41 Celebs We Totally Forgot Guest Starred on 'Law & Order: SVU'

Becky Bracken | Sep 27, 2018 TV
41 Celebs We Totally Forgot Guest Starred on 'Law & Order: SVU'
Image: NBC Universal

Bradley Cooper Law & Order: SVU
NBC Universal

It might be hard to believe, but it's been 20 years since a little spinoff of Law & Order brought its special blend of mystery and thrill to the airwaves -- and never looked back. Over the last two decades, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has served up justice in response to the grizzliest of crimes, with a little help from a revolving cast of guest stars.

The first Law & Order: SVU episode aired on September 20, 1999. Now in its 20th season (yes, 20 years!), SVU has tied the original Law & Order and Gunsmoke as the second longest running scripted prime time television series in the US -- second only to The Simpsons

And its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit centers around its cast -- which includes Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Tamara Tunie, and Kelli Giddish among others, with former faves Christopher Meloni, Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, and BD Wong deserving a shoutout --  as New York Police Department special detectives trained to investigate and solve sex crimes. Many of the show's plots are ripped straight from the headlines, providing ample opportunities for actors to stretch their skills and for celebrities to come on board as guest stars.

There's the season 10 episode, "Selfish," based on the famous Casey Anthony trial. (Anthony was accused in 2008 of murdering her daughter, Caylee.) Season 14 featured an episode that told a story eerily similar to the high-drama Chris Brown relationship with Rihanna. The show even did its own take on Making a Murderer in Season 18, with a character exonerated for rape only to be accused of a similar crime upon his release from jail.

(So yeah, SVU is on it.)

All of these shocking story lines -- filled with villains, victims, and heroes -- provided dozens of stars with decades worth of juicy roles. Here's a look at some stars who made guest appearances on Law & Order: SVU. Twenty years is a long time.

  • Amanda Seyfried


    Actress Amanda Seyfried was a Law & Order: SVU guest star in 2004. The Les Misérables beauty played Tandi McCain in an episode called "Outcry," in which a college girl is discovered beaten and bloodied in a dorm under construction. An investigation reveals a crime far different from the one she initially described to detectives.

  • Hilary Duff

    Hilary Duff
    Splash News

    Pop princess Hilary Duff played a mother suspected of murdering her young daughter in the 2009 episode "Selfish," which has a plot similar to that of Casey Anthony, a young mother put on trial for the murder of her young daughter, Caylee in 2008.

  • Hayden Panettiere


    Before she hit it big in Nashville -- or Heroes, for that matter -- a baby Hayden Panettiere guest starred on SVU. In 2001, the then child star played Ashley Austin Black in an episode titled "Abuse" about parent neglect. In 2005, she returned to play teen-in-trouble Angela Agnelli in an episode called "Hooked."

  • Sarah Hyland


    Modern Family's Sarah Hyland has made two appearances on SVU, in 2001 and 2009. As a child actress, she played the daughter of a suspected child abuser named Lily Ramsey in an episode titled "Supression." In the 2009 episode, "Hothouse," she played Jennifer Banks, a member of a competitive group of teenagers in the middle of the murder of a math prodigy.

  • Milo Ventimiglia


    Before leaving his fans in tear-soaked puddles on the floor in This Is Us, Milo Ventimiglia made a 2003 appearance on Law & Order: SVU, playing Lee Healy, a guy who gets involved in a prison escape and kidnappings in an episode called "Escape."

  • Bradley Cooper


    As the world awaits Bradley Cooper's latest project, the remake of A Star is Born to land, it's fun to look back and remember him as an up-an-comer, who, in 2005 played a character named Jason Whitaker on two SVU episodes. Oddly, the first episode, "Day" was a Law & Order: Trial by Jury episode, and the second, "Night," was part of the Special Victims Unit franchise. In both, he plays a lawyer suspected of murder -- so at least he was consistent.

