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SYFY WIRE Mrs. Davis

Remembering that time 'Mrs. Davis' star Betty Gilpin got left in a 'Law & Order' body bag

Before she was a star, Betty Gilpin was almost an abandoned dead body on a Law & Order set.

By Matthew Jackson
Betty Gilpin in Mrs. Davis

These days, Betty Gilpin is the Emmy-nominated powerhouse known for projects like GLOWGaslit, and most recently, the Peacock original series Mrs. Davis, in which she stars as a nun on a mission against the titular AI that has seemingly taken over the world. But just like her colleagues, Gilpin had to pay dues to get to this point, and that included one very odd mishap while working on the set of Law & Order: Criminal Intent years ago. 

RELATED: Mrs. Davis showrunners on Betty Gilpin on how the wild sci-fi saga was born

Last year, during an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Gilpin recalled how, in the first couple of years of her career, her primary jobs were either in theater or on episodes of the Law & Order franchise, a mainstay for up-and-coming New York actors looking for a small part in a recognizable brand. Gilpin made the rounds within the franchise, appearing on the main Law & Order series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It was on the latter of these shows that, while playing a dead body, she was very nearly forgotten by the entire cast and crew thanks to a convincing performance as a dead body.

According to Gilpin, she began the episode playing a nude dead body stuffed in a barrel, who was then discovered by Vincent D'Onofrio's Detective Robert Goren. That scene had its own sense of embarrassment, as she had to disrobe while realizing that she was in full view of New York's West Side Highway, but the real run came later, when she had to be zipped up in a body bag. The scene called for her to appear in the open body bag, which would then be zipped up on-camera. The take went fine, until the cast and crew moved on without Gilpin.

"I just had to sort of be in there," Gilpin recalled. "They called cut, like, 'That's lunch, guys! Great day!' I hear footsteps on gravel getting further and further away, van doors closing… 10 seconds goes by, I hear one far-away PA being like, 'Oh my God,' and footsteps coming towards me."

Thankfully, Gilpin was rescued despite not calling out for help at that point -- she joked with Fallon that she didn't yell because she didn't want to be "high maintenance" -- and went on to play a living person on Criminal Intent in a future episode. So it all worked out, and Gilpin got to walk away with a humbling experience.

So the next you watch Mrs. Davis, remember that the show's acclaimed star got her start being stuck in a body bag.

Mrs. Davis airs Thursdays on Peacock. New episodes of The Tonight Show air weekdays at 11:35/10:35c on NBC and stream next day on Peacock