‘Law & Order: SVU’: How Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay Won Over Producers at Audition

by Josh Lanier

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, former partners on Law & Order: SVU, knew they had something special the moment they met during an audition. And producers could see it too. That’s because when it was their turn to give a screen test, Meloni was telling Hargitay a story to make her laugh. So, he shushed the director.

“They paired us together,” Meloni told PEOPLE with Hargitay by his side. “We walked into the screen test with me telling her a story, and we get up on stage in front of all the suits and we’re just so engaged. And we go, ‘Give us one second, I just need to finish this story it’s really funny.'”

This wasn’t a bit or a way to get attention or be memorable. Their rapport was just so strong that it was impossible to miss. Everyone in that room knew they were seeing something special.

Hargitay, who still stars on Law & Order: SVU, said meeting Meloni was like finding a puzzle piece missing from her life. He so perfectly fit in with her.

“It effortless, easy, and fun,” she said. “I walked in saw him, and I went that guy that’s the guy. It went deep very fast. We both knew that it was something big, I wouldn’t say that I fully understood it, but I knew that it was big important and I think life-changing.”

Hargitay went as far as to call her former Law & Order partner one of the “four pillar men” in her life. The others were her husband, her late father, and Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.

Hargitay: Meloni Leaving ‘Law & Order’ Left a ‘Hole’

Christopher Meloni walked away from Law & Order: SVU after 12 seasons. He and NBC couldn’t come to terms on a new contract so he left the show. His departure crushed Hargitay.

Hargitay told Variety in January that it was “so painful for me and so hard because the way he left, there was no closure. There was just a big hole.”

But after nearly a decade, Meloni has returned to the Law & Order universe with his own spin-off called Law & Order: Organized Crime. Meloni’s Elliott Stabler leads a team of detectives to bring down New York’s mafia. And to promote the show earlier this year, Meloni did a crossover episode with SVU. Benson and Stabler were back.

Hargitay said she and Meloni have remained close friends since he left the show. But having him as a scene partner again reminded her of how much chemistry and trust they have together.

“There was so much shorthand between us, which all goes back to the trust we have. He’s always made me feel like I could just jump off the ledge, the cliff, the bridge, and he would catch me, in so many ways, whether it was comedy or acting or friendship.”