  • James Van Der Beek


    Television veteran James Van Der Beek played a character named Sean Albert in a 2010 episode, "Father Deares," which revolved around a sperm donor father and a sinister plot.

  • Serena Williams 


    New mom and tennis icon Serena Williams dropped her racket for a titled role on Law & Order: SVU. In 2004, she took on the role of Chloe Spears in "Brotherhood" that centered around a fraternity, murder, and rape.

  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar

    Mark Paul Gosselaar Law & Order: SVU
    Wolf Films/NBC Universal

    Saved By The Bell teen heartthrob Mark-Paul Gosselaar joined the cast of Law & Order: SVU in 2001 when he acted alongside fellow guest star Elizabeth Banks for the episode "Sacrifice."

  • Jennifer Love Hewitt


    In 2010, Jennifer Love Hewitt, the girl we fell in love with in Party of Five and the I Know What You Did Last Summer movies, played serial rape victim Vicki Sayers in the Law & Order: SVU episode titled "Behave."

  • Rose McGowan


    #MeToo advocate and actress Rose McGowan made an appearance in the 2011 Law & Order SVU episode called "Bombshell," where the team tried to solve the case of a weapons company CEO stabbed in the crotch in a parking garage. Her SVU appearance adds to her impressive resume, which includes movies, television roles, and directing.

  • Mischa Barton


    Mischa Barton appeared in the 2010 SVU episode "Savior" where the team of detectives tried to take down an evangelist targeting prostitutes. Barton's character, Gladys Dalton, a vulnerable sex worker, is absolutely nothing like her beach-babe-next-door role as Marissa Cooper that made her famous on The OC.

  • Ian Somerhalder


    Before he landed his role on Lost -- leading to the memorable Damon Salvatore in Vampire Diaries -- Ian Somerhalder starred on SVU playing Charlie Baker, a guy who found himself in the middle of a quadruple murder with plenty of sexual overtones in a 2003 episode, "Dominance."

  • Melissa Joan Hart


    Melissa Joan Hart ditched her goodie two-shoes Sabrina The Teenage Witch persona in 2007 to play Sarah Trent in the Law & Order: SVU episode "Impulsive" about a young high school teacher and her sexual relationship with a student.

  • Luke Perry


    Nineties 90210 hunk Luke Perry stopped by SVU in 2008 to play Noah Sibert, a character involved in the case of a troubled foster child and the hunt for a serial rapist in an episode titled "Trials."

  • Julie Bowen


    Modern Family's favorite mama, Julie Bowen, joined Luke Perry for the Law & Order: SVU episode "Trials" where she played Gwen Sibert, a troubled mother desperate to prove she's a fit mom and keep custody of her son.

  • Elizabeth Banks


    Elizabeth Banks has been in iconic films like Catch Me if You Can and The Hunger Games, and television shows -- including Curb Your Enthusiasm. So it should come as no surprise the all-around talent worked on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. In 2001 Banks played Jaina Jansen, a woman who helps solve a brutal rape and murder that takes place behind a gay bar.

  • Kathy Griffin


    Firebrand and funny lady Kathy Griffin joined a 2010 SVU episode called "P.C." where she played a character named Babs Duffy, an aggressive leader of a lesbian rights group trying to protect her members from a serial rapist (with a little help from Benson and Stabler).

  • Robin Williams


    In what turns out to be quite a departure from his Mrs. Doubtfire days, beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams guest starred on Law & Order: SVU in 2008, playing the character of Merritt Rook, an exonerated criminal who turns crusader against authority. 

  • Carol Burnett  


    Comedy and television legend Carol Burnett played a character named Birdie Sulloway on the 2009 Law & Order: SVU episode "Ballerina" where a man falls to his death from a window, and the team tries to hunt down the killer. Their search leads to Birdie and her "nephew" with whom she has a strangely close relationship.

