Ice-T Dances With Cheerios And Clears Up The Law And Order SVU Bagel Situation - Exclusive Interview

Ice-T is not a bagels or a coffee kind of person. If you're on Twitter, you know this. If not, here are the CliffsNotes. In 2018, "Law & Order: SVU" writers thought that Odafin "Fin" Tutuola might like to snack on a cinnamon raisin bagel. Fin spent the scene offering up the bagel to Amanda (Kelli Giddish), but — as Vulture duly investigated — never bit into it himself. He didn't just forget to eat. After the episode aired, Ice-T copped to never having eaten a bagel or sipped on a cuppa Joe IRL, setting off a social media debacle which even Jimmy Fallon couldn't let go. As it turns out, the writers should have gone with another circular breakfast food. Ice may not think bagels rule the world, but the actor does diligently stock milk in his on-set mini-fridge to fill up on cereal during shoots. 

The hip-hop legend will gleefully tell anyone who'll listen that being a rapper who moonlights as law enforcement is "what we call, in Hollywood, a stretch." His partnership with Cheerios is not. He even has a cereal dance. "It was that feeling you get when you put this cereal in your mouth and you're really happy," he dished to Mashed. In this exclusive interview, Ice-T explains his partnership with Cheerios, the "Ice-T challenge," and deep dives into 22 seasons as Fin Tutuola on "SVU." Yes, he's already thought about how he wants Fin's storyline to end.

Ice-T is a cereal person

Take us back to when Cheerios first approached you. How did they convince you to do it? What did they say?

Well, first, anything that you're going to endorse, sometimes you don't understand why. I got the call and they said, "Yo, you want to do a Cheerios campaign?" I'm like, "Why? How do I connect to Cheerios?" They said that they're all about health. "Cheerios are made with whole-grain oats and it's good for your health. You're not as young as you used to be, and you told [us] that." 

"I'm in my 60s," [I told them, and they replied], "Everybody still knows you're active. You're still touring. You're still on television and you're in shape. So you're a perfect person to promote this." I was like, "Okay, I get it. I'll do it." 

I've always been pushing health, especially male health. As men, we don't really go to the doctor until we're on our back. As a woman, you got your gynecologist on speed dial, you know [them], you go a lot. [Guys,] we just don't, because we think it's being soft. I've always had an image of being a tough guy, [so] maybe I can get some guys to start taking care of their health. It tastes good, it's easy to do. I'm not a dieter myself. I'm into moderation. I eat everything in moderation, and I'm a cereal person. I eat cereal every day ...Yeah, basically it made sense. 

They were about health. I've been pushing my friends about health. I think that up into your 40s, you think you're invincible. Then, you start seeing some of your friends pass away from things that could have been prevented. It was a good look, and who doesn't want to be on a cereal box? I didn't even know that I was actually going to be on a cereal box. I thought it was going to be a commercial or something, and it kept getting better and better. We actually shot three commercials. You've only seen one, and this campaign will go probably into the summer.

The Ice-T cereal box challenge is real

You've got a cereal dance. Tell us about that.

A cereal dance. They got a meme of me eating cereal and dancing around. That came from our reality show, "Ice Loves Coco." It was that feeling you get when you put this cereal in your mouth and you're really happy. You got to do a little jig, and it went viral. People love it. They use that meme for all kinds of things, but it's a happy dance.

There is a way that people can access the workouts that you've created with Cheerios.

On the back of the box is a QR code and you scan that. You get me on there telling you, coaching, just do a little workout here and there. It's kind of funny. I think all this is still done with a grain of salt. It's meant to be health-conscious, but at the same time, it's going to be entertaining, too.

Talk to us about fan reactions. There's video footage of a fan going around and turning around all the cereal boxes.

They call that the Ice-T Challenge. My fans felt I should have been on the front of the box. They were like, "Come on, what's going on?" They're going into the stores and they're flipping the boxes around, which is a good thing. We're at a point right now [where] hip hop is mainstream. Hip hop has gray hair. All the people that grew up with people like myself, we're adults and we're parents now. What may never've happened when we were young, because the older people were scared of us, now, all these people are our fans and they're like, "Nah, I love Ice." All those things. I don't have that feeling, so to see the response and even from my hardcore fans, they're so happy. They're like, "Yo, this is so cool."

