The Law and Order franchise is known for having cast members come and go rather frequently. With both the original series and popular spin-off Law and Order: Special Victims Unit running for more than 20 seasons and counting, it’s inevitable. But the news that Kelli Giddish, who plays Detective Amanda Rollins, is departing SVU during its ongoing Season 24 is causing quite an uproar among viewers, and it’s easy to see why.
Giddish was first introduced as Rollins (after playing a different character in a guest role several years earlier) in SVU Season 13 in 2011 when the character is transferred from the Atlanta, Georgia Police Department to the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Initially, she displays more conservative views on gender and family dynamics than some of her colleagues, but in the 12 seasons since she has developed significantly, broadening her ideas to better deal with the sex crimes the squad investigates.
Her personal life has also been a frequent source of drama for the series, as Rollins confronts lingering demons related to her gambling addiction, her abusive and dysfunctional family, and her own experiences as a sexual assault survivor. Throughout all this, Giddish has turned in consistently excellent performances that add even more layers to the complex character.
Giddish’s Exit Is an Unnecessary Loss
The outcry over Giddish leaving is rooted in the fact that she did not choose to do so. After the exit was announced, Variety reported that the creators were ordered to write it into the season by high-level executives. The decision was attributed to the executives’ desire “to keep the show as up to date and current as possible,” and failed salary negotiations. Series lead Mariska Hargitay, who also serves as an executive producer, reportedly opposed the move.
SVU’s previous season saw two similar exits, with both Jamie Gray Hyder and Demore Barnes, who played Detective Katriona “Kat” Tamin and Deputy Chief Christian Garland, respectively, being written out after the two-part Season 23 premiere. Hyder criticized the decision to remove two of the show’s ethnically diverse cast members, stating on Twitter that the show “Just got a lot less colorful.” However, the series actually incorporated this sociopolitical context into its story, as both Kat and Garland’s exits were attributed to racial bias in the New York Police Department. Both became disillusioned with the continued prevalence of racism and corruption in the department and resigned from their positions. Garland’s exit, in particular, was arguably necessary for the series as Captain Olivia Benson (Hargitay) now often clashes with his replacement, Tommy McGrath (Terry Serpico), over political and social issues, adding necessary conflict to the cases.
Rollins’ Departure Could Negatively Impact Future Seasons
Writing out Amanda Rollins offers none of these kinds of storytelling opportunities, and Giddish’s much longer tenure compared to Hyder and Barnes’ has made her a much more integral and popular part of the series’ current incarnation. In fact, losing the character could negatively impact future stories. Rollins is currently in a romantic relationship with Assistant District Attorney and former SVU detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi (Peter Scanavino), and promotional material for Giddish’s final episode suggests that the pair will possibly get married before Rollins leaves the squad. As Carisi is responsible for prosecuting the squad’s cases and is not leaving the cast, it is inevitable that the series will continue to reference his relationship with Rollins, but this will be awkward with Giddish no longer appearing onscreen.
The idea of salary being a factor in the decision also has troubling implications of sexism. Ice-T, who plays Sergeant Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, has been on the series much longer than Giddish, meaning his salary could likely be much higher. So, if the decision about which cast member to cut was economic, he would be the more sensible choice, especially as his role has become much smaller than it used to be or than Giddish’s currently is. Cutting her instead seems like a decision influenced by gender bias, which is especially disappointing given that a major theme of the series is criticizing institutional sexism.
Whatever the reasons, getting rid of both Giddish and Rollins will be remembered as one of the historic series’ major blunders, and viewers are right to feel disappointed by the decision.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs new episodes every Thursday on NBC.