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Danny Pino discusses Amaro’s return for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s 500th episode

Danny Pino
Danny Pino returns as Nick Amaro for Law & Order: Special Victim Unit’s 500th episode. Pic credit: NBC

Nick Amaro has been through a lot of changes in the last few years.

As he prepares to return for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s epic 500th episode, Danny Pino discusses his character’s journey and what brings him back to meet up with his old SVU colleagues.

Why is Nick Amaro back?

Debuting in Season 13, Nick Amaro was a top-notch detective, although his temper could get him in trouble. He was married with a daughter, but the job took its toll with his wife leaving him after discovering he’d produced a son from an affair while undercover.

In the Season 16 finale, Amaro was shot hunting a dangerous fugitive. He broke it to Benson he was leaving as he realized his past behavior would prevent him from rising up in the NYPD so he moved to California to be with his family. 

Speaking to TV Insider, Pino, who stars in the FX series Mayans M.C., discussed how he returned to the role and what brings Amaro to the SVU squad room. He’d been approached by director Norberto Barba who was interested in showing how Amaro had changed in the six years since his departure.

“I think he’s in a pretty positive place. He’s happily married, albeit in a blended family in California. He’s found a way to do what he’s passionate about, which is to bring closure to families who have suffered horrific crimes. I think he feels good about himself in that he’s earned two post-graduate degrees and is working his way towards a doctorate. In a lot of ways, I feel that he is in a place of strength and has something incredibly valuable to offer not only Benson but to law enforcement in general.”

Amaro is now working on solving cold cases via new genetic testing. He’s approached by a true-crime writer (Aidan Quinn) who is convinced the wrong man was convicted of a murder 20 years ago. Nick is seeking Benson’s permission to reopen the case to get at the truth.

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Amaro and his squad reunions

Amaro and Rollins
Amaro (Danny Pino) reunited with Rollins (Kelli Giddish) on Law & Order: Special Victim Unit’s 500th episode. Pic credit: NBC

A crucial part of the episode will be Amaro reconnecting with his old squad members. That includes how Benson is now the captain, with Pino saying Amaro’s respect is based on the real-life respect he has for Mariska Hargitay.

“I think the healthiest thing that Mariska and I share and experience, and I think you see that in the relationship between Benson and Amaro, is this space for the characters to grow while they’re still connected to that same friendship, that same relationship that they share. Space for growth is important. Amaro respects that she’s captain. Amaro respects the amount of responsibility that is on her shoulders. He’s incredibly proud of her. I also think that is reflected back to him, that Benson also feels similarly about him.

Amaro’s never afraid to punch up, right? He’s never afraid to speak truth to power. And while that could come across as abrasive to some people, what I think is attractive about that character trait is that he’s honest and sometimes honesty, however harsh it might be, is love. It’s kindness. It’s actually trying to break a cycle. It’s trying to help people evolve and maybe shine light into a blind spot. Amaro, I think, has always been that for Benson, and I think Benson has been that for Amaro in a big way.”

Benson isn’t the only familiar face Amaro reconnects with. It was indicated that he and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) had a brief affair when working together. With Rollins now with Carisi (Peter Scanavino), that could cause some new tension on the case. 

“I don’t think Amaro knows that for sure. It’s important for Amaro to retain some of that innocence as to what he knows, what he doesn’t know. What’s fascinating for me is that Amaro, even though he’s now an expert in genetics and an expert in forensic science and an expert in genealogy, he is still a detective and his bulls**t meter is still highly tuned…So for Amaro, it’s all suspicion. And for people who know Amaro, suspicion for him is enough.”

While it’s likely there are a few twists to come in the case, Amaro is ready to make Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s 500th episode one to remember.

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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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Danny Pino
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit brings back a familiar face for its 500th episode