Arts District

John Waters Flexes Acting Muscles on 'Law & Order: SVU'

The Baltimore icon will guest star on an episode of the NBC show later this month.

Ed Gunts | March 4, 2020, 11:08 am

Arts District

John Waters Flexes Acting Muscles on 'Law & Order: SVU'

The Baltimore icon will guest star on an episode of the NBC show later this month.

Ed Gunts | March 4, 2020, 11:08 am


It was just a matter of time before the law caught up with John Waters—Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, that is.

This month, the Baltimore-based writer, filmmaker, and sometimes-actor will have a guest-starring role on the police procedural, created by Dick Wolf. It will be Waters’ first appearance on the NBC-TV series, now in its 21st season.

Waters said in a phone interview that he has a brief part in the episode and doesn’t want to give too much away. He said he got a call about the show from his agent and the filming took place in the studios at Chelsea Piers in New York City. “I was thrilled to be asked to be on it,” he said.

According to a synopsis by, a website for TV and film buffs, the SVU detectives will investigate “a case of sex-trafficking at a performing arts institute, wherein a bunch of male ballet dancers are recording the female dancers in their moments of passion and are using the videos to blackmail them.” The episode also involves a case that could force one character, Chief Christian Garland, “to put his friendship aside and arrest a corrupt pastor,” the website says.

NBC recently released a trailer for the show, which will air on March 19 at 10 p.m.

“A case of online extortion,” an announcer intones, ominously. “John Waters guest stars in a new SVU.”

The trailer features a distraught-looking Waters, confronted by the detectives. “Nothing disappears from the internet,” he tells them. “The male dancers are secretly recording the women having sex,” reveals actress Mariska Hargitay, in her role as Captain Olivia Benson. “This isn’t just blackmail. We’re looking at sex trafficking.”


The ballet-blackmail storyline is reminiscent of a real-life 2018 scandal involving the New York City Ballet, which fired two principal male dancers after they were named in a lawsuit for allegedly sharing sexually-explicit photos and videos of ballerinas.

The incident was an early test case of the limits of disciplinary action in the #MeToo era, and an arbitrator later ruled that the male dancers must be reinstated if they receive counseling. Since it began in 1999, the Law & Order series has been known for its ripped-from-the-headlines plots.

Waters' role is one of the first scripted TV appearances that he has had since he had his head chopped off by Jessica Lange when he portrayed movie director William Castle in a campy 2017 performance on the FX series, Feud: Bette and Joan.

In addition, he’s been on The Blacklist, as well as Real Time with Bill Maher, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and other talk shows. He also contributed to the latest Hollywood Vampires album with Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry.

In 2017, FX kept Waters’ Feud appearance a secret until a few days before the show aired, but NBC is doing the opposite. Waters said Law & Order: SVU is the kind of mainstream show he likes to be in, where his appearance is unexpected: “I’m proud to be exploited by NBC,” he said.

Does he play a bad guy on the show, or a victim? He won’t say exactly, but he offers a hint: “I’m an unsympathetic, unsavory character. Typecast once again.”

You May Also Like

Arts & Culture

Madison Smartt Bell Pens Biography of Novelist Robert Stone

Local author discusses his friendship with the late JHU professor and the works he left behind.

Arts District

A Look Inside The First African History Children's Museum

Sankofa Children’s Museum in Park Heights dubbed the first of its kind in the country.

Arts District

Everyman Theatre Launches Inaugural New Voices Festival

The festival features three plays, including one world premiere, by women, all performed in a brand-new space.

Arts District

Local Director Talks Filming the Federal Hill Man Who is Tattooed Entirely Blue

New short film tells story of Jim Hall, who began tattooing his skin blue in the '60s.

Arts District

Creative Alliance Organizes Sidewalk Serenades with Local Musicians

Amid coronavirus cancellations, local arts space thinks outside the box with virtual storytime, at-home crafts, and more.


Maryland Movie Corner: 'He's Just Not That Into You'

A new column reviewing films set locally, what they got right, and what they didn't.

Connect With Us

Most Read

With Emptying Venues, Local Music Community Faces Uncertainty: There are still ways to support local artists during the coronavirus outbreak.

Goucher College Unveils Roadside Marker Honoring Suffragette History: Descendants of women’s rights advocates recognized at special ceremony.

Maryland Hoops, and Everyone Else, Stomachs A Sudden End to Their Seasons: Plus, an update on Trey Mancini’s health and Joe Flacco shows for Marshal Yanda’s retirement party

Local Boutiques Offer Deals and Online Shopping Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: Opening and closing updates from the retail scene.

How to Support Small Businesses Amid Pandemic Panic: As foot traffic slows due to coronavirus, owners worry about lasting impacts.