She’s wooed a paramedic on NBC’s Chicago Fire and gotten naked with Adam Driver on HBO’s Girls, but Shiri Appleby‘s guest star turn on the Nov. 13 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a role unlike anything the actress has ever played before. Appearing in SVU‘s latest episode, “Military Justice,” Appleby takes on the persona of junior officer Amelia Albers, a woman so fiercely loyal to her military family that she hesitates to cooperate when she becomes the victim of an alleged gang rape by fellow officers.
“Amelia has tremendous respect for all her family has achieved. She’s strong, driven and brave when going through the aftermath of a horrible event and I’ve never played a character who has to confront such a situation and uphold a legacy,” Roswell alum Appleby — whose SVU gig was among her first since welcoming daughter Natalie in March 2013 — tells Us Weekly. “Her journey was emotionally exhausting and rewarding all at the same time.”
In the scene depicted in the video clip above, Appleby’s character struggles with admitting her attack to Det. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Det. Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish), with whom she first comes into contact with when she’s arrested for DUI. “Amelia finally feels safe enough to explore the confusion she feels about speaking up,” Appleby hints of the pivotal segment, filmed during her eight-day stint on SVU‘s New York City set.
Inspired to take on the role after viewing the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary The Invisible War, about the women who fall victim to military rape, Appleby calls it an honor to tell Amelia’s story. “While shooting I began to feel how I was speaking for these women and how I wanted to honor their struggles, pain and the injustice they feel. I was lucky to be working with giving actresses who were with me every step of the way.”
While on set, Appleby — currently filming the Lifetime pilot Unreal in Atlanta — tells Us she developed quite the rapport with Raul Esparza, who appears on Dick Wolf‘s drama as Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba. Says Appleby of working with the fan favorite Esparza in a series of courtroom scenes: “It felt like a great tennis match working with him. He’s smart, generous and funny as hell!”
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (EST) on NBC.
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