‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’: Christopher Meloni Opens Up About ‘Personal’ Decision to Leave ‘SVU’ After Season 12

by Madison Miller

The “Law & Order: SVU” franchise has been around for 22 seasons and counting. It’s pretty natural for actors to leave a series, especially one that is a couple of decades long.

Mariska Hargitay has kept her role as Captain Olivia Benson since day one. Ice-T has been a regular on the series since season two. Many others have popped in to appear for a couple of seasons or even 10, which is a remarkable accomplishment as well.

When Christopher Meloni, or Elliot Stabler, left “Law & Order: SVU” it seemed to hit fans particularly hard.

He was around from the beginning until saying his (momentary) goodbye after season 12. Now, fans and his co-stars are happy to see him back about 10 years later leading “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” Why did Meloni leave and what drove him back to the popular franchise?

Christopher Meloni Decision to Leave ‘Law & Order: SVU’

In many ways, it seems like Meloni left the show to just pursue new projects outside of the “Law & Order” universe.

However, even years later he still felt the draw of playing Detective Elliot Stabler on the screen. He credits his return to “things in my personal life fell into place, which made it correct and right for me to say yes to the offer,” Meloni said in an interview with Variety.

Despite being gone for about 10 years, it was like he never really left his character to begin with.

“The buildup of anticipation and expectation leading up to it was the most unnerving part. I was a bit surprised at how much clarity I had as I was thinking about the character — where he’d been, what he’d done. And I worked on it with the showrunners and I was very pleased with what we had hammered out, his backstory. I thought it very imperative that there’d be a certain amount of growth,” Meloni said.

Others, such as Mariska Hargitay, eagerly anticipated and helped figure out how to work him back into the storyline.

Meloni After Season 12

According to LA Times, Meloni was written off the show because he reached an impasse with NBC over his contract negotiations. He actually described his departure as “inelegant.” Regardless, he managed to stay close to a lot of the cast, especially Mariska Hargitay.

Although he may have been away from “Law & Order: SVU,” he didn’t stray away from the screen or acting in any way. He was one of TV’s favorite blue-eyed tough guys in shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Pose,” “Harley Quinn,” and “Happy!”

You may also recognize him in movies like “Man of Steel,” “Wet Hot American Summer,” and “Almost Friends.”

Now he seems to be pretty content next to his old pals of the “Law & Order” franchise. His Instagram is flooded with cute reunion photos. One with Hargitay says, “Hangin with friends in cool places.”

The first commenter sums up how fans feel pretty well: “Adopt me.”