Marlee Matlin's Emmy-Winning Law & Order: SVU Turn Is Worth Revisiting

"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has no shortage of star power. From Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay to Ice-T and Richard Belzer, many beloved actors have graced the show with their regular presence over the years. "SVU" also boasts a range of notable guest actors, including David Harbour of "Stranger Things" and the legendary Ann Dowd of "The Handmaid's Tale."

In 2004 and 2005, "Picket Fences" and "West Wing" veteran Marlee Matlin joined the show's ever-growing list of notable guest stars. Matlin plays Dr. Amy Solwey, who first appears in the Season 5 episode "Painless." Her rare and dangerous genetic disorder leads her down some dangerous alleys, which first brings her to the SVU team's attention. However, she's far from your average cookie cutter villain of the week, as there's plenty of nuance — and even a pinch of redemption — in her story arc. 

The actor's performance is so masterful that it earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination in 2004 (via IMDb), but that's just one of the many reasons Matlin's "SVU" guest star turn is worth revisiting.

Matlin was already a highly decorated actor when she appeared in SVU

Sure, many extremely talented and decorated actors have appeared in "Law & Order: SVU." However, even for a show of its pedigree, it's pretty rare to score an actual Academy Award winner, let alone one who made history with her win.

Marlee Matlin is precisely such a person. In 1987, she received an Oscar for her first movie role in "Children of a Lesser God," becoming the first deaf actor to win the prestigious award (via Britannica). In 2022, she got to witness the second deaf actor Oscar win in history, when "CODA" won the Oscars for best adapted screenplay and best motion picture of the year — as well as earned Troy Kotsur an Academy Award for best supporting role. Matlin is a prominent representation activist and part of the "CODA" cast herself, so she was understandably delighted about the win. "I'm so happy because finally, this validates that everyone is respecting our work as actors in every way," she told ABC News. "It's been 35 years and I've been waiting for another deaf actor to join me."

Casting an actor of Matlin's caliber was a pretty good move for "SVU," and her Emmy nod for "Painless" is further testament to her considerable talent.

Matlin made SVU history as Dr. Solwey

Though Matlin's prominence has only increased over the years, she was already a historic trailblazer with a stellar résumé when she appeared in "Law & Order: SVU." As such, it's pretty understandable that her role received a significant amount of attention. In fact, per a 2005 press release by NBC (via The Futon Critic), Matlin's "SVU" success led to yet another history-making achievement. When she was asked to return for the Season 6 episode "Parts," she became the show's first guest star lawbreaker to make a comeback.

"I loved the challenge of reprising my Emmy-nominated role of Amy Solwey on 'SVU'," Matlin spoke of her return. "When I had heard that the producers had never brought back a perp to reprise a role, I was very honored. Amy is such a complex and troubled character and one I could easily see return. She was a big challenge for me." She also expressed her happiness for the opportunity to further interact with the show's stars, praising Richard Belzer in particular.

Matlin might be willing to return as Dr. Solwey

Sure, Dr. Solwey's last "SVU" appearance was way back in 2005, but the character might not be as ancient history as you think — at least, if Matlin has a say in the matter. It looks like she wasn't just paying lip service when she praised the role, seeing as she seems to genuinely enjoy playing the character. In fact, she might even be willing to return as Dr. Solwey.

Matlin has expressed her fondness of the character multiple times over the years. In 2011, she tweeted about a planned, yet apparently nixed third "SVU" appearance that would have featured a romantic connection between Dr. Solwey and Belzer's John Munch. In 2013, the actor reached out to Belzer and showrunner Warren Leight on Twitter, revealing the considerable fan buzz that still surrounded her role. "How have you been @MRbelzer? And how can we convince @warrenleightTV to bring Amy Solway back to [SVU]? I get tweets every day! xx MM," Matlin wrote, complete with a smiley face. She once again mentioned her potential willingness to return as Dr. Solwey in 2017 (via Twitter). 

Plot wise, it might be difficult to bring the character back after all these years. After all, Dr. Solwey was in pretty bad health when she last appeared in the show, and Belzer left "SVU" years ago. Still, who knows? Matlin certainly seems game to give "SVU" a third whirl, so perhaps one day fans will indeed see her triumphant return as the long-suffering doctor.