law & Order: SVU has a very passionate and vocal fan base. Have you had any interaction with the fans on social media yet?

Jamie Gray Hyder – I have and it has been such a wonderful response that I’ve gotten and I feel very grateful for that. A lot of people have lived with the show many years beyond my experience with the show, and to make sure that they felt like I was worthy of it was something that was important to me.

Now, you are always going to have haters and that is the beauty of the internet and people can say whatever they feel, but for the most part, it has been an overwhelmingly positive response and I am so relieved. Like you mentioned before, they are diehard fans and if they think you are doing something that is ruining their show, they are going to be pretty vocal about it.

Something else I have learned from Mariska and Ice is that they take pictures with a lot of the fans that we see on the street. They are very kind to our fans and very appreciative of their support. They don’t seem to have grown out of wanting the validation from the fans and understanding the value that they have to them. Especially someone like Ice T who gets stopped 100 times while we are shooting on the street and he takes pictures with everyone. It is definitely a lesson in gratitude. When it comes to the fans, you have to love them because that is what has been keeping this show alive for years.

Pop Culture Principle – For Law & Order: SVU, filming in New York has to be a blast and the city itself is a character on the show as well. Can you talk a bit about that?

Jamie Gray Hyder – Absolutely. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to work in New York and to work on the most iconic of all New York shows has been a very exciting experience. I lived in LA for eleven years and now I live in New York and it’s a different pace and it’s a lot closer to what I was used to growing up in the DC area. After so many years in LA, I was ready to make the transition. I was sad to leave a bunch of my friends and family in LA, but moving to New York was perfect timing and working on this show, my appreciation for the city continues to grow.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the rest of the historic 21st season of Law & Order: SVU?

Jamie Gray Hyder – I think that Kat’s growth is going to be pretty apparent to the fans as we go along. You will see her face some challenges and seeing how she rebounds from those challenges and how she grows going through those challenges will be very telling as to her personality. I am excited for the fans to get to know her a little bit more and I’m excited for her to get into the nitty-gritty even further.

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We'd like to send out a huge thank you to the wonderful Jamie Gray Hyder for her time. Law & Order: SVU returns this Thursday, January 9th at 10/9c!

**All photos courtesy of Virginia Sherwood/NBC**

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