When the hit Network Ten series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit aired for the first time on television, one of its stars had not even graduated from acting school.
Danny Pino, who plays Det. Nick Amaro, was still studying at New York University in 1999 when Law & Order: SVU started screening.
Now in its 14th season, the US police procedural crime drama has celebrated its 300th episode.
The milestone episode, titled Manhattan Vigil, aired in the US yesterday and will be seen in Australia next week as part of Ten's commitment to fast tracking shows.
Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck) make appearances in the milestone show as do Peter Jacobson (House) and Brooke Smith (Grey's Anatomy) who reprise their roles as matchmaking kingpins.
Since joining the series last year, Pino has been in more than two dozen episodes as Amaro, an NYPD detective who transferred to SVU from Warrants and Narcotics.
He may be a newcomer to the established series but Pino says it didn't take him long to settle in.
"I found this experience to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging with the cast, crew and the writers. They were very hospitable," Pino says.
He was aware too that introducing a new character on a long-running television show was not without its risks.
Fans must gravitate to the newcomer and there needs to be a seamless blend within the show so as not to upset the balance and chemistry of the characters.
Pino says he had long discussions with writer and executive producer Warren Leight about how best to play Amaro.
"Warren and I spoke about what he wanted to see in Nick and what I hoped to explore and we found a happy medium . . . and we continue to cultivate that," he says.Law & Order: SVU airs today at 8.30pm on Ten, with the 300th episode airing next week.
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