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Law & Order: SVU Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

This is a transcript of an interview with Guest Star Countess LuAnn De Lesseps and Co-Executive Producer Dan Truly on February 16, 2011 about the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Question:
Given how bullying is such a hot topic, how did it feel for you to step into a storyline with the message that raises questions about bullying?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I'm totally not for bullying. I play a character who is basically an art collector on this episode.

Dan Truly:
There were two aspects to this that were interesting to us. The Countess was involved invariably on our show. We do a number of red herrings until we really get to the issue somewhere in Act 2 or 3 and she was used as an art collector as to kind of implicate our first suspect who turns out not to be the guy but he's kind of a slightly deranged, out of control artist who we think very much could be the guy.

As for bullying itself, that was indeed where this episode started. Bullying these days is usually talked about as a childhood phenomenon with other kids and obviously some tragedies in the news lately. But we went at it from the perspective of adult bullying which is actually quite a problem. And especially when people feel themselves locked in to a job because of the economy, other adults can bully knowing that they can get away with it and that was sort of the starting point for this episode.

Question:
LuAnn, since a work of art plays a central role in your character's storyline, how has art impacted you either positively or negatively in your own life?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Well I love art and my husband and I have collected some art over the years, my ex and myself. And so I feel I'm a patron of the arts and so it was a perfect role for me.

Question:
Have you ever experienced bullying in some form in your own life? And if so, how did you confront this?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I must say I did get picked on at school and have been bullied which I think a lot of kids have in the past. And I think it's a difficult time period in teenage years and it's bad any which way you look at it. I have children and so I would hope they would come to me which I know I would because I'm very close with my children if they were bullied. But I think it's important to have an open relationship with your kids and understand if that's going on in their life. But I have been bullied in the past myself as a teenager.

Question:
How were you able to deal with this? How did you confront it?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I had a large family so luckily I had support from my family and it was a phase in my life. And I think these phases pass and you get through it and hopefully you have the support of people in your life besides children that could be bullying.

Question:
Dan, what message would you like your audience to take away from this?

Dan Truly:
Obviously I don't think there are any pro-bullying stories out there but the message is that it can happen at any age and it's not just a childhood phenomenon. The emotions that adult bullies seem to exhibit are childish and kind of stem from the same place psychologically but it does not necessarily end when somebody gets out of high school.

Question:
You have said you were working with someone with your music. Can you talk a little bit about that?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I can't give away who the artist is but it's a major artist in the music business.

Question:
What kind of music?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Pop. It's so exciting though, I'm very excited about it.

Question:
Did this episode of SVU coincide with any of the shooting on Real Housewives? And did any of the housewives visit you on set?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
No it didn't happen to coincide with our show. And no, none of the women came to see me on set. No, I had The Insider come and see me on the set and actually a couple of people from my crew from the show but none of the ladies.

Question:
I understand that in one part of this episode you'll be semi-nude. Did you have any qualms about doing that and what does your boyfriend think of that?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
It's semi-nude and so I felt comfortable because I was covered and it was tasteful. So I didn't have a problem with that. The problem is saying the lines and keeping yourself covered and being in the right place at the right time. Anyway, it was a fun, challenging experience for me.

Question:
What was it like for you working with the cast of SVU?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
They were great. They were a great group of people and very supportive of me being there. I was kind of posing for an artist and to all of those things mixed together is a totally different feeling than working on our reality show. So definitely doing a scripted show was more challenging but really fun. They made me all feel really comfortable.

Question:
How did you prepare for the role?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Actually my boyfriend helped me prepare for the role. He read lines with me and that was it basically. The director and the writer Dan were the ones who said we think the Countess is perfect for this role and I think that they saw me in that role, embodying that role. And it happened very fast so I basically got my lines two days before I shot. So it was challenging but it was really great.

Dan Truly:
It did all happen very fast. But the moment, and I'm not quite sure why we didn't think about it before we wrote the script but we were very excited when our casting agents suggested her in the role and all of us on the show are big fans so it worked out perfectly.

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I signed a lot of autographs while I was there. It was great.

Question:
You've been through so much and we've all seen it on TV in the past couple of years. Can you tell me how the past couple of years have changed you? And did you ever see yourself coming to this spot in time where you're going to be on this show?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I didn't know what was coming. When I started the Real Housewives, which was supposed to be called Manhattan Moms, it wasn't even the Real Housewives. Little did I know that the show would become such a huge success. And never did I think I would write a book about my life and manners and etiquette. You know, my book is really autobiographical about my journey and that's what I share with people is my experience and what I learned along the way.

