It seems to me that just about everyone has a little crush on Christopher Meloni. Maybe it’s his unique body of work that sets him apart. Or maybe it’s his intense, searing stare. Sure, he might not have strong name recognition like our old standbys George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but that’s not stopping boys and girls everywhere from loving Meloni. I’ve done some field research on the subject including but not limited to performing my own Law and Order: SVU marathon(s) and having several lengthy conversations with friends on the subject. More than one of us has stayed home on a weekend night just to watch SVU, due in no small part to needing a heavy dose of lead Detective Elliot Stabler, played by the charming Christopher Meloni. But his years cleaning up the mean streets of NYC alongside Mariska Hargitay–sadly, now over–are not the only reason we keep coming back for more. If you can’t handle the wait until his next movie, Man of Steel, comes out (June 14), here is a collection of some of Chris’ most dynamic and compelling roles to help fill the gap in your heart.
1. Chris Keller: Oz
As Chris Keller in Oz, Meloni isn’t afraid to tackle serious subjects. Brooding, maniacal yet somehow enchanting, Chris Keller is a role Meloni really sinks his teeth into. Keller explores his sexuality and self-loathing in equal measure and Meloni’s performance throughout the HBO series is mesmerizing. He beautifully and effortlessly depicts Keller’s complex torment. The kid’s got chops.
2. Sven: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas & 3. Gene: Wet Hot American Summer
It’s not always the leading men that steal the scene. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Meloni plays long-haired sass-pot Sven, the Flamingo Hotel desk clerk though his role is uncredited. While in Wet Hot American Summer, he plays Gene, camp cook and strange habit having Vietnam vet. I had the privilege of seeing this performance happen live at last year’s SF Sketchfest and I can personally attest to Meloni’s brilliant comic timing. Gene the cook and his oddball one-liners have helped Wet Hot American Summer secure its forever place in cult movie heaven.
4. Johnny Gunn; 1st & Ten: The Championship
In 1984, years before hitting the cell-block in Oz, Chris Meloni starred alongside OJ Simpson as Johnny Gunn in 1st & Ten: The Championship, a sports comedy about a fictional California football team. Here, while wearing a gold chain and sans shirt, he defends the honor of the King, Elvis Presley. It’s this kind of shirtless acting that really allows us to follow in love with Chris and all of his skills. What range!
5. Guy in a McDonald’s Ad
Like most actors, Christopher Meloni has had to pay his dues. That means acting in commercials during the early stages of his career. Luckily for us (and for him) he found a way to make the most odd McDonald’s campaign in the ’80s endearing. Listen as he explains all the reasons why this woman shouldn’t date him just to get her to practically beg for a date. Oh that Chris, always get them eating out of his hand.
6. As Himself
An successful actor must also learn to navigate the media. Press junkets and the like can be tedious but Christopher Meloni always seems to be a good sport. Even when interviewed/attempted seduced by known frog-lover Miss Piggy, Meloni keeps his cool. I also like to imagine that his cell phone really does have a Law and Order style “dun-dun” as it’s custom ring tone. That notion helps me sleep at night.
It’s this kind of light-hearted approach to ordinary life that makes Meloni so magnetic. He’s the man we want to be or want to be with, on some level. He’s strong, he’s handsome, he’s not afraid to kiss a man on screen. He’s the best, and we love him. What’s your favorite Meloni moment?