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July 22, 2020

Meloni Gone Wild

Christopher Meloni takes on a far different character in the Hulu series Maxxx, and returns to a familiar one in the upcoming Law & Order: Organized Crime.

Melissa Byers
  • Christopher Meloni as Don Wild in Hulu's Maxxx

    Hulu
  • Meloni with creator-co-star O-T Fagbeinie in Maxxx

  • Meloni in his iconic role as Elliot Stabler in the NBC series Law & Order: SVU

    NBC

If all you know of Christopher Meloni is his iconic Elliot Stabler, from Law & Order: SVU or Commander Winslow of The Handmaid's Tale, you are in for a surprise.

In his latest series, Maxxx, debuting on Hulu on July 28, Meloni plays Don Wild, former manager of boy band alumnus Maxxx, played by O-T Fagbenie. The production is from Fagbenie and his brother Luti's production company.

Wild is just that - a wild character. He is over-the-top brash, loud, and very, very funny.

Meloni was surprised to be offered the role when he read the script. He says, "The script was sent to me, and Don Wild originally - he had a different name. And I'm so glad they changed it to Don Wild. Originally, he was in his 70's.

"And that was actually my first question to O-T. I'm like, so why would my name come up? I watch my diet. I exercise regularly. What? How are we getting this picture of me?

"And he laughed. He said, no. In fact, they were just spit balling and my name came up. And he said everyone just went crazy. They're like, that's it. That's the guy. And I still don't understand why, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

"Because when I read the script, I just thought it was so clear - everything was clearly defined. The relationships - I already saw the characters. I knew who they were. And so that was fun.

"And then when I showed up on set and I saw the cast that they had gotten, no one - I knew no one. But they were brilliant. I mean, every person that they got was just such well-trained actors. It was a real honor to be working with them.


Christopher Meloni: Don Wild came about, as a collaboration. I came with 1,001 ideas. I think they maybe shot down 10% of those. The others they welcomed with open arms, and we just went off and started running with it.


"But Don Wild came about, as a collaboration. I came with 1,001 ideas. I think they maybe shot down 10% of those. The others they welcomed with open arms, and we just went off and started running with it.

"And I must say, the costumer really put the big finishing touches. I mean, I think his character, 40% of what he is is in his wardrobe and the sunglasses and the necklaces and the rings. So the costumer had a big hand in it."

In fact, the whole look of Don Wild was an integral part of the character. Meloni says, "And she admitted to me every time she would see me, she'd go, 'Oh, I love meeting with you. Don Wild is so much fun.' But you know, it was a breath of fresh air.

"And I got it. I mean, she would get this maniacal gleam in her eye every time she and I were together. Because the imagination - the imagination would run wild.

"But it was really structured. I mean, she knew. She knew - we both knew, but she really had an even keener eye to what the clothes were saying and what they were projecting.

"I think she would kind of placate me, saying, what do you think? But she knew. And it was really fun to still work with her, collaborate with her, because she was not wrong. She was never wrong, and that was kind of fun.

"And then I did the earring stuff. I just thought he should have big, dangly earrings. And luckily, my ears had been pierced 1,000 years ago and they stayed open. Who knew that happened?

"And I dyed my hair. I thought that should be it. I thought it should be like a Las Vegas kind of hairdo. You see certain Vegas performers that have been there for 50 years. And they never age. They have perpetual black hair and their beard is black.. And that was it. That was part of Don. "

Meloni has played both comedy and drama throughout his career, and he enjoys the variety. He says, "Comedically, I think people know me from Wet Hot American Summer. And other stuff that those guys have done, like the movie They Came Together with Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.

"I just did Happy. And I've done other things. I just offhand can't remember, so yeah. You jump back and forth.


Meloni: I think of it as subconsciously or whatever I like to be wherever I'm not at the present time. So if I'm in drama, I just instinctively feel the urge to do comedy and vice versa.


"That's how I kind of feel it has just naturally happened. And I think of it as subconsciously or whatever I like to be wherever I'm not at the present time. So if I'm in drama, I just instinctively feel the urge to do comedy and vice versa."

So, naturally, after completing Maxxx, Meloni is jumping back into drama. And not just any drama, but a return to one of his best known characters, Elliot Stabler, created for NBC's Law & Order: SVU, which he left in 2011.

Since that time, the character has changed. Meloni says, "As soon as I said yes to the project and all that, I [decided] he has to have evolved.

"I think circumstances have evolved. I always felt he was a man under pressure, and how he reacted to that pressure, people will look at it a myriad of ways. Some might have found it unattractive. Some might have found it reasonable or righteous or what.

"But at the end of the day, I think if you're going to evolve that you learn how to engage life in a more beneficial way, both for you and for those around you. We're all on a journey to find peace, to find our true selves and our better selves. And I think-- I am hoping to portray Eliot in that light.

"Whatever his faults, whatever his shortcomings, people will see at least a man trying to make amends, not only to himself but to those around him. And just also trying to be a better cop, a better person, a better person.

"I don't feel I have to say this, simply because of the tone and timbre of the times. I would have felt that way regardless of what is happening these days in society.

"I just think that that's how I always saw him. I always saw Elliot that he was the deeply flawed man, but with infinite potential to be better.

"I just think he needed to figure things out. And so I think it's that to the degree we'll find him how much has he figured out.

Asked why now was the right time to return to the character, however, and Meloni becomes cryptic. He says, "The cornerstone of that decision is a personal - something just personal that I'll be able to discuss whenever I'm able to discuss it. I don't mean to be so oblique or cryptic, but that's really the answer."

Then he thinks better of it and offers his final answer, "Rosebud. There we go. There's your answer, "


For more on Maxxx, click HERE


 

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