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By Susan Green and Randee Dawn

Extracts about Isabel Gillies only featured here

Chapter 1: The Rudiments

            No such precedent existed for Stabler’s long-suffering wife on SVU. Isabel Gillies was shopping for a wedding dress when a call came asking her to head over to the casting session. It wasn’t exactly a convenient time, but she told them: “’This is the right role for me and I should have it.’ And this I got the part and that was that. I was in the first episode.’

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Photo by Jason McDonald

Chapter 21: Actors and Their Characters

Isabel Gillies (Kathy Stabler, 1999-Present)

Originally From: New York City

Other Wolf Films Association: Law & Order (Monica Johnson, “Bad Girl”, 1998)

Selected Other Credits: (Film) I Shot Andy Warhol (Alison, 1996), Metropolitan (Cynthia McLean, 1990); (TV) The $treet (Alison, 2000), Sex and the City (Elaine, 1998)

Upcoming Project: (Book) Happens Every Day (2009)

 

Just the Facts

About Gillies: “During this show I’ve been engaged, married, had two babies of my own, got divorced, got remarried, got pregnant again,” says Isabel Gillies. And the viewers thought Kathy Stabler had some challenges! In fact things have been almost as busy off-camera as on for Gillies, who has been working since 1990 in largely independent films.

            Her children are six, five, and four, which means the part-time job she’s held at SVU for the past ten seasons is “perfect”. “I can’t do a TV show or a movie in Los Angeles or Vancouver because I have these kids, and for a long time I was a single mother so I really couldn’t go anywhere,” she says. “So I just do this and I got married to a wonderful man, and I don’t know- nice life!” Still, far from static: Her memoir, Happens Every Day, is due on in June 2009.

 

About Stabler (Kathy, that is): “Long-suffering” doesn’t really do Kathy Stabler justice. That said, she’s probably one of the most tolerant and believable cop wives ever shown on television. She and Elliot married young (after he knocked her up), and as an SVU cop he’s rarely home, leaving Kathy to raise four children for most of the series (baby made five in season nine).

            Stress pulled them apart for a time in season six, leading to the brink of divorce. She initially had her suspicions about her husband’s partner, but now believes Det. Benson to be no threat to their union. “Kathy really has her family, and she wishes it was more intact sometimes, and can be disappointed,” explain Gillies. “But I think Elliot and Kathy have a nice marriage; they get it about marriage.”

 

The Rest of the Story

            Apparently, a little bullying works wonders with SVU creator Dick Wolf: Like Mariska Hargitay, Isabel Gillies knew she wanted the part, and wasn’t shy about telling him he’d better not hand it off to someone else. “When I went in (for the audition), Dick and Ted (Kotcheff, executive producer) were there, and I remember saying, ‘Listen, this is the right part for me, and I’m missing my kid to be at this audition so you’d better give me this role.”

            Something about that seemed to tweak the powers that be- and because of the nature of the crimes, a single male lead detective could come off as perverted or strange, which meant Kathy and the kids were key roles.

           “I love seeing what happens to (Elliot) in terms of the family,” says Gillies. “So many people watch it who have children, and worry about what could happen if something dreadful happened to them, so the family is comforting in a way. It would almost be too cold for the lead detective to have no reflective sensibility.”

            But many fans are invested in an eventual Stabler/Benson hookup. “Over my dead body!” Gillies jokes about the possibility of them having a relationship, then acknowledges that that scenario would be fine with some loyal fans. “There are people (on the Internet) who are like, ‘I wish she’d died in that (season nine) car crash!’ Which is a little bit weird; I mean, don’t wish death on anybody.”

            Even though she’s usually on only a handful of episodes a year, Gillies is always happy to be asked back. “I love it,” she says. “The thing about SVU is the humanity of it. I like that the family has a part in that, because it brings more humanity to the show. I feel incredibly proud to be part of it, the whole franchise. It’s a good example of how entertainment can work for people in their lives.”