Local fans of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a popular NBC program, may have noticed a familiar face on the Nov. 30 episode.

Lili Reinhart, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bay High School, was scheduled to make her primetime TV acting debut on the police drama. She played a principal role as a teenage character named Courtney Lane.

“It’s all pretty incredible, and I’m honestly very excited,” Reinhart said. “It was very different from everything I’ve done before. A lot more crazy — very fast-paced.”

Reinhart spoke with Sun News prior to the episode airing, so she couldn’t discuss details of her role. However, she had the opportunity to appear with most of the show’s major characters.

“I got to work with incredible actors and actresses who were so experienced, and they definitely taught me a lot,” she said. “It was really great to work with professional actors.”

Her appearance included scenes with veteran actors Mariska Hargitay (Detective Olivia Benson), Danny Pino (Detective Nick Amaro), Kelli Giddish (Detective Amanda Rollins), Richard Belzer (Detective John Munch) and Dann Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen).

The young actress said she was impressed not only by their acting, but also by their teamwork and ideas to make scenes better.

Reinhart said she was also impressed by the scale of the production.

“This show has been going on for 13 years, so they have their own building,” she said. “They have their own sets inside the building. It’s just kind of a different atmosphere than what I’ve worked with before.”

She spent two weeks in New York in late October and early November taping the episode. Her days included tutoring to keep up with her schoolwork.

Reinhart, who is also a singer and dancer, works with acting coaches in Cleveland and Los Angeles to help her prepare for auditions. She started acting in community theater, including numerous roles with Olmsted Performing Arts in Olmsted Falls, and also appeared in “Annie” with Mighty Goliath Productions in Avon Lake.

She developed her interest in film and television while making short videos with her friends and family.

Nearly two years ago, Reinhart landed a role in a TV pilot for “Scientastic!” a family educational program that aired in 2010 on WQED-TV, a PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. Additional episodes may be shot, and producers hope the program is picked up by other PBS stations.

Shortly after taping that pilot, the actress landed leading roles in two independent feature films that have yet to be released: “Lilith,” a horror film shot in Cleveland last year, and “40 Miles,” which is described as a “post-apocalyptic thriller.” The latter film is scheduled for shooting in 2012.

Her biography also lists roles in several other independent films.

Landing acting roles can be a challenge when living in the Midwest because most of the opportunities are in New York or Los Angeles, Reinhart said. However, she’s proven it can be done.

“I usually tape about 99 percent of my auditions at my house,” she said. “I have a camera and record myself, and my mom reads the other lines off-camera. Then I send it to my agent and manager, and they send it to the casting director, and we see how it goes from there.”

That’s how she auditioned for and landed the role on “Law & Order: SVU.”

Reinhart’s mother, Amy, said the family hopes the attention Lili gets from her appearance on the popular NBC program will lead to additional job offers.

“She’s done a lot of stuff in the last year or two,” Amy Reinhart said. “We’re hoping with ‘Law & Order’ coming out, it’ll open up some more opportunities.”

Lili said she has received support from her family and friends in pursuing her acting career.

“They’re all very excited and very proud of me,” she said. “They’re all very supportive, and that helps me a lot. It keeps me going and makes me confident.”

Asked whether her goals for the future include acting on stage, in movies or on television, Reinhart said she wants to do it all.

“I really would like to be on Broadway someday,” she said. “That would be a dream come true, but for now, I am very interested in film. So, I just hope to keep doing film and TV and eventually Broadway. It’s definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

© Bruce Geiselman
Original Source