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The Two Law & Order Characters Laverne Cox Played Early In Her Career

Before Laverne Cox had her own Barbie Doll, or became a public advocate and face for transgender rights, she was a struggling actress just trying to make connections and get acting jobs in New York. Ever since she was a young child, she loved to perform, and began participating in talent shows and dance recitals after her mom finally let her take dance lessons when she was 8. "I loved to dance," she recalled in a 2014 Time Magazine interview. "I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did. Tap and jazz but not ballet. She thought ballet was too gay."

Cox writes about the turning point in her career on her website: In 2007, she saw ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money," which featured Candis Cayne as the first openly transgender actress in a recurring role on prime-time TV, and realized that she too could be openly trans and take a variety of roles. Cox immediately made 500 postcards that declared "Laverne Cox is the answer to all your acting needs." 

She sent them to agents and casting directors, which resulted in four meetings including one with Paul Hilepo, who is Cox's manager to this day. With Hilepo's help, Cox landed her first major jobs: two separate roles in the "Law & Order" franchise.

She played two confident characters

2008 was the year of "Law & Order" for Laverne Cox. Her first role was in Season 9, Episode 16 ("Closet") of "Law & Order: SVU." She plays Candace, the manager of the gym, which employs murder suspect Freddie Ramirez (David Del Rio). When Detectives Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) approach her for information, she immediately begins flirting with Stabler. Her appearance is brief, but unforgettable. 

Cox later spoke to ET about this role, saying, "SVU was my first big job. It was the job that made me. ... that episode re-aired so many times that it financed a major part of my transition. Thank you, Law & Order!"

Cox was next seen in Season 19, Episode 6 ("Sweetie") in the original "Law & Order." Detective Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) goes undercover as a truck driver to find a suspected murderer and he meets Minnie (Cox) at a truck stop restaurant. She asks him if he's looking to party and he tells her that he might be, but he's looking for a man, not her. She replies, "Honey, I'm more man than you can handle" before he clarifies that he's actually looking for someone who's younger and white.

Both of Cox's "Law & Order" appearances are brief, but they are memorable roles of trans women that led to a spot on "Bored to Death" a year later, and her Emmy-nominated role of Sophia Burset in "Orange Is the New Black" in 2013. As Cox writes on her website, appearing in "Law & Order" was "a rite of passage at the time for a New York City actor."