The Law & Order: SVU Episode You Forgot Starred Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana has done it all. From starring opposite Britney Spears herself in "Crossroads," to joining the Marvel pantheon as Gamora in "The Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, Saldana continues to prove her worth as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Her rise is even more impressive considering how hard the actor has had to fight back against industry bias, telling Entertainment Weekly that, early on, she received some demonstrably bad advice from her then-manager. 

"When I did 'Center Stage,' I remember being discouraged by my management at that time to use my name," the Marvel star revealed. However, she made it clear, "Their intention was never for me to stop being who I was. They celebrated who I was." The manager in question was a former performer, who'd changed her own name, reasoning it was simply the done thing at the time. Thankfully, Saldana stuck to her guns, intent on making it in Hollywood for exactly who she is and what she can do. 

During that time, much like every other actor trying to get their foot in the door, Saldana appeared on "Law & Order: SVU." Although she only played a small role in the episode, the soon-to-be megastar's talent shone through. 

Zoe Saldana played an ambitious law student

InStyle reports that Zoe Saldana appeared in "Criminal," a Season 5 episode of long-running procedural "Law & Order: SVU," as the daughter of a man whom, the team discovers over the course of their investigation, has been wrongfully convicted of murder and lost everything as a result. Saldana's character, Gabrielle Vega, sues the NYPD for reparations after her father, once released from prison, falls back into drug addiction. 

Prior to popping up on "SVU," though, Saldana actually appeared on the main show as Belinca. The actor was uncredited for the part, even despite Belinca featuring again in a follow-up episode (also uncredited). Her "SVU" role, meanwhile, was meant to be much bigger than it turned out. As casting director Jonathan Strauss told BuzzFeed, while discussing some of the show's biggest guest stars, "Zoe is one I had my eye on for a while."

He continued, "It's no secret now, but there's no one like her, and there really was no one like her 10 years ago." Gabrielle was a law student, hence why she got so heavily involved in fighting her father's case, and Strauss envisioned her eventually making it to the district attorney's office. However, "In the end, it ended up not being practical because she became famous very quickly and the scheduling was too complicated."