Wednesday’s Law & Order: SVU will include appearances from two of Hamilton’s gang, as Daveed Diggs and Anthony Ramos guest-star on the hit NBC procedural. The episode, titled “Forty-One Witnesses,” features Diggs returning to the character of defense counselor Louis Henderson. For Ramos, the appearance marks his SVU debut.
“For me, this is great because it’s the first time Henderson has gotten to really go toe to toe with Barba [Raul Esparza],” Diggs tells EW. “So it was just great to get to work on so many scenes with Raul, and sort of try to keep up in the courtroom with this person who I’ve been watching win cases for so many years now. I think Henderson gives him a run for his money.”
A run for his money meaning a rap battle, perhaps? “No rap battle,” Diggs says with a laugh. “Unless they keep those cuts in, but I expect they didn’t make the actual episode.”
“You never know until you know,” adds Ramos, who, despite being new to the SVU universe, felt right at home, especially in the company of fellow Broadway actor Esparza. “He’s such a successful theater actor, and now he’s making his transition — he’s on TV now, but he wants to talk about theater all the time; he’s telling me stories about Sondheim and the making of Company when he was doing it.”
“And the great thing about SVU is that we can go and do that work and they understand, and they’ll get us back in time for our show. It allows you to be a real multifaceted artist,” says Diggs, who found the experience both inspiring and exciting. “I got to hang out with Ice-T on the show, and I’ve been a fan of Ice-T since Colors. That’s someone who I sort of idolize from Los Angeles rap music, and it makes for a really fun place to be on set. It’s like the best office job — like being at the watercooler with all of your heroes.”
Diggs, who plays Marquis de Layfette and Thomas Jefferson, and Ramos, who plays John Laurens and Hamilton’s son Phillip, aren’t the first stars of the musical to appear on the show, but the fact that they’re appearing together isn’t entirely a coincidence. “Mariska [Hargitay]’s a huge fan,” shares Ramos. “She’s just been snatching us up one by one, and we’re totally cool with that!” As Diggs explains, Hamilton is both an unorthodox and fantastic recruitment field when it comes to creative opportunities.
“It’s great to be in a play that has taken off this way, because in order to experience it they have to come and hang out,” he says. “And you actually form a relationship with somebody as opposed to being another name on an audition tape. So it’s very fortunate and it’s also kind of wonderful how the world opens up because of it — because we all had this shared experience of being in the same room and making Hamilton happen, which the audience has been a part of.”
“Doing this show is better than any audition you could ever do,” says Ramos. “You meet people as people, not as, ‘There’s the director behind that table and here’s me auditioning.’ So we get to form these relationships on a personal level and we get to shake their kids’ hands and talk and get to know them a little bit. People just pour their hearts out, and we pour our hearts out back.”
[ew_image nid=”2467718″ align=”left” width=”320″ height=”240″]
So, what’s harder: learning legal jargon for a courtroom scene, or rapping the epic Hamilton song “Guns and Ships” (which Diggs manages in 6.3 words per second)? “Legal jargon is way harder,” he admits with a laugh. “The thing about rhymes is that there aren’t many options. There’s only a few words to the rhymes you rapped two beats ago so it sort of teaches itself. For me, it’s been such an experience to watch how these folks work and watch how they really are living in the moment. Rehearsing a play is a different thing. So they’re crafting these moments, you’re learning as you do it. Definitely, it is easier for me to learn a rap song than remember how to cross-examine which witness at what time.”
And although Ramos doesn’t rap at nearly the same insane speed that Diggs does in the musical, he’s in agreement. “Learning lines for scenes is so much harder for me than learning a song,” he says. “You give me a song, and I’ll sit with it, and there’s rhythm. Everything has rhythm, even when you speak there’s a rhythm, but it’s more scattered. So if that word comes on that accent, you can just say the words on the accent and people will still understand what the rap is about, and then it’s just about finding the words in between. But when you’re learning lines, that’s a whole other beast.”
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.