“You know, I think it’s really interesting that these two characters kind of came into my life around the same time,” said Pablo Schreiber during our recent webcam chat (watch below) about his villainous turns in “Orange is the New Black” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” “I think that these two roles came at a very specific time in my life when I think it was essential for me … to expose and hopefully expunge a little bit of my darker side.”
He expressed that darker side in two very different ways: in a comic role as a corrupt prison guard known as “Pornstache” in “Orange,” and in a dramatic role as depraved serial rapist William Lewis on “SVU,” both of which are being entered for Emmy consideration for guest acting.
He readily admits it was easier for him to tackle a villainous role in a comedy; laughter broke the tension of his character’s nefarious deeds. “Comedy is like the great release valve,” he said, and he found he also had great affection for Pornstache: “I love that guy … He puts up these walls and acts out and behaves in the only way he knows how, which is just being a shit-head. But underneath all that bluster I think is a really, really sensitive and lovable guy.”
His role on “SVU” was much darker, and he credits much of the success of his story arc to the working relationship he developed with Mariska Hargitay during their on-screen battle of wits: “I think that’s really what made it such a memorable saga is the fact that there was this chemistry between these two people that were kind of inevitably drawn to one another, and although what was happening between them was horrid and frightening and terrible, underneath it all there was this very strange, compelling chemistry.”
“SVU” is the last remaining “Law & Order” series still producing new episodes, and Schreiber, who made appearances on the original series and “Criminal Intent” as well as “SVU,” laments their ending: “Money hasn’t always been easy to come by. In those early years, you’re a young actor … you’re getting paid 300 bucks a week to do a play, and just hoping that you’ll be able to make this career work at some point, and the ‘Law & Orders’ – that was it. That was kind of what got us by.”
After having played such dark roles, Schreiber is ready for a change of pace: “Comedy is definitely on the table next for me, something light and fun.” His next project is “The Brink,” a half-hour comedy for HBO co-starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins.
In the meantime, will he pick up a pair of Emmy nominations this year for “Orange is the New Black” and “Law & Order: SVU”? Watch our complete interview here and make your Comedy Guest Actor predictions.