“Law & Order” Gets Oklahoma Star Power

Law and Order” fans will see a new face this month when the show debuts on September 22nd. Oklahoma native, Milena Govich, will play the first-ever female detective on the Emmy-award winning drama.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Govich said in a phone interview.

At the time, the actress had just finished shooting the third of 22 scheduled episodes. Filming for the season will end in May.

Govich said the days are long, but filled with excitement. The show is filmed entirely on location in New York and while her attorney counterparts on the series have many indoor scenes shot inside the soundstage, almost all of the detectives’ investigation scenes take place on the streets.

“I’m astounded at where we end up shooting,” Govich said. The locations run the gamut from fabulous penthouses with breathtaking views of Manhattan to run-down tenements. But Govich said she enjoys the variety and prefers it to working in a studio.

Her typical schedule includes 12-hour days, five days a week. Govich said the biggest challenge so far is sustaining her energy level throughout the day–day after day.

“I’m getting used to it,” Govich said. “I’m finding my pace as an actor.”

Her character, Detective Nina Cassidy, is half Irish, half Italian and comes from a family of cops. It was her life-long ambition to be on the police force.

“She’s very no-nonsense, very fiery,” Govich said. “It’s a lot of fun to play.” In the opening episode, Cassidy “saves the day” during a very public incident and it results in her being promoted to detective, ahead of others who have more time and experience on the job.

“From the beginning the deck is stacked against her,” Govich said. “She spends the first couple of episodes trying to prove herself.”

Govich said while the story lines themselves are pretty set, there is some give and take between the actors and the writers regarding character development.

“That’s where our uniqueness as actors comes into play,” Govich said.

Many New York City detectives wear rings made specifically for police officers. In crafting her character, Govich chose an older style of ring, with the idea that it would’ve likely been the ring worn by Cassidy’s father during his time on the force. Such is the attention to detail paid to every aspect of “Law & Order.”

In preparing for her role, Govich followed New York City police detectives and also spent time at One Police Plaza in downtown Manhattan.

“It’s a great learning experience,” she said. “I get to really explore the world in which these characters live.”
She also took tai chi, a self-defense form of martial arts, and firearms training. To complement her New York instruction, Govich got personal lessons in firing a gun from her uncle, Jerry Green, a retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer, and her cousin, Sgt. Blake Green from the police academy in Norman.

“It was a great bonding experience for my family,” Govich said.

Govich grew up in Norman and never dreamed of being an actress.

“If you’d told me, even a few years ago, that I’d be a lead on a television series, I’d have looked at you like you had two heads,” she said, laughing. Govich is used to being on stage, she danced ballet and played the piano and violin.
When she went to the University of Central Oklahoma, Govich performed in the musicals and operas and took a few acting classes. In 1999, she graduated with a double major in performance and pre-med.
Her mother, Dr. Marilyn Govich, teaches voice in the music department at UCO.

After graduation, Govich moved to New York and landed a role touring with “Cabaret.” She later joined the Broadway cast of the show as the first understudy for the lead role of Sally Bowles.

Over time, Govich realized that she wanted to focus more exclusively on acting roles and began studying with Fred Kareman at Carnegie Hall. She discovered the creativity needed for crafting a role.

“I absolutely fell in love with it,” Govich said. “It is very interpretive.”

In 2005, Govich guest-starred on a “Law & Order” episode called “Flaw.” Guest starring on the show and later being cast as a series regular is a route many “Law & Order” actors have taken.

“Dick Wolf (the show’s creator) has stayed very much hands-on with the series,” Govich said. “If you audition for a regular part and you’ve been a guest star, he would know if you showed up and did a good job or if you were hard to work with.”

Govich said working with actors she respects and admires, along with following her passion is what she enjoys most about being on “Law & Order.”

“I wish everyone could make a living doing what they love every day.”

Beginning this season, “Law & Order” moves to Friday evenings at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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