So and then being able to then sing and record and sing Money Can't Buy You Class I always thought it and said it in my book but to actually sing a song about it was really, really fun for me. And then to think I would be on Law & Order, I would have said no way, you know. You know, and I just feel like it's my time, you know. I've been very lucky I've found somebody who adores me in my life again and I just have a second chance and SVU is a part of that second chance and it's very exciting.Has the acting bug caught you now?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Oh for sure. You know what, I've already been called to do another appearance on another pilot on I think USA Network. So and so I hope to do more roles. I would love to go on 30 Rock for example. Tina Fey, call me.

Question:
Did you get to keep your wardrobe from this show?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I wish. I asked though. I said can I keep the dress? Anything Michael Kors I love, you know.

Question:
What's the most important piece of advice that people should take away from your book, Class with the Countess?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Beauty, class, and elegance lie within the soul. There's so many great lines in my book. It's about confidence, it's about respect, you know. I talk about how it's not I sing Money Can't Buy You Class, my message is it's all about how comfortable you are with who you are and I think that really translates to people and people feel immediately that you have class, charisma all of those things are so important and I think they're forgotten about today. You know, the simple compliment that you give to people and how much that builds people's confidence.

So really it's about being confident. And how elegance can be learned and that I learned along the way and that's what I share with everyone in my book is the lessons I've learned when yeah I came from a large family and I learned from very early on how to work with people and how to get along with people and the simple gestures. The please's and the thank you's get you a long, long way.

Question:
You do a lot of charity work. Can you tell me about that?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I came from that background. I'm a nurse, which a lot of people don't know about me, and so I think that giving is the true heart of elegance.

Question:
Were you nervous on the set of Law & Order SVU and did any of the cast members or actors give you any advice or did you even learn anything just by observing them?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Of course I was nervous, I was a bit nervous. I mean, these actors are such pros and they've been at it for a long time. And they were very helpful and very supportive of me and that made me feel really good and it created a very positive place for me to try my hand at acting. And I must say I got into it, I got into it. But it's kind of scary standing in front of Mariska Hargitay having these lines and she's a pretty amazing, powerful lady. And so it was a challenge but it was an interesting challenge and fun for me and I'd like to do more of it. You know, what doesn't scare you, right, it's good to do things that scare you I think. That's what makes you more interesting.

Question:
Dan, why did you choose LuAnn for this particular role?

Dan Truly:
The role needed somebody who would instantly sort of pop on the screen and kind of a class about her - the character is someone who sort of considers herself the muse of a sort of radical artist. And you usually get 5 seconds to make an audience understand who the character is and the moment that we thought of her it was like it just seemed perfectly natural that it's kind of the elegance and the class and it sort of fit with what we were trying to do for the story and so it was, I mean, it was a no-brainer for us.

Question:
LuAnn, can you tell me a little bit about your new love on the Housewives and will you be doing more acting?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Well I would love to do more acting and move into other roles on other shows and hopefully back on Law & Order Dan. And yes you will see more of my romance bloom on this coming season. And I feel so fortunate that I got a second chance because it doesn't happen to everybody and I really feel blessed that I found such an amazing person to share my life with. So you're going to see some of that coming this season.

Question:
When were you a nurse? I mean, a practical nurse?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Well I went to nursing school. I trained to be a licensed practical nurse. I used to wash dishes in a rest home and there's a lot of things people don't know about me. And I fell in love with the old people sitting out on the front porch of the nursing home while my mother was coming to pick me up and I would wait for her. And I just fell in love with the elderly and I wanted to help them. And I had to have a couple of jobs working as a secretary and working in offices and things and I just realized that my true love and my calling was to be a nurse.

So I went to nursing school and I worked as a geriatric nurse for three years and then I was scouted to be a model in New York and that's how I moved to New York. But once a nurse, always a nurse. In fact I just was asked by NYU to be their keynote speaker this year for their School of Nursing so I'm thrilled about that.

Question:
What is the reaction of people who meet you on the street and have seen you on TV? What's their reaction to you most of the time?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
Oh my God, it is so positive and so wonderful, you know. Won't you come to my school and teach my children teach the kids manners in the cafeteria? I mean, that from just being the Countess it's always been very positive I must say for me. And so the reaction is and I love the fans and that's what it's all about for me.

I had a woman sit down one day with me, I was having coffee and she sat down across from me and she said I need I'm so sorry about your divorce and she said but I'm having problems with my husband and she started to tell me her life story. And, you know what, I sat with her for half an hour and listened to her about her marriage, you know. So yeah, people feel like they know you. They think they know you. But like you see you didn't know I was a nurse, you didn't know I used to work for Italian television, nobody knows that stuff because you only see a tiny piece of who I am really on the show, you know? Hello?

Question:
Have you seen Bethany on Skating with the Stars and would you ever do a show like Skating with the Stars or Dancing with the Stars?

LuAnn De Lesseps:
I did see Bethany once or twice on Skating with the Stars and I thought she did great, she did a good job. I mean, she is very sportive, you know. And I don't know if I could do skating. I might try dancing though because I'm a pretty good dancer I must say.

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