Why FBI: International Star Luke Kleintank Would Have Quit Acting If Not For Law And Order: SVU

Luke Kleintank as Scott Forrester on FBI: International
(Image credit: Nelly Kiss/CBS)

FBI: International debuted back in 2021 with a new team of agents based out of Budapest cracking cases all across Europe. International quickly became a hit and earned a two-season renewal along with FBI and FBI: Most Wanted before the finales even aired. Surprisingly, however, leading man Luke Kleintank almost quit the acting biz many years ago, and it’s only thanks to Law & Order: SVU that he didn’t. Kleintank spoke with CinemaBlend for Season 1, and shared the story of how SVU saved his dream of becoming an actor more than a decade before FBI: International.

With both FBI: International and Law & Order: SVU falling under the Dick Wolf banner of TV shows, they do technically share the same universe, and it’s not impossible for Luke Kleintank’s Scott Forrester to someday appear alongside Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson over on SVU. As it happens, however, he already appeared on SVU back in 2009, and FBI: International never would have happened for him if he hadn’t landed that role. Speaking with CinemaBlend, the actor told the story of landing that SVU role and why it kept him in the entertainment industry:

My first job ever was Law & Order: SVU. I lived in Maryland, and I took a bus for three and a half hours to New York, three and a half hours back, so that was seven hours a trip for every audition. I started doing this when I was 16, 17. And I was going to quit. I was going to be done because of all the rejection, and it was tough. It's just a hard business to get into. I remember I got an audition and I went to an audition for Law & Order: SVU, and then I got a callback. I got on the bus and we were driving up to New York City, and the bus broke down on the way up there.

Luke Kleintank started his attempts to break into acting at a young age, but those early years didn’t go too well for him, and a seven-hour commute wouldn’t be easy on anybody when success wasn’t guaranteed. A potential role on SVU could have been a game-changer, as it was already ten seasons in at that point and a proven hit. It seemed like he was finally about to get his shot… when the bus broke down. The actor continued: 

So we sat there for about an hour and a half and the guy was taking water from a ditch and putting it in the radiator to cool the radiator down. And I just remember just sitting there going, 'I'm done. I'm quitting. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm gonna go to college and go into business or whatever. Do something that my brothers are doing.' Just because it'd been two years of sitting on this damn Chinatown bus. I can't even tell you how long I spent on that bus. It was awful.

If ever it would seem like the stars weren’t aligning, the bus breaking down en route to what could be a big break could be it! Kleintank had already put in years of work, and his callback could have been ruined by mechanical issues. But that wasn’t the end of the story:

We got to New York City, and I ran down to Chelsea Piers. Jonathan Strauss was the casting director,and still is to this day. I ran there – I was two hours late, by the way. It was Friday night, and I ran in there and the receptionist was like, 'The auditions are pretty much over. They've been done for a long time. So let me see.' So she called up, and Jonathan Strauss and the director of that episode were up in their office, having some wine with their buddies. It turned out they were still there when I got up there, they were kind of tipsy. [laughs] I went into the audition and I did it. I did my thing, and I go back because I had to run back and get the last bus out back to Baltimore. I got the call that says 'You got the job.' And that was Law & Order: SVU! That was Dick Wolf.

When everything could have been ruined by the bus breaking down and Luke Kleintank missing his audition time, the SVU casting director gave him the chance he needed to earn his guest spot and make his first – but certainly not last – appearance in the Wolf Entertainment TV universe. The actor didn’t forget just how close he came to quitting, and in fact passed the story along to the casting director years later. Kleintank concluded, saying: 

I was about to quit, had it not been for Jonathan Strauss, and I spoke to Jonathan Strauss. I was on a Zoom meeting with him and Derek Haas when they gave me this job, and I told him that story. I was like, 'If it had not been for you, I would have gone home on that bus that night and had a whole different path in my life.

More than ten years passed between Luke Kleintank landing that first acting role on Law & Order: SVU Season 10 and the beginning of FBI: International, but the latter wouldn’t have happened without the former. Jonathan Strauss and International showrunner Derek Haas certainly have experience with working on multiple Dick Wolf shows as well. 

Strauss is credited as casting director on all of the One Chicago shows (including the short-lived Chicago Justice), the three current Law & Order shows (including SVU) and all three FBIs, including of course FBI: International. For his part, Haas has served as a showrunner on Chicago Fire from the very beginning back in 2012. 

Season 1 of FBI: International ended on a cliffhanger that could mean big things for the beginning of Season 2, and Kleintank was able to preview at least one dynamic that remains solid as a rock. The show will return to CBS in the fall, undoubtedly with plenty of new action-packed cases for Forrester and the rest of the Fly Team to tackle. 

If you want to check out the role that convinced Luke Kleintank not to quit acting, you can find the “Snatched” episode of SVU Season 10 streaming with a Hulu subscription and/or a Peacock subscription. You can also revisit the first season of FBI: International starring Kleintank with a Paramount Plus subscription.

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.