On Tuesday, May 2 the Los Angeles Campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed a very special guest, actor Christopher Meloni, who is perhaps best known for playing NYPD Detective Elliot Stabler on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Meloni stunned audiences as Chris Keller on the gritty drama “Oz.” His vampire role as Roman Zimojic brought fresh blood to the horror opera “True Blood.” Not content with conquering the small screen, Meloni has given strong supporting performances in DC’s “Man of Steel,” the Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” and the cult classics comedies “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”
Meloni walked out to thunderous applause and a standing room only crowd. Tova Laiter, Director of the Q and A Series at NYFA, hosted the evening. She began the discussion by asking, “It seems like you have done every genre: drama, action, comedy. Was this by design or those were the breaks?”
Meloni responded, “It was by design. It was always by design. I’m a huge fan of physicality. I love really good action. I love Hong Kong Jackie Chan and I like early John Woo. I love the ballet of the motion and the beauty of the choreography.”
He continued, “I love comedy where you just get to blow out the pipes.” But comedy didn’t always come easy. Meloni described his first big studio comedy “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts was like “being at the big kid’s table.”
“I was on my best behavior and I was trying to be funny.” (Note to reader: he is very funny now!)
When asked about why he enjoyed studying the Meisner Technique, Meloni felt as though it forced away all the social niceties we have. Being reactive, whether it’s aggressively or subtly, is vital to the process. He described the repletion of the exercise as maddening but ultimately leading to truth and easier access to a range of emotions. “You have the ability to elevate moments and it makes working with the writer a more collaborative dance,” he said.
Student Justin Ardine said of the experience, “It was amazing to hear Meloni talk about all the jobs he worked, from waiting tables to bartending because I’ve done all those jobs, too.”
One NYFA student relayed a story of dismissive family and friends who thought his advanced age disqualified him from acting as a profession. Meloni didn’t think so. He recalled a friend question his choice to begin acting. “I don’t know if it’s cliché but it’s the God’s honest truth. It’s out of my hands. I had to act or I was going to die trying.”
NYFA would like to thank Mr. Meloni for his sage advice while grandly entertaining us at the same time! Meloni is currently starring in “Underground” as August Pullman, a morally conflicted man working as a slave catcher. He is also co–starring in big screen “Snatched” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.