EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 6:30 PM: And then there were five. I’ve just learned that a fifth actor, Rhys Coiro (Entourage) is also on a plane to New York to test tomorrow for the Law & Order: SVU male lead.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE 5 PM: Law & Order: SVU is going younger with its new male lead. I hear that Dick Wolf and NBC have narrowed the search for an actor to replace departing Chris Meloni to four actors — Danny Pino (Cold Case), Kevin Alejandro (True Blood, Southland), David Conrad (Ghost Whisperer) and Michael Raymond-James (Terriers). The four are being flown to New York where they will test tomorrow opposite returning SVU star Mariska Hargitay. Of the four, Alejandro and Raymond-James recently did guest spots on SVU. New NBC boss Bob Greenblatt said in May that the network “wants to keep refreshing an old franchise” with its changes to the veteran crime procedural. Hargitay, who recently adopted a baby, had asked for a lighter work schedule, so her character Det. Olivia Benson will be less prominent in the second half of next season, prompting the network and creator/executive producer Wolf to also look for a possible new female lead. From their early choice, Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is not happening, it looks like NBC and Wolf will be going younger on both the male and female side as they try to extend the series’ lifespan by several more years.