The last time we saw him on our TV sets, T. R. Knight was playing Grey’s Anatomy‘s beloved Dr. George O’Malley before he met an untimely end in 2009. In his first television role since (he’s been continuing a successful stage career), Knight plays somewhat against type: George O’Malley was the bumbling, baby-faced surgeon with a nervous smile and horrible luck with women; his latest character, Gabriel Thomas from last night’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is an alleged (SPOILER ALERT!) “power-reassurance serial rapist” with a neck tattoo — sure, the tat is of a yin-yang symbol — but still, a neck tattoo pretty much never screams “nice guy.” Gabriel sure looks like George, but that’s where the similarities end. Like George, Gabriel’s into blonds, but only of the submissive variety — that would certainly exclude Izzie Stevens.
It’s rather inspired to cast an actor so associated with a recognizably benevolent character in such a disturbing role (sort of the effect Elijah Wood had as the expressionless, evil Kevin in Sin City). Seeing Knight go from a bright-eyed family man one moment to a sinister predator who snarls, “Tell me you love me, Mommy” to the women he’s assaulting (ick) in the next is appropriately chilling. And, as it turns out, the dichotomy makes even more sense as, in a twist typical of this long-in-the-tooth series, Knight is pulling a Sarah Michelle Gellar and playing estranged identical twins, one of whom has a seemingly charmed life whereas the other’s is in serious shambles.
It may be a long shot, but for fans, his appearance on Law & Order might be a sign of more T. R. to come. In the enduring spirit of cross-promotion, NBC seems to use SVU as a testing ground for future series leads. Beautiful relationships between NBC and stars often begin in that famous interrogation room. Just look at Hayden Panettiere’s two roles ramping up to Heroes, and Maria Bello’s significant role last season en route to Prime Suspect (which really is getting better — save that show!). Even though Knight’s return to TV was welcome in my eyes, I found his performance weirdly unsatisfying. He didn’t get to sink his teeth into his role(s) as much as I’d hoped because a lot of the episode was devoted to initiating new detectives Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) and Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish); plus, his characters’ Southern accent sounded a bit inconsistent — anyone else notice that?
How did you like Knight’s menacing turn in SVU? Was it convincing, or did you just see George O’Malley?