‘Law & Order: SVU’ Wanted Zoe Saldana As a Recurring Character But ‘She Became Famous Very Quickly’

Over the past 20 plus years, Zoe Saldana has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood. From Star Trek to Avatar, and eventually the MCU franchise, Saldana has quickly risen to fame. 

But did you know she first got her start on Law and Order, appearing in not one, but two of the franchises’ series? In fact, as it turns out, producers originally wanted the star to have a much larger role than she ultimately did.

Instead, the actress appeared on just one episode of Law & Order: SVU. So what happened and why weren’t the show’s producers able to make it work?

Who is Zoe Saldana?

Zoe Saldana attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Zoe Saldana | Theo Wargo/WireImage

If you’re a fan of entertainment, you’ve probably seen Saldana appear in a show or movie at some time or another. The New Jersey-born actress got her first role when she was 20 years old playing Belinca in the original Law and Order series. The actress went on to appear in another episode of the show later that year. 

After Law and Order, the 42-year-old landed roles in Center Stage, Get Over It, and Snipes. By the time she returned to the Law and Order franchise in 2004 for an episode of SVU, the actress was started to gain recognition among her peers for her work.

‘SVU’ producers originally had a bigger role in mind for the actress

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It’s not surprising SVU producers wanted to bring Saldana onto the show in a bigger capacity. Though the actress ended up playing Gabrielle Vega, a law student and daughter of a murder suspect, the original plan was for Saldana to eventually make it to the district attorney’s office as an assistant district attorney.

Casting director Jonathon Strauss told BuzzFeed, “Zoe is one I had my eye on for a while, continuing, “It’s no secret now, but there’s no one like her, and there really was no one like her 10 years ago.” 

Ultimately, Saldana only played in one episode of Law and Order: SVU, with timing being a major issue. According to Strauss, “In the end, it ended up not being practical because she became famous very quickly and the scheduling was too complicated.” 

Both parties moved on from the missed opportunity

While it would be fun to see Mariska Hargitay and Saldana work side by side, ultimately, it was a pairing that just wasn’t meant to be. And it’s safe to say, neither the show nor Saldana are looking at “what might have been.”

After her appearance on SVU, Saldana appeared in a series of movies before landing her biggest roles in 2009’s Star Trek as Uhura, following that up with a leading role in the monster blockbuster Avatar. She has since gone on to appear in subsequent Star Trek movies and plays Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy. Saldana currently has numerous projects in the work, including follow-up films for all three movies. The actress has been nominated for several acting awards, winning the Teen Choice Award three times for best leading actress. In 2018, she was recognized for her work by receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

As for SVU, while Saldana undoubtedly would have been a valuable asset to the cast, the show has only thrived since 2004. The show is currently in its 22nd season and just recently became the longest-running scripted drama in television history with seemingly no end in sight. 

Could there be a return appearance from Saldana in the future? The actress is still as busy as ever. But if the opportunity ever opens up, it’s surely one fans will be there for.