By Jeff Pfeiffer
The first season of Law & Order: Organized Crime, the spinoff of Law & Order: SVU, ended with both triumph and tragedy for the Organized Crime task force.
Police Sgt. Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt) arrested corrupt pharmaceutical giant Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) and his family, a case Bell had been working for years. But her undercover embed was murdered, and one of her own in the task force betrayed her.
For Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), his wife’s murder brought him back to New York after 10 years away. His determination to get justice paid off with the arrest of the Wheatley family, but he also learned that someone he trusted was behind the hit on his wife.
Season 2 of Organized Crime, which premieres Thursday, Sept. 23, on NBC following the two-hour Season 23 premiere of SVU, picks up three months after the Season 1 finale. While Bell and her wife, Denise Bullock (Keren Dukes), have welcomed a baby son into the world, Stabler hasn’t seen his family in a while, as he is deep undercover. Their new target is the K-O — a powerful crime family trying to dominate the city’s illegal cocaine trade and eliminate their competition.
McDermott is returning this season, along with Tamara Taylor as Wheatley’s ex-wife, Angela, and Ainsley Seiger is back as Jet, an expert hacker and Bell’s right-hand woman. New faces this season include Guillermo Díaz as Bell’s former boss; Ron Cephas Jones as a powerful congressman; and Vinnie Jones as an enforcer in the K-O (all are recurring characters).
We caught up with Danielle Moné Truitt recently to talk about what’s in store for this new and “much more dangerous” season, her character and more.
Ayanna and Denise have had disagreements about Ayanna’s law enforcement job in the past. Are there still tensions there, and maybe even more so now that they have a son?
Danielle Moné Truitt: Well, yeah, so like you said, the baby is here. He’s a couple of months old, so of course she and Denise are trying to kind of navigate being new parents, and then Denise is also still working with her nephew on that lawsuit against the department. So some of [Ayanna and Denise’s] conflict — most of their conflict, honestly — is in regards to that. There’ll be new developments that come up in terms of the lawsuit and the case. And they both are very aware how the system kind of runs and what happens in these kinds of cases, but they’re just coming from two different vantage points.
Bell is more of a realist. So she’s like, “This is how things normally happen. Let’s not forget just because this is our family member, you know, the way that things are done.” And Denise is more of an idealist. So I think they clash in that way. Denise was like, “Well, this is my nephew, and this happened, and this is what’s right and this is what should happen.” And Bell was like, “But we all know that that doesn’t happen.”
Of course, she’s still going to be supportive of her wife, but she just wants her wife to know what they’re truly going to be up against.
Do you think Bell and Stabler both now kind of get each other after they tended to clash at first? Or are there still some differences in their approaches and their perspectives?
Yeah. A few things have kind of changed when you see us back in the second season, and so they — their partnership and, I think, their bond — is even stronger because they went through a lot together in that first season, but they definitely work a little bit differently [now]. And so there are moments where there’s a little bit of pushback on Stabler’s end, or Bell’s not really approving of the way he’s choosing to do some things, but they’re just a really great team. So they always know how to figure out a middle ground and move forward and work together for the greater good.
Regarding the investigation into the K-O crime family this season, how does that differ, if at all, compared with the investigation into the Wheatleys? Does it present new challenges and threats for the team?
Oh, yes. Yes. I can’t say why, but the threats are even higher this season. What we’re dealing with in the K-O crime family is much more dangerous in terms of Stabler’s connection to it and [Bell’s] connection to it. And the K-O crime family is just a much more ruthless crime family. So yeah, there’s a lot for them to navigate.
It’s almost kind of like if the K-O crime family is a tree, and then the branches of that tree connect to other players that are going to come into the dynamic as we continue to go on. So they’re a much bigger crime family. Richard Wheatley was kind of doing his own thing with all the cyber and computer and COVID stuff, whereas this crime family is years and years and years in the game, and so it’s a much bigger fish that we’ve got to catch this time.
Guillermo Díaz is new to the cast this season, playing Bell’s former boss. Are you able to talk a little about his character and his relationship to Bell?
Oh, yeah. His character’s name is Sgt. Bill Brewster. He used to be Bell’s sergeant, and they did not have a good relationship. So she’s not excited about him kind of coming back into the picture, and [when the season begins] you guys will see exactly why and what that dynamic is. But it’s actually fun for me to have Bell have an antagonist. … He’s been gunning for her ever since she was underneath him, and he’s still gunning for her today.
Do you know if there are going to be any more crossovers between Organized Crime and SVU this season?
Yeah, there will be. I don’t know how many, but I know that Stabler will definitely be on SVU, and I know Mariska [Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on SVU] will be in some of our episodes, and some others of us might be going over there and then coming over here. So I think that’s the cool thing about what [Executive Producer] Dick Wolf is doing with all these shows, having them intertwine from time to time.
How has it been entering the world of the Law & Order universe? Had you have been a fan of the other Law & Order series before this?
Well, what’s funny is I definitely knew of Law & Order, and I would watch reruns and stuff like that, but I wasn’t an avid watcher of it. I didn’t keep up with it. So it’s been really cool coming onto this show and learning so much about the series from the past and what parts of it they’re kind of making relevant when it comes to Stabler and Benson’s relationship.
And there’s been a lot I’ve had to learn. And the funny part is I’ve learned a lot of it from the fans on Twitter and stuff like that. But I definitely would watch reruns from time to time and once you watch one rerun, you end up watching like five or 10 on those days. So it was pretty surreal, of course, when I got this job, and I’m just very happy to be here.
TV audiences have also seen you in other crime dramas like Rebel and Deputy, so they might not know your background in the theater, and as a singer and a dancer. Do you have any other projects in the works where you can use those talents?
Well, I always say I’m a crazy person, and I always put more on my plate than I probably should, but it just makes me happy. So my plan is to produce my one-woman play sometime this fall here in New York. It’ll probably be one or two weekends that I’ll perform my play. It’s called “3.” I play three different women who grew up together, and they turn 30 and kind of have to face their demons, but it’s a straight play, and it’s really cool.
So I’m looking for a place here in New York. I’m like, “I can’t be in New York and not do some theater. I have to do some.” So I get to return to my roots a little bit, a couple of weekends while I’m here [shooting the series] in the fall.