The Law & Order franchise has been keeping viewers in suspense since its first episode aired over 30 years ago. Since then, various spin-offs have developed, covering different aspects of the criminal justice system. The most recent addition to the Law & Order family is Law & Order: Organized Crime. Marking the long-awaited return of Christopher Meloni to his role as Elliot Stabler, Organized Crime follows an elite NYPD task force created to take down organized crime syndicates. Actor Ben Chase plays Freddie Washburn, a former narcotics detective and the newest member of the task force.
Ben spoke with Blast Magazine about his first foray into the world of Law & Order, his dream task force, and what fans can expect from the show’s remaining episodes.
Blast Magazine: What was your exposure to the Law & Order universe prior to accepting the role of Freddie? Had you watched SVU or one of the other Law & Order series?
Ben Chase: I grew up in New York City so like a lot of people, Law & Order was frequently on the dinner time tv. There was always an element of trying to figure out where in the city they were. When I started becoming interested in acting, Law & Order then became an extension of the New York theater community. You would do a reading at Jerry Orbach Theater or see Jesse L. Martin do The Winter’s Tale. Sam Waterson did King Lear. Someone was filming Happy! with Meloni. It was a dig deal when I got out of school that a friend was on SVU with Mariska [Hargitay]. So, for me, Law and Order has occupied different levels of awareness.
Blast Magazine: We don’t know much about Freddie right now but one thing we do know is that he used to be Sergeant Ayanna Bell’s partner in narcotics. Are we going to find out more about their backstory at any point this season?
Chase: I can’t speak to what will or won’t happen in this season in that capacity but I think one of the amazing things about being in the original cast of a Law & Order franchise is all of the amazing characters you are introduced to. Not only do I expect to learn more about Freddie and Ayanna’s relationship, but I also plan to learn some stuff about Jet and Diego. As far as I know, from my imagination, Ayanna and Freddie being partners over in narcotics means they trust each other considerably. You saw that in episode 2 where Ayanna is not interested in entertaining notions about Freddie being anything less than 100% in, albeit obnoxious. From what I understand about narcotics at NYPD, it is no joke, so I think that’s why.
Blast Magazine: Law & Order: Organized Crime is such a fast-paced, gritty show. I imagine this makes for a really fun and interesting filming experience. What has your experience been like working on the show?
Chase: It’s a good job for a couple of reasons. The bulk of it is that in television, a prized quality in a cast for me is people who you want to spend 14 hours with for open-ended amounts of time. Having a group of people that you genuinely like being around as coworkers is such a prized characteristic of the job. Being in New York City is also a miracle. This job could have been anywhere. I’m from New York so I get to go home afterwards.
Also, New Yorkers love Law & Order. They get so excited when they see the vans and the cameras and they find out its Law & Order. It really is an extension of the city. In episode 2 or 3, Diego and Freddy were in the car taking pictures of Wheatley. It was my first on location moment with Law & Order. Being in the cop car on the West Side Highway with foot traffic, the skyline, and people shopping was just very meta. It was a very cool experience.
Blast Magazine: Part of what makes Law & Order: Organized Crime so great is the members of the task force. They all have unique backgrounds and experiences and bring their own set of skills to the table. If you could assemble your own task force to help you fight evil, who would be on it?
Chase: So if the task force is still fighting organized crime, I would keep working with the folks I have now. If the task force is fighting more generalized evil, I would pick Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Frida Khalo. Also the nine-year-old in me says Patrick Ewing from the 94’ Knicks would help but I’m not sure how. I’d also include my brother and my wife.
Blast Magazine: Out of all the members of the Organized Crime task force, which character do you feel like you personally identify with the most?
Chase: I’ve just been squeezing myself into the Freddie character so for the moment, I would say Freddie because he is trying to occupy all my bad and good qualities. If I was just watching the show on tv, I would say it’s a tie between Ayanna and Jet. Actually, maybe in my fantasy, it would be Ayanna because I would love to have her level of composure and the way she can run a room, but I’m probably more like Jet. I think we will find out that Jet is like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Also, Ainsley [Seiger] is a straight up riot of a human being and this is her first acting job out of drama school. It’s incredible.
Blast Magazine: Law & Order: Organized Crime is a show about police that is airing during a time when police brutality is a major concern in our country. Why do you think people still gravitate towards shows about law enforcement and what purpose do you think they serve for viewers?
Chase: I can’t speak to why people generally gravitate towards cop shows because they occupy a wide range from realism and a real analysis of what policing is in society to far extremes of escapism. So, I can’t generally speak across the spectrum. But, in terms of our show, one of the things I am quite proud of is that in just a few episodes, there has been exploration of the white male savior myth, what the mental health conversation is in America right now, especially around masculinity, and the larger conversation about the presentation of police as societal institutions. This all exists on the page in our show. That is very important to me and something I wholly stand behind and viewers can expect that to continue.
Blast Magazine: I know you have to be tight-lipped here but can you give us any hints as to what is to come for the Organized Crime task force?
Chase: Everything you like x 100. You can expect to keep watching the good guys take on the bad guy. You can expect us to keep chasing down Wheatley who is proving to be pretty smart. You can expect to see more about how Ayanna stands up for who she is as an individual and a cop. You can expect to see some pretty amazing acting out of Meloni who is really bringing his all as an artist. You can expect to see Freddie mix it up and hopefully bring some heart and humanity to a slightly verbose tongue. So, everything you like x 100.
Be sure to watch Ben Chase on Law & Order: Organized Crime weekly on NBC at 10 pm and follow him on Twitter at @itsBenChase1!