Sometimes a TV show manages to give audiences a relationship that immediately sparks hope among fans that the two characters involved will become romantically entangled. Cheers had Sam and Diane. Moonlighting had David and Maddie. And, as longtime fans of Law & Order: SVU know, that show had Benson and Stabler. And, even Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni are willing to admit that they did, in fact, have some dynamite "chemistry" when starring on the series together for 12 seasons.
As fans continue to hope that we might see Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni work together as their sex crime-solving duo again, we've finally heard from the actors themselves on what it was like meeting for the first time and working with each other on Law & Order: SVU. It turns out that they knew from the get-go that they would make perfect on-screen partners. Here's what Hargitay had to say about it:
I had instant chemistry with Chris at the network and as soon as they paired us up, Chris and I both knew that we were gonna get cast. Because I knew that he was the guy, and he said that he knew that I was the girl.
Well, that's sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Bensler chemistry for the win! As you might imagine, actors usually go through several auditions for leading roles such as the ones that Mariska Hargitay has and Christopher Meloni had on Law & Order: SVU. When the production gets down to the final casting stages, they generally want to see how certain actors will play off of each other to make sure that they have the right, you guessed it, chemistry as the characters.
Such a chemistry test was probably even more important for producers and NBC when they were casting SVU, because it came along at a time when Dick Wolf's original Law & Order was a major hit, which was already nine seasons into its 20 season run. SVU was the first spinoff of the drama, so getting the casting right for Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler had to have been of the utmost importance. Luckily for Law & Order: SVU, and fans of crime procedurals everywhere, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni were at the right place at the right time.
Hargitay and Meloni spoke about working on the show, and the undeniable chemistry that led fans to hope Stabler left his wife so that he could pursue a romance with Benson, during The Paley Center Salutes Law & Order: SVU, a special that celebrated the series, which is now in Season 21 and the longest-running, live-action, primetime series that's ever been on television. Christopher Meloni, who we've seen is still good friends in real life with Mariska Hargitay, believes their "instant chemistry" went a long way toward making SVU popular:
She and I hit it off right from the get-go… It’s always been a huge part of our relationship and I think part of the success of the show.
Honestly, as a fan of SVU in those early days, I can confirm that Meloni is on the money about that. It was wonderful to see how close and supportive of each other Benson and Stabler were, without it ever crossing into let-me-touch-your-naughty-bits territory. While it seemed like it would have been a natural progression for the characters (and, as mentioned earlier, many fans wanted to see it happen), one of the many things that kept me watching weekly was the sincere hope that they wouldn't cross that line. As we know (I'm looking at you, Moonlighting), sometimes fulfilling the sexual tension between two characters just doesn't work at all.
As Christopher Meloni noted, he and Mariska Hargitay hit if off immediately, even behind the scenes, and she definitely echoed his sentiments.
Instantaneous ease, chemistry, trust, comfort, and all good.
I have to say, I feel more at peace thinking about Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni hitting it off than from thinking about pretty much anything else. Now, if we could only get Meloni to pop in for a cameo...