It's so odd to have Ice-T, the gangster rapper, on a cereal box. It's so dope in a very rock and roll way. I haven't gotten any bad response — maybe a couple of vegans that didn't like milk or something — but other than that, everybody has been very supportive of it. It's fun to be part of a campaign that people like.

Ice-T reflects on 35 years in music and acting

Talking about hip hop being mainstream, your debut album came back in 1997, 35 years ago now. You've been acting and rapping for about the same amount of time. Is there a different "you" that goes into acting than that goes into rapping? How does it feel that there are people that know you only as actor, or only as Ice-T?

Well, acting, you're somebody else. When you act, you show up on a set and there's a script and you're going to play this character until the director sees what they imagined. Hopefully, you can hit that mark. You're not yourself when you're acting. You don't get to act as yourself. You have to be able to be somebody else. On "Law & Order," I'm acting as a cop. I'm about as far from a cop as you can get, but that's what we call, in Hollywood, a stretch. With music, in a way it's acting too, but I'm writing the script. When [an] R&B singer sings love songs, he says, "I miss you." The next song he's saying, "I'm glad you left." The next song he's saying, "Baby, don't go." The next song he says... So how can one person have all these different emotions? Because you're kind of acting in the moment of that song.

With music, when I'm singing "Colors," I have to translate back to when I was in that mindset, so that I walk across the stage as the gang member and I'm in that place. It's all, at the end of the day, entertainment. The way it's received determines whether you'll be successful or not with your art.

Ice-T remembers Jerry Lewis on Law & Order: SVU

Now you've had Sarah Paulson, Robin Williams, Michael K. Williams, Kate Mara, Zoe Saldana — the list goes on and on — of guest stars on SVU...

Bradley Cooper back in the day.

Who is the guest star that you've been most impressed by? And do you have a favorite guest star story you can share with us?

I think my favorite out of everybody who I was most [starstruck by] was Jerry Lewis, because Jerry Lewis is from the Rat Pack. I grew up watching Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin back in the day. To be with a legend of that caliber — he loved Richard Belzer – to work with him, and for him to even know who I was, was big.

What was he like on set?

Jerry Lewis, he's the best. He was a real comedian and a master of an art form. You know what I'm saying? It's like, there's very few comedians that could even try to ... stand toe to toe with Jerry Lewis in his prime. I met Carol Burnett. I grew up watching Carol Burnett's show when I was a kid, so a lot of these people come on and ... What I've noticed is that all the people who are really made — meaning those people that are real stars, — are the nicest people in the world. They have nothing to prove. They're who they are. If you don't know, that's your loss.

When you catch an attitude, you usually catch it from new artists who feel they don't think you know who they are or how important they are. They're throwing a bunch of attitude around. You're like, "Get over yourself, all right?" Very rarely have I had any bad run-ins with any actor. The people who come on "Law & Order" want to be on that show and they come to perform.

Ice-T isn't going anywhere

Are you excited about the return of the original "Law & Order" after 12 years of hiatus? Are you excited about the prospect of crossover events being on the table again as one of the originators?

Well, I'm excited because one, Anthony Anderson is on the show and he's a friend of mine. He came on "SVU" for an episode or two and he asked me, "What's up with this? What's going on with this? How does it work from the inside?" I gave him some game, and next thing you know, he's on the original "Law & Order." I just hit him up. I just saw the commercial at the Super Bowl. I'm like, "Oh, welcome back." So that's cool.

I'm happy for Dick Wolf. [He] now has nine shows in prime time, on different networks. That's unheard of. Dick Wolf has always been a solid man to me and always been a cool boss. I'm happy. I know it's not about money with him right now, it's about legacy. He's building a legacy that I don't know if anybody's ever going to be able to outdo him. So he deserves it.

There's no end to "Law & Order: SVU" in sight. But have you given thought to how you'd like your character's story to end?

Oh, if I got to go, I want to go in a blaze of glory. Blow me up in a car. I want to be murdered ... I say that, but [I'm] in the Wolf Universe. You understand? "Law & Order" could end and I could be climbing a ladder on "Chicago Fire." I could be over on ["Criminal Intent"],  so maybe I don't want to die. As it stands now, the last pickup was for three seasons. We have one more season that's definite, then we'll see what happens. This last season has been our best season in a long time, as far as ratings go.

