LAW & ORDER Vet Elisabeth Rohm on Returning to Direct 'Only the Lonely' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LAW & ORDER Vet Elisabeth Rohm on Returning to Direct ‘Only the Lonely’

November 11, 2022 by  

Law and Order Elisabeth Rohm directing

LAW & ORDER — “Only The Lonely” Episode 22007 — Pictured: Elisabeth Rohm, Director — (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers from the Thursday, November 10 episode of LAW & ORDER, “Only the Lonely.”]

After spending almost four years on LAW & ORDER back in the early 2000s as ADA Serena Southerlyn, Elisabeth Rohm returned to the drama in an entirely new role in season 22: director.

“A friend of mine said it so perfectly,” Rohm tells Give Me My Remote of stepping behind the camera for the Thursday, November 10 hour “Only the Lonely.” “’You went back to your alma mater and you gave the commencement speech.’ Nothing has brought me more joy than doing this episode and sharing in it with Sam [Waterston, Rohm’s former co-star]—and anticipating sharing it with Sam, and sharing it with Sam before I was [officially] doing it and [just] talking about it and so forth. I, of course, was nervous and I’m sure he was nervous, too.”

For Rohm, who directed three Lifetime films in the past couple of years, she’s a part of the 2022-23 Female Forward/NBCU LAUNCH class, which “aims to discover multidimensional, visionary creators and empower them to tell their authentic stories, providing them the resources to enhance their craft and professional skills and supporting them throughout their careers.” The program guarantees each participant a slot directing an episode of television, as well as mentorships, shadowing, and more. (Directors last year helmed episodes of LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, NEW AMSTERDAM, and more.)

“Only the Lonely” ended up being the perfect hour for Rohm to direct, as she got to work closely with Odelya Halevi, who plays ADA Samantha Maroun in season 22 of the LAW & ORDER revival.

“It was such a joy,” Rohm gushes. “Especially to really support Odelya as a director—really wanting her to shine and really understanding what it’s like to play that role, with those strong male characters always around you. This episode was written by two phenomenal women [Pamela Wechsler and Jennifer Vanderbes], so you can see it was geared for Odelya to kick some big butt. And also for the Grace Bollard character [played by Alysia Reiner]. So this is a really strong episode for women.”

Here, Rohm talks about returning to LAW & ORDER, directing “Only the Lonely,” showcasing the personal sides of characters, and her hopes to continue directing within the Wolf world.

Going back to the start, how did you get involved with the NBCU Launch program?
It was really deliberate. I have started directing, primarily, and the last couple of years I did three movies for Lifetime during COVID. And I wanted very much to get into episodic [television], and I just felt it would be poetry to come back to NBC, to come back to Dick Wolf, and the Wolf family. So, I reached out and said, “This is what I’ve been doing lately.” And I shared GIRL IN THE BASEMENT with them.

[Then I] began the plan to apply to the NBC Launch program, because, at the end of the day, you need the endorsement of the studio, and to really be part of their family as well…[and it means] getting to direct for NBC shows, Peacock shows, in that whole umbrella. It’s prolific and inspiring. TV has become our movies of today; the high art is expressed in television. I think LAW & ORDER was always high art, but I think the world has caught up with television trumping film. And so that was where I deliberately wanted to evolve as a director: to do episodic.

I was really grateful to the Wolf camp for helping me navigate that and apply to the Launch program. And in the application process, you have to be specific about what your intention is, and mine was to direct LAW & ORDER…I did it for so long and there weren’t a lot of female directors. And I remember in the years of my career, not only on the show, but also just throughout the years of acting, how much I loved being directed by actor-directors. I just wanted to bring that to the set and to the show. I was thrilled that they did a reboot; I wanted to be a part of it. And directing made the most sense.


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A few months ago LAW & ORDER boss Rick Eid mentioned the two of you had discussed possibly doing this show or FBI. When it became clear you’d be doing LAW & ORDER, did you have discussions about which specific episode it would be, or did you find out when you got the script?
No, I didn’t know exactly what I would direct. And I will say, yes, Rick has been an incredible champion of mine. FBI, I’d still love to direct; I’d love to direct all of the Wolf shows and be a regular in the stable of directors.

