The longest-running scripted primetime drama on television is making a big change for season 21. For the first time, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will have more women than men in its writers room, E! News reports. The room is now made up of 11 writers, seven of whom are women.
"It's fresh air into the writers room" SVU showrunner Warren Leight told E! News of the new hires, some of which are former journalists who "know the world" well, but have never written for television before.
Law & Order: SVU, one of several spin-off series of NBC's original Law & Order, follows Lieutenant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay, an executive producer on the series) and her co-workers in the New York City Police Department as they investigate "sexually based offenses" that are "especially heinous." The nature of the series means that many of the survivors and victims of such crimes are women. Given the sensitivity of the subject matter, putting more women in the writers room is one way to confirm that storylines surrounding women survivors are handled with care.
Leight is confident that season 21 will be a specific season for the show, which boasts over well over 400 episodes.
"You want the stories to not feel like they could've happened any time in the last — it could've been episode 330 or 387, you want it to feel like, ‘That was one of the season 21 episodes.' We're looking for stories that allow as full a range of emotion as possible," Leight told the outlet.
Since the show premiered in 1999, Hargitay, its star, has become an outspoken activist for sexual assault survivors. She produced the 2017 HBO documentary I Am Evidence, a film that explores the issue of untested rape kits in the United States. Hargitay specifically visited Detroit, a city known for such a problem.
"To me, the rape kit backlog is the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes," Hargitay says in the film.
Law & Order: SVU airs on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.