‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Explains How ‘Painful’ It Was to See Elliot Stabler Leave After 12 Seasons

by Josh Lanier

Mariska Hargitay said losing her partner in Christopher Meloni on Law & Order: SVU was “painful” and left a “big hole” in the cast.

Hargitay has played Detective (now Captain) Olivia Benson since the first episode of SVU in 1999. Meloni, who played Detective Elliott Stabler, also started in the original cast. And much of the show’s early appeal for many fans was the connection between their characters.

And that connection grew as the show went on, but Meloni left after season 12. He and NBC couldn’t come to terms over a new contract, according to the LA Times. So, suddenly, the show had to shift focus. It was an abrupt shift for fans and one that was even worse for the cast.

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

But 11 years after he left, Meloni has rejoined the fold with a new Law & Order spin-off called Law & Order: Organized Crime. To help kick start the show, Stabler appeared in an episode of SVU. That connection they share was still there, they’ve both said in interviews.

“I think we connected on so many different levels, which is really a gift with any human being. But we went through so much in the first 12 years and dug so deep and had a very full relationship and a very honest one and brave one,” Hargitay told Variety. “And we also experienced so much together for the first time that quite frankly, nobody including our spouses, really understood because we lived something and we created this baby together being Law & Order Special Victims Unit.”

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Cast, Crew Are Very Close

Law & Order: SVU started in 1999, and much of the cast and crew have been with the show since the first or second season. Even later additions have become part of the extended Law & Order family.

To prove it, Hargitay posted an Instagram featuring many of the cast and crew out to dinner after wrapping up season 22.

“So beautiful coming together with these incredible and dedicated souls. So grateful for each and every one of them. We came together to celebrate season 22 of SVU AND we just like hanging out together…..Congratulations y’all,” she captioned the photo.

Meloni even crashed the wrap party. Despite not being part of the show anymore, I doubt anyone minded. The Law & Order Universe continues to expand and with each expansion, there is a crossover. Hargitay and some of the SVU team appeared in the season finale of Organized Crime.

NBC is putting a lot of stake in the Law & Order universe. The network is dedicating its entire Thursday night line-up to it with the addition of Law & Order: For the Defense.