But thanks to Rick, it really came to fruition. The commitment to NBC is that I would shadow two episodes, and then I would direct. So I didn’t know how that would unfold: if I would do one [shadow] at the beginning of the season [and] one towards the end, and then direct towards the end or how they would unpack it. But I ended up doing two [shadows], back to back. I did the crossover [hour] that Alex Hall directed, which was incredible, epic, a total television event. Really exciting to watch. Alex Hall is an incredible director. And then I shadowed Bethany Rooney [who directed “Vicious Cycle”], who actually also taught in the directors’ program, and she had directed me in the past, so it was really sweet to shadow somebody that had had directed me as an actress. And she’s so generous. And then [my episode] was literally up…I’d love to go back this season and direct more for them, if it’s possible.

I did not know what episode 7 would be. I don’t know how much thought went into it, because I was offered 7, right before the season had really started. And I think I got incredibly lucky to do this episode that Pamela Wechsler and Jennifer Vanderbes wrote, specifically about loneliness, specifically about a woman’s needs, specifically not only a technology culture, but also a COVID culture, in which how are we going to meet anybody? And how could we meet our needs? So, it’s really challenging. It’s an obstacle that we have to use these dating sites, and yet, it’s an advantage. It’s a very complicated topic.

And then women supporting women, protecting women. It was really important to me to have that last scene between Odelya and Grace, played by Alysia, be intimate. Like, “The jury is over here; I’m here with you. And I want you to know, I know what it costs you to do this, and you did it for women. And I’m with you.” And I just loved that as a choice.

So I love how it [all] happened. And it was definitely a plan, one in which I felt incredibly supported by the Wolf camp and by NBC, to actualize my dreams. It’s like I’ve been posting on Instagram: it’s been like #dreamsdocometrue.

Your two shadow experiences sound like they were very different. What did you take from each?
Alex Hall, who’s the producer-director of LAW & ORDER, and he is an editor by trade prior to directing. It was so fantastic, and I would love to continue to learn from him, because he is so specific about shot listing and preparation and just the plan. I really grew so much from watching him navigate that, especially with all of the complications of a three-hour crossover with two other shows.

We shot his hour before the second hour [of the crossover] was shot. So there were all of those elements to take into consideration: how to really deal with the continuity issue, and inheriting actors that had been cast from the first hour. He really handled quite a lot. And I think as a director, for me to observe that was great, because he put out a lot of fires, and he handled everything with grace and he was calm under pressure, and he was deliberate and he had a plan that was flawless. So that was great.

And then to see somebody like Bethany direct, specifically, somebody who’s done almost 300 episodes of episodic television, who has taken the time in her career to really teach other directors her technique—it was just really another female being incredibly generous to another woman. And again, she was very specific, very quick, very quick to move on. And I thought it was very interesting to see how nimble and clear she was about, “I’ve got it, I’m ready to move on.” … You have to think when you’re directing episodic, not just of the story, not just of the actors, but the crew. You are there as a guest, and you are there to move through, keep everybody elevated, and inspired, and motivated. You don’t want to be a director that overshoots and doesn’t know what they want. So I really really saw that with both Bethany and Alex. They were great mentors to have before I did this.

Having done LAW & ORDER as an actor for so long, I really know the tone of the show, and the culture of the show, and I know what it once was, and I know what it’s becoming, and I know what my vision is for what it will be. So it was really fun to play with the action element. That scene was really great to shoot. But then the real traditional stuff in the courtroom and outside the courthouses downtown—I mean, it’s my jam. I love it.


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A post shared by Elisabeth Rohm (@elisabethrohm)

Looking at the action element, you had a fun chase sequence to shoot. How much experience did you have with something like that, and what was the fun/challenge of staging those shots?
As an actor, I’ve done a lot of action. As a director, I’ve done a lot of stunts, but stunts mostly with intimacy and violence. And so I understand how things come together very well. And you just had to be very clear about your vision. I mean, it was tricky because we had other obstacles like rain—we had to go finish the part of the chase sequence on another day, 10 days later. But you really have to be a team player when it comes to episodic; you’ve got to trust your stunt coordinator, and you have a great relationship with your cinematographer, and have a plan. You have to be specific.

