Veteran actor Jeremy Sisto has built a career playing a long list of crazies (bipolar boyfriend to Claire on Six Feet Under and Keri Russell’s trashy abusive husband in Waitress, most recently), but now he’s teamed up with the good guys to play Detective Cyrus Lupo, a forceful addition to the Law & Order crew and the new partner to series veteran Jesse L. Martin’s Detective Ed Green. Sisto talked to Vulture about Law & Order superfans, the show’s famous opening sequence, and the promise of never-ending residual checks.
Were you a fan of the show before you signed on?
To be honest I don’t think I’d ever seen an episode all the way through. But it’s literally been on since I was 16 or 17 — basically my entire adult life — and it’s impossible to not be aware of that show, no matter how little TV you watch. It’s this major part of American pop culture, and of course when you’re growing up trying to be an actor, you dream of being on a show like that.
How’d you prepare for the role?
Well, I put the show in my TiVo and of course because of all the spinoffs my TiVo filled up instantly and I lost all my other shows.
I knew when I signed on that it was different than anything I’d done before. They want characters who are very clear and driven and active, and there’s not a lot of room for internal stuff. Also, it takes a real intellect to follow the clues and figure out who did what, and my mind just doesn’t work that way. I don’t know if it’s a left-brain thing or a right-brain thing or whatever, but it’s a side I apparently don’t use often enough.
Has the cast accepted you?
Jesse is just the sweetest guy in the world. A total team player. He and Epatha [Merkerson] have been doing this a long time so they’ve been extremely … generous with me. I guess all the actors who come on the show start out really wanting to delve into their characters, but the ones who’ve been on the show for a while know better.
What did it feel like to watch that first episode?
It was so weird. I felt like I was in one of those Disneyland photos where you put your face in the cut-out of some weird shot and get your picture taken — like I just cut-and-pasted my own face into the opening sequence. It almost feels as if you were to have a Law & Order birthday party or something and you’re role-playing. It’s really, really strange.
People who love Law & Order really obsess over it. Any crazed fan encounters so far?
Most people who approach me are Six Feet Under fans, because if you’re on a show for awhile, it really sticks in people’s brains. They treat you almost like you’re a family member or something. Honestly Jesse Martin gets it the most; it’s amazing how many people shout out to him how much they love him while we’re shooting. I mean, he’s been on the show for nine years! I’ve only done this one season so I suspect I’m not such a big deal.
Is it weird to think about the fact that you’ll be in L&O reruns, probably for perpetuity?
I think that’ll be nice. It’ll be kind of a fond memory. Not to mention the residuals.