Medical examiner Melinda Warner was only on screen for a few minutes of Thursday’s Law & Order: Organized Crime, but the short scene carried a lot of meaning for longtime SVU fans.
Not only was Tamara Tunie’s return the first time we’ve seen onetime SVU series regular Warner since SVU‘s 500th episode, it marked a quiet moment of… dare we say friendship between the coroner and the ever-more-reflective cop? The scene also allowed Tunie and series lead Chris Meloni, who are friends in real life, a chance to mix it up in the morgue once more.
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In case you missed Episode 2, the hour marked the arrival of Stabler’s older brother, Randall, played by Breaking Bad alum Dean Norris. Viewers will recall in the Season 4 premiere, an addled Bernie thought Elliot was Randall and kept insisting that she needed him for something. But when Randall arrived, Bernie had no clue what she’d been thinking at the time. (Read a full premiere recap.) His visit also allowed us to see that El and Randall aren’t super close.
Melinda entered the picture as Stabler investigated a bombing at a mosque. What at first seemed like a simple (and horrifying) hate crime later was revealed to be the work of a mastermind with a specific agenda. When Stabler visited Warner to glean her insight about a victim’s death, he couldn’t leave without pulling her into a long hug and thanking her for reaching out after his wife, Kathy’s, death. (You can watch part of the scene by pressing PLAY on the video at the top of the post.)
Naturally, TVLine jumped at the chance to chat with Tunie, whose recent TV work includes Cowboy Bebop, Harlem and See. Read on for her thoughts on returning to the franchise (and whether she’ll be back).
TVLINE | I would like to congratulate you on being the recipient of, I think, the most awkward and longest Elliot Stabler hug ever in the franchise.
TVLINE | I don’t think we’ve seen him emote that way with her… ever? Do you think?
No. Never. Never. I mean, he’s always been so gruff and so moody. And so, it’s really refreshing, if you will, to see him open up like that.
TVLINE | Definitely. Do you think it takes her aback at all?
Oh, absolutely. I think it had been a while, of course, and so much has happened, you know? So much life has happened and tragedy has happened, and so it was good to reconnect.
TVLINE | What was it like being back on set after not being there for a while?
Well, it was a different set, and that was very interesting.
TVLINE | True.
It was very interesting because it was familiar but different, you know? Because the crew was completely different, so it’s all these new faces. Christopher is the only face that’s familiar to me.
TVLINE | The last time we saw Melinda was in SVU‘s 500th episode. How do you think she’s been keeping busy?
Well, apparently, she’s just been in the morgue the entire time [Laughs] and still working. She’s been solving other cases for other people, not necessarily for the SVU or the Organized Crime team. But now she is, so she’s back.
TVLINE | Will we see her back again?
Well, you know, that remains to be seen. I would say stay tuned. But it felt very good and very natural to be back there and to be in the mix. So, hoping so. We’ll see.
TVLINE | Awesome. I want to go back to Warner’s relationship with Stabler. Are they friends? Colleagues? How would you characterize it?
I would call them colleagues. Warner had more of a friendship with Benson, you know, where they would have moments that were not just professional, off the record, caring about her and what’s going on. You know, coming to her house to deliver information that she knows is going to have a major impact on her.
She had that relationship with Benson, but she didn’t have that with Stabler, you know? And oftentimes, Stabler would annoy her because he’s [laughs]… I remember one episode, she said, “All this brooding masculinity” or something like that when he walked out of the room… So, for him to show his vulnerable side, I think, shifted their relationship in that moment.
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TVLINE | Definitely. I mean, I don’t think it’ll stop him from barging in there and demanding that she give him answers about something in the future, thought, right?
Exactly, because Stabler’s Stabler, right? [Laughs]
TVLINE | Talk to me about working with Chris Meloni again. Did you just fall back into the way it was? Was there any readjustment period?
It was just great. You know, and Christopher and I are friends. We see each other outside of work. We actually have a social relationship. So it was just very comfortable, stepping onto the set. Even though everyone else was new to me, the fact that my friend is here and we’re going to do this scene together, and we’re going to have fun while we do this scene and play, you know, it was perfect.
TVLINE | Any whiplash about jumping back into Warner’s shoes after not playing her for a while?
You know, it’s a muscle. And it’s a muscle that hadn’t been used in a while. So it took a minute to get the rhythm and get back in the groove and everything. But once we were in the groove, we were in the groove.
What did you think about Warner’s brief return? Would you like to see more of the M.E. in Season 4? Hit the comments with your thoughts!
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