What was exciting and interesting is that we started the chase very far away from where the meat of the chase was, and then we went back to that. So we were sort of all over, and threading that together was really exciting and complicated and fun. I didn’t get to do any of that kind of stuff on LAW & ORDER, but I’ve done it as an actress and to shoot it was great.

I’ve done a little bit of action, and especially in my movie, GIRL IN ROOM 13 that I directed with Anne Heche. And even with GIRL IN THE BASEMENT, with Judd Nelson, we did a lot of choreographed moments.

But the chasing was cool. And that’s definitely part of why I wanted to shoot more LAW & ORDER, more FBI, ORGANIZED CRIME, and even SVU. They’re really expanding so much, and it’s like big movie moments—big action.


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A post shared by Elisabeth Rohm (@elisabethrohm)

Looking at the courthouse scenes, as someone who I imagine has spent literally thousands of hours on that kind of set, what from your own experience did you draw from?
First of all, I think the mistake is to come in and try to, like, show off—it’s where you go to die, right? You could be there forever in the courtroom. And I wanted to protect the actors, their morale, and get them out at an appropriate time.

So I really tried to be economical, have a plan, be very specific, I wanted specific moments and those moments, those looks, and those glances, that’s really where I spent time.

The rest of it’s pretty traditional. If I was really specifically trying to achieve a feeling like intimidation where Mark Feuerstein is like right in Alysia’s face, then we created a special shot. But a lot of it’s been done a million times So elevating it, but not wasting time unnecessarily. You want to be an artist, and tell the most exquisite stories, cinematically; you want to elevate the actors. But you also want to understand the crew, the culture of a show, and support them to get home to their families. Those are a lot of the plates that you’re juggling, when you’re directing, to be conscious of tomorrow, and what needs to be done the next day.

I think for me it was really fun to be downtown. Because I think I know downtown better than most. Me and Sam know where we shot scenes that even people in the reboot don’t know; they haven’t shot there before. So I didn’t get to really explore shooting down there as much as I would have liked, but I got to put a scene in Foley Square. I don’t know that had really been done on the new reboot. So it’s fun for me to dig up some of the cool things that we did in the past and be able to play with them in an episode.

Was there a particular scene you most enjoyed directing?
The action sequence was great. I actually really love the cop world. I never got to play in that world, not much, as a character, so I love it. I love handheld [camera work]; I love dirty and messy. I like a lot of the walk and talks and feeling the grittiness of New York. That’s how I shoot as a filmmaker a lot of the time anyway, and maybe I was really influenced by LAW & ORDER as I became a director, because I do a lot of handheld, a lot of steadicam.

So getting into their world and getting on the move, and getting through the streets, and just feeling the energy of that was really fun for me to shoot. So I would say getting into the cop world and all of that, what it is now, and what it always was, which was alive and propulsive and then now it’s full of action and all of that, it’s really exciting.

What was it like when you actually got to direct Sam?
Well, first of all, I was lucky that I had been there to shadow for almost a month. And also Sam knew that I had shadowed FBI, and he knew this was in the works. So I just said to myself, “Just do your job. He’s there to do his job. Nobody’s more professional than Sam. This isn’t about the reunion. This is about getting two scenes done and giving them ideas to play with, that hopefully inspires them, so that they want you to direct them again.” I didn’t want it to be like, “Oh, the hometown girl came back to the hometown and made it about me.” I wanted it to be about them and to really be the director that they needed, and that they would want to work with again. So I think that did happen.

It was really sweet, though. Sam sent me a text afterwards, after we shot, and he said, “Well, I was there for you if you needed any help, but it didn’t look like you needed any help. Good job.” And he was really proud of me. And I was just really so excited to share that with him. He knows that I’ve been directing the last couple of years, and he knew how much I wanted to come back to the Wolf camp as a director. I think he was pretty psyched that I succeeded.

There was a pretty lovely scene where Dixon (Camryn Manheim), Sam, and Violet (Connie Shi) talked about the difficulty sustaining a personal life outside of work. What was your approach for handling that?
One of the things I love about LAW & ORDER is the dry wit and the throwaway tone. I didn’t want it to be a scene that derailed from the tone and the specificity of the show. And also I didn’t want to move too far away from the severity of this criminal.

