"The fact that they respond almost as if Stabler is a family member I think is a good thing," Pino said during a recent interview on the set of 'SVU.' "I don't get put off by, 'Why isn't Stabler here?' In fact, how could that be anything but positive? People love the show, people love the character. Him being gone is something the show is dealing with, just like a precinct would deal with somebody leaving."
Pino makes his 'SVU' debut on Wed., Sept. 28 (10PM ET on NBC), and he's ready to start busting the perps.
Already a TV cop veteran thanks to seven seasons on 'Cold Case,' Pino said he had a hand in helping shape Detective Nick Amaro. A former narcotics and warrants officer, a tragic event causes him to rethink his place in the police force.
"I don't feel like I'm replacing anybody," he said. "I don't think there's a way to replace Stabler. The most I could hope for is to come and try and develop a character who is interesting, who is interesting to me, who is interesting to fans and who could contribute to the storytelling that is 'Law & Order: SVU.'"
"I think as long as I can keep up that side of my responsibility as an actor to make it interesting and to make it challenging, and to potentially bring something new to it. Not be drawn into trying to fill somebody's shoes because that's impossible. It's hard enough to fill my own shoes, it's hard enough to do that, to blaze your own trail," he said with a laugh. "Hopefully the same connection fans have toward Stabler could one day be present for Amaro."
What's your favorite part about your character?
The fact that he's a dad. He's got a little girl. She's scripted as being his 4-year-old daughter. It's interesting to me. He's married, his wife is in Iraq, so he's basically a single dad. That's just fascinating to me, how a detective could try and balance that. I think there are single dads everywhere that don't get enough air time. That was one of those things that when Warren [Leight] and I were discussing the character, he had very strong ideas to who he was in terms of being a detective and his approach to the work, but family-wise we were really working on who he might be. Whether he was single, whether he was married, did he have a kid --
What do you think fans should know about your character that they may not get from your first episode?
Let's see, you do get in the first episode that he's married. You get in the first episode that his wife is enlisted. What you don't get is where he came from. You know he came from narcotics and warrants and that he had just brought down a big case, but maybe what viewers won't know and maybe what your readers don't know is that he suffered a very traumatic experience that brought have to SVU. He left his former unit that was like a family and after about as traumatic experience a cop can have, he opts to leave his current unit. Narcotics and warrants are very risky and his worst nightmare happened and so he says "I'm a single dad, I've got a 4-year-old girl, my wife's in Iraq, what am I doing?"
What kind of prep did you do before joining the 'Law & Order' world?
I ate a lot of ice cream! [Laughs] No, a lot of work. You meet as many SVU detectives as you can. The show was fantastic in setting me up SVU detectives. I went to CAC -- child advocacy center -- which is basically a one-stop shop. They have a clinic for a doctor to come and do evaluations after a kid has potentially been abused. They have therapists there to interview the kids. Pretty much everything they need. They have a police precinct in the basement so the cops are there as well so they only have to interview the child once. They only have to screen the child once, they don't have to continue to tell their story over and over and over again. And go from hospital to precinct to therapist, it all happens in one place. I went there for a day and talked to everybody. I went to the actual SVU precinct ... and got a really good sense of what it was like.
Do you have any dream guest stars you'd like to work with?
I would love for Andy Garcia to come on the show. That's not pressure to him. I have a great relationship with Andy and a lot of respect for him. His name was thrown around the other day and I was like, "Are you kidding me!?" He's incredible. He's always been one an actor I've revered, both professionally personally.