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We're on a mission to uncover secrets of

We're on a mission to uncover secrets of NBC's "Law and Order: SVU." (Credit: NBC )

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Secrets of 'Law & Order: SVU,' from double-dipping guest stars to set details

Chelsea Piers, New York, NY 10011

Cue the ominous sound effects and "Law & Order: SVU" theme song -- we went on a mission to uncover secrets of NBC's "Special Victims Unit."

Just renewed for a 19th season, “SVU” is the longest-running primetime drama currently on TV. The show follows the lives and cases of an NYPD squad tasked with investigating sexually based offenses. Helmed by Lt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), the current sleuths on staff include Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice T), Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish), Det. Dominick “Sonny” Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza).

Aside from being an NYC-centric show, the crime drama is known for its extensive list of guest stars. Pretty much anyone who's anyone has popped up in "SVU" at some point in their careers, and many were nominated for and won Emmys for their stints on the series.

amNY.com spoke to show insiders and watched more episodes than we care to admit to reveal behind-the-scenes info even hardcore fans might not know.

Even though countless street scenes have filmed within

Credit: Lili Holzer-Glier

New Jersey snuck its way into the iconic New York show

Even though countless street scenes have filmed within the five boroughs, a few key scenes weren't even shot in New York. Up until the fourth episode of season 12, the precinct scenes, as well as some court shots, were filmed in North Bergen, New Jersey, according to NBC. Det. Elliot Stabler's (Christopher Meloni) Queens residence also was filmed in Fort Lee. At the start of its 12th season, "SVU" moved to a studio space on Manhattan's Chelsea Piers, which was previously occupied by the original "Law & Order." The area outside of Silver Screen Studios is commemorated with a street sign dubbed "Law & Order Way."

Pictured: "SVU" films outside Yonkers Citi Hall on Jan. 24, 2013.

Former cast and crew members aren't forgotten once

Credit: NBC / Michael Parmelee

Hidden on-set plaques honor the cast and crew

Former cast and crew members aren't forgotten once they leave the crime-drama life behind. Plaques, tiles and photos honoring past "SVU" notables can be found behind the scenes. "On one wall of the squad room, you can find a photo of an electrician who worked on the show for several years and a photo of a Teamster who has been with the show since season 1," Dean Taucher, the show's production designer, said. "The most recently added item is a memorial plaque that hangs in the squad room in honor of Sgt. Mike Dodds, played by Andy Karl, who was killed in 'SVU's' season 17 finale," Taucher said, adding that a third plaque hangs in the courtroom in remembrance of former "Law & Order" and "SVU" characters. "The art department cross-referenced every name they wanted to put on the plaque with a phonebook to make sure their 'made-up' names were not the names of real New York City residents," he said.

Richard Belzer set a record for playing the

Credit: NBC

The detective that popped up in all your crime shows

Richard Belzer set a record for playing the same character, Det. John Munch, on more than five different shows. Carrying the role over to "SVU" from the series "Homicide: Life on the Street," Belzer played Munch on the original "Law & Order," as well as on episodes of "The X-Files," "The Beat," "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," "The Wire" and the third season finale of "Arrested Development." After more than two decades on "SVU," the show retired the character in 2013 because Munch was in need of a serious break (probably).

Several regulars actually started on the show in

Credit: NBC / Michael Parmelee

These regulars started on the bottom, so to speak

Several regulars actually started on the show in one-off guest appearances as victims or perpetrators. Diane Neal, who played Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak until season 13, first appeared on the show as a woman accused of raping a male stripper in the third season. Kelli Giddish (pictured), who joined the squad as Det. Amanda Rawlins in season 13, appeared as rape victim Kara Bawson in season 8. Peter Scanavino, who's played Det. Dominick "Sonny" Carisi since season 16, first showed up in the "SVU" world as a janitor who was the victim of child abuse in season 14.

Fans who spend Saturday afternoons binging old episodes

Credit: Getty Images

Double-dipping guest stars is more common than you realize

Fans who spend Saturday afternoons binging old episodes might notice plenty of guest stars have appeared more than once in different roles. Some notable examples of double-dipping stars include Sarah Hyland, Hayden Panetierre, Kyle MacLachlan and Dan Lauria. Hyland played the younger sister of an alleged victim in season 3, and then appeared again as a troubled student from a gifted school in season 10. Panetierre was the child of a country music star in season 2, and then a teen offering sexual favors for money in season 6. MacLachlan played different grieving fathers in two separate episodes in seasons 6 and 13, and Lauria, who appeared in season 4 as a grieving father of a raped girl, popped up again as a molester in season 13.

Speaking of guest stars, many of the cast's

Credit: Getty Images

‘SVU’ runs in the family

Speaking of guest stars, many of the cast's family members have appeared on the show. Ice T's wife Coco Austin played a porn queen in the 2004 episode "Head," Traci Bell in 2007's "Fight" and Venus in 2012's "Theatre Tricks." Mariska Hargitay's father Mickey Hargitay appeared in a 2003 episode, and her husband Peter Hermann had a recurring role on the show as an attorney, Trevor Langan. Fun fact: The couple met on set in 2001.

Many cast members tried out things on the

Credit: HBO / Eric Liebowitz

The cast tried things out on the other side of the law

Many cast members tried out things on the other side of the law in HBO's prison drama "Oz" (which aired from 1997 to 2003), including Christopher Meloni (Det. Elliot Stabler), J.K. Simmons (Emil Skoda), B.D. Wong (George Huang) and Dean Winters (Det. Brian Cassidy). Winters even had to leave "SVU" after the first 13 episodes because of his contractual obligations to "Oz." He returned to "SVU" in its 14th season, picking up where he left off with a relationship with Det. Benson. Winters' younger brother, Scott William Winters, also made appearances on both shows, playing Winters' on-screen brother Cyril O'Reily on "Oz" and the recurring character Det. Joe Dumas on several episodes of "SVU."

Scanavino (Det. Dominick

Credit: @NBCSVU via Twitter

Breaks between takes are never wasted

Scanavino (Det. Dominick "Sonny" Carisi) has a wood shop in his dressing room to practice his hobby between takes. As Scanavino mentions in a video on the "SVU" Twitter page, "We all have these breaks on the show in between scenes and some actors like to work out. They like to do yoga ... they read books. Now, what I do is, I kind of mess around with lumber and I do old joinery, which is joining boards together. ... So, this is all stuff that I've learned how to do on the show with my downtime, and it's just how I keep myself busy. I think it's really relaxing and fun."

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