CELEBRITY CHAT with Dann Florek
Millions of television fans know that actor Dann Florek is tough on crime in his role as Capt. Donald Cragen on the NBC hit series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. But few know that Florek is soft on animals, particularly of the homeless canine variety.
In fact, Florek says he tries to live by the well-known maxim, “I try to be the person my dog already thinks I am.”
Actor Dann Florek and his
girls, Little Dog (left), Greta
(on bench) and Maddie, enjoy
springtime in New York.
Florek, 57, is a Flat Rock native who attended Eastern Michigan University, where he met his wife, Karen. He got his start in professional theater in New York, touring with a company out of The Juilliard School, where he trained.
His lucky break came in 1988, playing quirky Dave Meyer in L.A. Law. That led to his role in Law & Order and its spinoff, Law & Order SVU.
Florek lives in Los Angeles but works in New York City, where SVU is set. This bicoastal star talked eagerly to MichigAnimals about his “girls.”
WHAT ROLE DID ANIMALS PLAY WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP IN FLAT ROCK?
My first pets were lizards from the dime store and a cat, Tiger. But I wanted a dog, so I took the money I received from my First Communion and got Molly B., a beagle. She was my partner in crime, because I would tell her everything. Your Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer side really comes out when you have a dog she taught me a lot of responsibility, having to walk and feed her, then pick up after.
YOU AND YOUR WIFE, KAREN, HAVE RESCUED THREE DOGS. TELL US ABOUT THEM.
I believe they find you. Karen was at a Home Depot that had a mobile adoption unit inside. And there was Maddie [who passed away last fall at age 13]. She’d just had puppies and was emaciated, a real mess. It was love at first sight.
Next came Little Dog. Maddie and I were in the car on the way to the park when I saw a bus driver putting a dog off his bus. She’d tried to get on! She ran into the street, so I said, “Maddie, we have to help this dog.”
I blocked traffic as I tried to grab her. She had some twine around her neck, so I reeled her in and took her home. She had no tags, so we put up signs. No one claimed her, so she became part of our family. When we were going out for a walk, we’d say, “Maddie, come here, and you too, little dog.” The name stuck; we call her LD for short.
Greta was found on the street by a chef we knew, and we all went to the same park. She started playing with Maddie and LD, and looked a lot like LD. Our friend couldn’t keep the dog, so his wife said to call me.
WHO KEEPS THE LAW AND ORDER IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
Definitely Karen. I have 10 things going on at once, so she can focus better. The animals, though, dictate what needs to go on in the house.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE A DOG TO BE CAPT. CRAGEN’S STAND-IN, WHAT BREED WOULD IT BE, AND WHY?
A mutt, because I’m a mutt. For a while, nobody knew how to cast me. “Does he do comedy, or does he do drama?” they’d ask.
CAN YOU RELATE TO ANIMAL PLANET’S SERIES ANIMAL COPS: DETROIT (FEATURING THE MICHIGAN HUMANE SOCIETY’S CRUELTY INVESTIGATION TEAM)?
I have seen some episodes, and I’m very glad there’s a squad that does that. I’m a pretty tough guy, but it’s very hard for me to watch Animal Cops sometimes. I was asked if SVU is too dark, too graphic, and my answer is that we shine a light in a very dark place. That’s what Animal Cops does.
ON TV, YOU PROTECT PEOPLE. IN REAL LIFE, YOU PROTECT ANIMALS. BESIDES RESCUING YOUR THREE DOGS, WHAT WORK DO YOU DO WITHANIMALS?
Karen and I volunteer in Los Angeles for various animal shelters, working telethons and recording public service announcements, plus we foster dogs from time to time.
WHY DO YOU SUPPORT THE WONDERFUL WORK THE MICHIGAN HUMANE SOCIETY DOES?
I support the humane treatment of all animals, especially dogs. I do that anywhere and especially where there’s a crisis situation. Michigan is my roots, my home, and MHS is a leader in the humane treatment of animals.