Law And Order's Elisabeth Rohm Talks Returning To Direct And Why An Intimacy Coordinator Was 'Essential' For Her Episode

Elisabeth Rohm directing Law and Order
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the “Only the Lonely” episode of Law & Order Season 22

The detectives and attorneys of Law & Order were tasked with investigating the murder of a crisis consultant in “Only the Lonely,” and the victim’s long list of enemies meant that it was a complicated case… to say the least. The drama brought in a Law & Order veteran to direct, with former star Elisabeth Rohm stepping behind the camera. She opened up to CinemaBlend about her experience in returning to the show in a different role, and why having an intimacy coordinator on set was “essential.” 

The case of “Only the Lonely” ultimately came down to a very-high stakes conflict of “he said, she said,” with suspected killer Devon Miller (played by Mark Feuerstein of The Royal Pains fame) using a sex tape to implicate his former lover in the murder of the crisis manager. Grace Pollard (Orange is the New Black alum Alysia Reiner) was a lawyer who had fought tirelessly for women, and was convinced that the tape would ruin her, but testified against Miller anyway. While Pollard’s testimony combined with Maroun’s skill in the courtroom were enough to get the conviction, they soon learned that Pollard was correct about the tape giving her a reputation. 

It was an emotionally intense episode, so it was only fitting that a former Law & Order star was on hand to direct it. Elisabeth Rohm was previously best known in the franchise for her role as ADA Serena Southerlyn across four seasons of the long-running drama, and “Only the Lonely” brought her back to the courtroom. She came to the show as a director as part of the NBCU LAUNCH Female Forward program, after directing three films for Lifetime and feeling ready to pivot to episodic television. Speaking with CinemaBlend, she shared:

I reached out to the Wolf [Entertainment] camp and shared with them my first movie, Girl in the Basement, and then began to navigate how I could come into the studio system, being NBC, and work for the Wolf camp. So I applied to this program [and] I loved that it was a Female Forward program. They chose a very small group of directors, all of whom had to be very intentional in their application process, what they wanted to do, what they wanted to achieve. It was very focused and serious, and my endorsement came from the Wolf camp. You have to pick and choose what you want to direct, and I chose Law and Order. So the commitment was to shadow Law and Order, and then you would direct your episode.

The Wolf Entertainment universe is currently comprised of no fewer than nine shows, with the three FBIs on CBS and the three One Chicago series on NBC joining Law & Order, Special Victims Unit, and Organized Crime. The original Law & Order started it all, and Elisabeth Rohm was able to return thanks in part to her previous movie directing work. “Only the Lonely” was her episodic television directing debut, and is already a standout of Season 22 for shedding more light on characters while still following a case from start to finish. 

Elisabeth Rohm directing Law and Order

(Image credit: NBC)

In fact, the episode showcased female characters (and scenes between female characters) more than usual, taking a bit of time away from the case of the week to put the spotlight on them. When I noted that “Only the Lonely” showed the reactions to the case from the perspectives of multiple women, Elisabeth Rohm shared that part of her inspiration ties back to her time on the original run of the series. The actress-turned-director said: 

Having been a part of the original Law and Order, I saw it as a great opportunity to come to know who our female characters are in this episode. One of the really cool, exciting things about the new reboot is that we are expanding our world so that you can go home and get to know these people to a certain degree, and that the audience is then therefore even more invested in them. It was just a great opportunity to get a script that really built that out, and to have it happen with all three of the female characters. Camryn [Manheim] got to know more about her character, Odelya [Halevi] got to know more about her character, Connie [Shi] got to know more about her character.

It’s not every week that viewers get a scene like Dixon, Maroun, and Violet commiserating about their love lives and romantic history, and the one in “Only the Lonely” advanced the case while also showing their different perspectives on the situation. Elisabeth Rohm went on to speak about finding the balance between sticking to the plot and shedding light on the characters: 

To help them play that within the structure of the formula of the show and plot, and not derail it and feel like it's another show entirely, and to do it within the structure of the show, I thought was a really great challenge. And I think they delivered. Knowing more about them, personally I'm so much more invested in them as an audience member. Yet, at the same time, the stakes are high, and we're dealing with a homicide, and we're dealing with a bad guy, and we're really trying to get underneath it and solve this crime. You wanted to maintain the seriousness of whodunit, and that the intentions were there, and that the stakes were high and the tension was high. It was personal.

Maroun in particular showed how personally connected she was to the case and defending Grace Pollard’s privacy when the judge agreed with Miller that the sex tape could be shown in open court. The case might not have ended in conviction without her questioning Pollard on the stand to give her the chance to share her side of the story. The director explained: 

These women were coming together to help one another, but they were also revealing. I really love when people are vulnerable, and I think that a great takeaway from the show is that you can still do your job, you can still be effective, you can be great at your job, and you can still be a vulnerable, sensitive woman, and sharing that with other women, and being real. That's really powerful, and that became a powerful tool in the storytelling of this episode. So it felt like a real new Law and Order.

Pollard’s vulnerability was on display with the sex tape, and she was convinced from the very beginning that it could ruin her. Maroun insisted that all the tape showed was a woman seeking intimacy in her own way, and Pollard took the stand with no shame. The tape was the turning point of the episode, and Elisabeth Rohm revealed that using an intimacy coordinator was key to making the scene work. She said:

The thing I really appreciated was that we had an intimacy coordinator, and I know that the actors appreciated that. I've worked with intimacy coordinators before and I think they're essential. It's really important that everybody feels comfortable and that that is deeply communicated about for many reasons. One is that sometimes you can feel pushed into things you don't want to do. So it's good that they have a voice and a person that's advocating for them. It also creates more trust between actors, and if you do the work with an intimacy coordinator, once everybody's ready to shoot, it saves time, because it's all been worked out. I'm glad that the culture has embraced the importance of an intimacy coordinator. Alysia and Mark are phenomenal actors and the crew of Law and Order are all so positive and supportive of each other. It was a very respectful environment.

Intimacy coordinators have become more popular in recent years, with productions ranging from Bridgerton to even House of the Dragon using them to make the actors more comfortable. The Law & Order director pointed out that it also saves time once filming begins, because the actors know what to do and how to do it. The episode of course didn’t show anything racy at 8 p.m. ET on network television, but there was enough that an intimacy coordinator made a difference. 

Elisabeth Rohm directing Law and Order

(Image credit: NBC)

All things considered, Elisabeth Rohm’s return to Law & Order as a director rather than an actress resulted in an emotional hour of television with some very strong performances. If you missed “Only the Lonely” the first time around or just want to revisit it, you can find the Law & Order episode streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription now. The streamer also offers earlier seasons of Law & Order featuring Rohm’s time as ADA Serena Southerlyn. If you’re already prepared to start planning ahead for the new year, be sure to check out our 2023 TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.