Christopher Meloni left Law & Order: SVU over a contract dispute. It happens weekly in Hollywood. Actors ask for more. If a studio says no, the character goes away.
That’s what happened in SVU season 12. Writers got rid of Elliot Stabler by having him retire from the force.
So flash forward to this spring. Meloni has his new spinoff — Law & Order: Organized Crime, playing Elliot Stabler. It was like nothing changed. Except it did. He was doing all this without partner Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) from Law & Order: SVU.
But NBC decided to do a much-publicized crossover event between the two spinoffs. And with the crossover came high expectations and, potentially, some awkward moments.
In an interview with People magazine earlier this year, Meloni talked about the aftermath of leaving Law & Order: SVU and what it was like to reunite again.
“How it was handled — I always use this word, it was inelegant,” Meloni said of his showbiz divorce from Law & Order: SVU. “But at the end of the day, how it was handled was ‘OK, see you later.’ That’s how I felt. That’s fine, we’re all big boys and girls here, ‘See you later.’ So I left and I was off on new adventures, doing what I wanted to do, telling stories I wanted to tell. I couldn’t have been better.”
Then, there was the reunion between Stabler and Benson. For Meloni, it was tough.
Meloni Said His ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Reunion Was Difficult
“It was nerve wracking as hell leading up to it.” Meloni said of his show’s crossover with Law & Order: SVU. “People asked me how does it feel? It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do as an actor.
“Because I think so much energy was needed to block out the anticipation or expectation. You just can’t get locked up into that.”
But Meloni said the chemistry and shorthand with his old Law & Order: SVU partner still was there.
“I was honestly shocked that first scene,” Meloni said. “Even if it wasn’t perfect, yep, you got me, I got you, we got this.”
Hargitay agreed. “It was effortless.”
The Law & Order: SVU crossover on April 1 was a huge success. The show enjoyed a 156 percent increase in the key demo of 18 to 49. Overall, the audience increase spiked with a 112-percent increase as more than 8 million watched the show. There was a novelty factor to the ratings. The massive audience didn’t stay. However, the audiences definitely were bigger for the rest of the season than they were before the crossover.
Meanwhile, with the Law & Order: SVU lead in, Organized Crime also performed well. An audience of 7.8 million watched the premiere.
Everyone loved watching Benson and Stabler back together.