So I really felt like with Connie, she was dead serious and what they threw into it was situational around this case. So I wanted to find that balance. But I really was excited to have an opportunity to [showcase] what the show is doing now, which is expanding out and letting us know where our characters are.

That was also really exciting about coming back to the LAW & ORDER reboot, specifically, because that just never happened with us. It was barely even a little bit of salt thrown into the stew. And in this show, we’re really coming to know all of them and I love that. One of my favorite scenes in the new reboot is when Camryn exits her apartment, and she confronts those bullies [in season 1]. And I feel like I’m so invested in her now.

And [this was a] scene in this episode where the three came together and could share a little bit. I wanted [Dixon] to really find that dry humor with it, which is like, “And that’s why I’m alone.” And so many of us relate to that; it’s just too complicated. And [Sam] is single and that she’s really trying to find somebody and it’s very, very difficult. And then the complexity of Connie’s character [Violet] referencing that is how she met her partner, and therein lies the crux of the problem, which is that [online dating and apps] totally works as a mechanism to meet people, but it’s also the very thing that makes you entirely vulnerable and could be dangerous. I just felt like it was a great plot scene, it was a great character scene, and it was a great opportunity for the audience to really love these women, know these women, and want more from them personally.

Speaking to Violet, specifically, she mentioned her partner in that scene, which could be read as her acknowledging she’s queer. Given the importance of your former L&O character, Serena—who revealed she was a lesbian in her final episode—what can you share about conversations you might have had with Connie while directing that moment?
I don’t want to speak for her, but I have talked to her privately, and I do think that implication was intentional. Where it goes from there, I don’t really know. And I would certainly not want to speak for any producers or writers. But I just would say that was a choice word.

And I really loved the fact that my character on LAW & ORDER…that’s the cool thing about television: writers and producers are picking up what you’re dropping. What you’re laying down, they’re paying attention to it, because it inspires them. And so the years of Serena Southerlyn…LAW & ORDER, always, when it’s great, is cutting edge, is controversial, is ripped from the headlines; you’re gonna recognize those cases. And it’s exciting because it feels so timely and current. And I was really moved by the pursuit for gay marriage to be legalized…that subject at the time was everything. And I really cared a lot about it. And so every time an episode had some element of that issue in it, you could tell that my eyes lit up. So I think that’s why Dick Wolf wanted Serena to depart and for us to learn that . And it was great. I only wish we’d been able to explore more, which is what makes this LAW & ORDER so exciting because we’re gonna get to know these characters in a way that we didn’t get to know the OGs.

Going forward, would you like to reprise Serena on-screen again? Or is the priority directing?
You know, I’m very devoted to the LAW & ORDER world and the Dick Wolf camp. So I’d certainly entertain it…if they wanted it, I would probably do it, yeah. But I’m very focused right now on directing. That is literally where my attention is. So I think I’d be even more interested in being a consistent director in the Wolf camp, in the NBC camp, and the Peacock world, and continue to help actors do great performances and tell great stories from great scripts, which this was; I got very lucky with this script.


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A post shared by Elisabeth Rohm (@elisabethrohm)

Outside of LAW & ORDER, is there a particular Wolf show you’re hoping to direct next?
Well, I think it’d be really fun to shoot with some of the actors I know so well. I’d love to shoot with Chris Meloni [on ORGANIZED CRIME]. And with Mariska [Hargitay on SVU]. And also with Dylan [McDermott, who Rohm acted with on STALKER and BIG SHOTS], who’s on FBI[: MOST WANTED]. And the whole FBI world is really exciting. But I’m at this point dedicated to NBC. I’m grateful to them for having me be a part of the NBC Launch and the Female Forward program. So I’d say probably ORGANIZED CRIME and back to LAW & ORDER, the mothership, and it’d be really fun to go to SVU.

Is there anything else you want to share about your LAW & ORDER directing debut?
It was a great opportunity for Camryn Manheim and Odelya to step out and shine; I love women supporting women. And the one thing I want to say is that there were two female writers, there was a female director, and the female stars of the show really, really stood out. I just love seeing the Wolf camp being so supportive of women and NBC really being supportive of women, because this was definitely the women’s episode, and I’m really proud of it.

LAW & ORDER, Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC


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