We'll see. I don't have any plans of going anywhere. I'm able to do my music, still tour over hiatus, still do Cheerios, still do all these things, and I still enjoy doing it. I don't have any plans to change.

Ice-T doesn't know much about Fin

Some of us have been following your story for 20+ years now, as long as a lot of other people have been alive. Is there something about Fin's backstory that might still surprise us or that surprised you?

No, I'm actually surprised anytime I learn anything about Fin. I don't even know where I live. I don't have a car. For a minute, I remember last season they came and they said, "You're getting married." I'm like, "To who?" They go, "Phoebe." I'm like, "She blew me off four years ago." [They said,] "Yeah, you got married." [I answered,] "How did we get married?" [They said,] "You guys hooked up over COVID." [I asked,] "How did people know that?" They threw that at us. I said, "How about I get engaged?"

They turned it into engagement. Then I guess they felt, "Fin getting married is corny," so we didn't get married ... hey, listen, at 500 episodes, I don't know where they're pulling these storylines. They pull them out of thin air. I like the ride. One of my mottos is, "You don't guide life, you ride life." 

Is there a storyline that you want your character to tackle that he hasn't before?

No. I'm there for the job. I show up and they tell me what I got to do and I do it, and it's been working for 23 years. ... Nah, you got to understand, after this long doing a show, it's one big blur. It's so much that we've covered and different things that you've seen. I leave it up to the writers. Why wouldn't I? They've always come up with good ideas. Why put my two cents in? I'll say, "Hey, you should do this," and that'll be the worst episode of the season. Let me stay in my lane. I'm not the writer, I'm the actor.

Ice-T has never won't touch this on-set food

You've talked about the cast being a real family now, with over 20 years of working together. What's your favorite "Law & Order" family dinner story?

I never think ... I don't know if I ever called it a family. I'd say a group of friends. I'm not [part of] a family. I don't go sleep over at Mariska's house. I can't go walk in her refrigerator or anything like that. I think we're a group of friends that really respect each others' addition to what we're trying to get, which is a common goal.

"Law & Order" is on, right now, somewhere. I may not be on the screen, but Kelli may be on the screen. She's helping me keep my job. Mariska is, and I'm helping everybody. As a combined unit, we've been able to keep the show on 23 years. As far as family meetings, we don't really have family dinners. The last time we had a dinner all together was probably four years ago at Mariska's house. She invited us over. We all sat there. Nothing special. It's not like somebody jumped up on the table, started dancing or ... you know. I think it's a combined respect, because we're all working together and we've all been able to be successful as a team.

There was a huge Twitter scandal years back about you never having had a bagel or a cup of coffee. In reply to that, you told somebody that, "Well, there's a lot of things I don't eat when they're offered on the set." What's offered up on the set of "Law & Order"? And what don't you eat?

Well, there used to be a lot of... Yeah, the fact that I could say I don't eat a bagel or drink coffee, and people's head would explode, lets you know what we are right now. I've never seen "E.T." or "Back to the Future," either. Certain things that people do normally, they lose their minds, like, "What do you mean? What do you mean, you've never ever seen that show or you've never..."

No, I eat donuts. All right? ...  Anyway, they put out raw vegetables and stuff. I don't eat them either — people eat broccoli, raw? — There used to be a lot of different food out there. Craft services would have it out. Now, we don't have it. After COVID, there's no food. You have to order food from them and they bring it to you in a sealed thing. It's bad. That's why I eat my cereal. They give me a little container of milk, which I put in my little refrigerator and I can eat cereal all day, so Cheerios come in handy.

Ice-T thinks exercise and eating healthy can be fun, and it's simple as enjoying a bowl of Cheerios and your exercise of choice. Readers can experience his Cheerios "Pour Your Heart Into It" workouts first-hand through his workout series accessible through the QR code on the back of limited-edition happy heart shape boxes of Cheerios, which come in Honey Nut Cheerios and yellow-box original Cheerios, as well as its Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate and Strawberry Banana flavors.