  • Matthew Lilard


    Speaking of Birdie (Carol Burnett), Scream star Matthew Lilard played her "nephew" in the Law & Order: SVU episode "Ballerina."

  • John Ritter 

    John Ritter Law & Order: SVU
    Wolf Films/NBC Universal

    Departed Three's Company nice guy John Ritter joined the SVU cast in 2002 to play Dr. Richard Manning for an episode called "Monogamy." (A pregnant woman's child is ripped from her womb, and the team turns to Ritter's Dr. Manning for answers.)

  • Martin Short

    Martin Short Law & Order: SVU
    Wolf Films/NBC Universal

    Mr. Grimley and everyone's favorite of the Three Amigos, Martin Short made a guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU in a dual role as both Sebastian Ballentine and Henry Palaver in the 2005 episode "Pure."

  • Sharon Stone

    Sharon Stone Law & Order: SVU
    Splash News

    Actress Sharon Stone appeared in a series of SVU episodes as ADA Jo Marlowe who went against the grain, to say the least.

  • Martha Stewart


    Professional homemaker and media powerhouse Martha Stewart appeared on Law & Order: SVU in 2012, playing a character named Eleanor Hastings. The episode, called "Learning Curve," involved a teacher sexually abusing a student at prep school.

  • Pam Grier


    Jackie Brown herself, Pam Grier, appeared in two SVU episodes: "Disappearing Acts" and "Pandora." She played Assistant US Attorney Claudia Williams in both, and crossed paths with Stabler and Benson while working cases.

  • Maria Bello


    In 2010, Maria Bello made two guest appearances on Law & Order: SVU, "Rescue" and "Trophy," playing the same character, Vivian Arliss, a mother entangled in a serial rape case.

  • Sarah Paulson

    Sarah Paulson Law & Order: SVU
    Will Hart/NBC Universal

    Actress Sarah Paulson keeps us entertained with her roles on American Horror Story, and her time on SVU was no different. She starred in the season five episode "Family Values" (it's noted as one of her first "official" acting jobs) and came back with a vengeance as heiress Anne Gillette -- and possible murderer -- in the 2010 episode "Shadow."

  • Emily Deschanel


    Bones star Emily Deschanel took on the role of Cassie Germaine in a 2002 SVU episode titled "Surveillance." She played a woman who discovered she's being recorded in her apartment by hidden cameras, and streamed (in real time) to one creepy stranger.

  • John Stamos


    Everyone's favorite uncle (Jesse), John Stamos brought his sex appeal to Law & Order: SVU in 2011, when he played Ken Turner in an episode called, "Bang." His SVU character was a serial baby daddy with over 20 kids. (Dang!)

  • Bob Saget  


    Uncle Jesse wasn't the only former Full House cast member who had fun on Law & Order: SVU. In 2006, Bob Saget guest starred in the episode "Choreographed" as Glenn Cheales, a husband who kept an extremely close eye on his wife who was having an affair.

  • Cynthia Nixon

    Best known as the indomitable power lawyer, Miranda, on Sex and the City -- and a recent gubernatorial candidate for the state of New York -- Cynthia Nixon was once a guest star on the original Law & Order series in 1990. Seventeen years later, Cynthia joined SVU in "Alternate," to play Janis Donovan, a woman with multiple personalities and a missing child.
  • Angela Lansbury


    No stranger to solving a mystery, Murder She Wrote star Angela Lansbury joined Bradley Cooper in the 2005 Law & Order episodes "Day" and "Night." She played Eleanor Duvall, a powerful woman who employed Cooper's character and went to great lengths to protect him from being implicated in the murder investigated by Benson and Stabler.

  • Scott Foley


    Scott Foley is no stranger to playing the acting game. Whether he made us swoon as Noel on Felicity or cuss at our televisions on Scandal, this hottie has range. Case in point: Scott starred on the Law & Order: SVU episode "Hammered" where he played a guy who woke up in an apartment next to a dead woman.