'Law & Order: SVU' Boss Talks Premiere: Rollins Is "Going to Have to Summon Inner Strength"

Showrunner Warren Leight talks to THR about his decision not to hide actress Kelli Giddish's pregnancy, how Rollins' relationship with Benson will change and why Amaro is not the father.
Michael Parmelee/NBC)

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the two-hour season 17 premiere of Law & Order: SVU.]

The special victims unit is expanding this season – and not just with the addition of the new sergeant. The two-hour season premiere of Law & Order: SVU revealed that Detective Rollins (Kelli Giddish) is expecting her first child, just like Giddish herself.

"I guess its just a coincidence that there are now two single moms in the squad room," showrunner Warren Leight tells The Hollywood Reporter, "except on my stage, three of my five recurring actors are going to have kids in the next four months and you would say that’s an impossible coincidence." (Giddish's co-stars Ice-T and Peter Scanavino also have kids on the way.)

Although Giddish's baby news had been out for some time, the reveal about Rollins' unplanned pregnancy was still surprising given the recent exit of her on-and-off fling Amaro (Danny Pino) as well as her struggle to overcome her gambling and alcohol addictions in recent seasons. Leight spoke with THR about how Rollins' life will change, how motherhood will alter her dynamic with Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and why Amaro is not the father.

Why did you decide to make Rollins pregnant?

I didn’t want to have deal with fern plants in front of her and fax machines and file folders. … I just thought we would play the reality of what happens to a working detective who finds herself pregnant and how does she adjust to it. Obviously for Kelli's character, there aren’t a lot of people in her life.

Fans waited 15 years for Benson to become a mom so was there ever a concern that this would be too soon after Olivia adopted Noah?

It's different. Benson basically rescued baby Noah and adopted him, and Amanda's at an age where if you do get pregnant, you're not cavalier about it. You're just at the point where you go to the doctor, the doctor says, "I have to tell you this is less likely to happen as you get older," and you start getting those speeches. So I just decided, OK, Amanda will figure it out. And we will find out who the father is at some point early on in the season, and this is her choice. I thought, either we hide the pregnancy, which was hard to do because we had a three-month break between episodes three and four, so that was just going to look ridiculous. It just seemed like, [she could] deal with it. In real life, it happens. I've had a number of friends in real life have this happen to them. They didn’t see it coming and they make the best of it. The first thing she does is to tell her boss, "It's not going to affect me at work in any way. I'm fine."

What is Benson thinking when she says that?

Benson knows there's no way it's not going to affect her. Benson knows that Rollins has no idea what she's getting into.

Will that bring them closer together? How will this affect their dynamic?

They'll have this in common, but it's also going to add, I think, stress to their dynamic. Its one thing if you have the job and you don’t have the responsibility of a child. She just had that dog. There will be times it brings them closer together, and there will be times where Benson feels like, can anybody in this job come through for me? She's not going to be mad at Rollins for being pregnant, but Amaro's gone, Rollins is pregnant, Carisi is still learning the ropes, Fin doesn’t want to step up and be sergeant so she's not getting the support she needs. She would like to delegate and it doesn’t seem like there's anybody around to delegate to.

For Rollins specifically, how does this affect her and change her as she's getting ready to become a mom?

First of all, we'll see that instead of bringing her closer together with her family, it's another chance for her family to malfunction and let her down and feel betrayed by her. She's going to have to summon inner strength and we'll see the squad taking care of her and rallying behind her. But she's on her own, and on the other hand, this is someone who, like Benson, can use a little more balance in her life. She gets in a little too deep with the serial killers and the psychopaths. She's always been sort of almost tom boy-ish. She's interacted less with baby Noah than any of the other squad members, and its just going to be interesting to see a maternal side come out in her because she hasn’t been leading with that for the last four years.

What else can you say about her family's time in town? The other times we've seen her sister, she has been in trouble so will that be true this time as well?

You're trying to pull somebody out of a bad situation and they're trying to take you with them is what we're looking at it in this one. First of all, she shouldn’t be in New York since there's a warrant out for her arrest. Second of all, if she does come to New York, she should try not to commit any new crimes and early on, she's a suspect early on and it starts spiraling down from there for the Rollins clan.

When she's had tough times in the past, she's turned to dangerous things like gambling and alcohol. Will the stress of a baby make her revisit some of her old demons?

She may not have time for that. One of the problems now for her is just finances. She's going to need an apartment with a separate bedroom. She's going to have to move out of her nice, well-lit place in Long Island City. She's going to be moving to a little more space and a lot less light in a neighborhood that's easier to go and from work. Part of it is good for her. One of the problems for Rollins is she's not good when she has time on her hands. When you're a mom, she's not going to be able to go to a bar at night. She's not going to be able to go play poker at two in the morning. It may be a true blessing for her, not just the blessing of having a kid but it may be at least, at the start, she'll be too busy to get herself into trouble. The question is, over time, will the stress of it exacerbate some of her problems?

How will this affect the rest of the squad?

At some point, she's going to have to be put on desk duty so you're shy one detective and the other detective isn’t allowed to go out on the scene so that means Carisi, Fin and Benson are out a lot more.

Did you know from the beginning who you wanted the father to be? What was the process like of figuring that out?

I thought Amaro was a bad idea because, first of all, Amaro having two kids with two different women, I would imagine he's careful. Even if Rollins can be a little wild, everything we know about Amaro is he's protection-oriented. Also, we didn’t have Danny this season so I thought if Rollins had become pregnant by Amaro, Amaro would show up because he's a stand-up guy. Since Amaro left the force at the end of last season, that meant the baby could not be Nick's, because it would be out of character for Nick not to show up in that situation, he's a very responsible guy. That left very few suspects. We'd seen one boyfriend of her's, the guy she knew from Gamblers Anonymous, who Thomas Sadowski has played for us, and we've seen one another person with whom she had great chemistry and that's where we went.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC. Who do you think the father is?

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