Law & Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni Talks Why He Originally Left The Franchise

Law & Order: SVU Dann Florek Donald Cragen Mariska Hargitay Olivia Benson Christopher Meloni Elliot
(Image credit: Chris Haston / NBC)

Christopher Meloni is on his way back to a franchise that meant a lot to him and his career. In a surprising turn of events, it was announced months ago that Meloni would reprise his role as Law & Order: SVU’s Elliot Stabler for a spinoff series. Now, the actor is shedding light on why he originally left the franchise.

Back in 2011, Christopher Meloni left Law & Order: SVU when contract talks reportedly fell apart. Just like that, Meloni departed after twelve seasons, leaving fans to wonder what the whole story was for why he exited. It has been nearly a decade, and with the new series on the horizon, Meloni is speaking out. On his departure, Meloni told the New York Post:

How I left was a different issue and had nothing to do with the Law & Order people, the SVU people or with Dick Wolf. I left with zero animosity, but I did leave clearly and open-eyed in going forward and finding new adventures. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do, keep moving forward.’ I had done the Law & Order way of storytelling, which they do really well, and I was interested in telling stories from a different angle — whether comedic or inhabiting a new world or doing it on different platforms.

Based on Christopher Meloni’s statement, it would seem that his reason for leaving had nothing to do with any problems with Law & Order: SVU or the people involved. Instead, Meloni was ready to move on and pursue projects with different tones. Meloni’s career post-Law & Order: SVU backs up that notion.

On the TV side, he took on the starring role in Syfy’s Happy! about a detective-turned-mob hitman. Christopher Meloni even explained how Law & Order: SVU had helped him take on the part.

Regardless, Christopher Meloni had steered clear of the Law & Order franchise after leaving it behind, starring in The Handmaid’s Tale, among others. He did not appear in future episodes of Law & Order: SVU, despite Meloni’s Elliot Stabler never getting a proper send-off. The salt in that wound is about to be salved in the form of Meloni’s return.

Speaking to the non-issues that arose from his abrupt exit from Law & Order: SVU, Christopher Meloni has gotten a warm welcome back from former co-star Mariska Hargitay. The set-up for Meloni and Elliot Stabler’s return to the franchise was supposed to happen in Law & Order: SVU’s most recent season.

Unfortunately, Law & Order: SVU Season 21 had to stop production prematurely. Hence, the episode containing the soft hints of Stabler’s return and subsequently setting up Christopher Meloni’s re-entry into the franchise had to be put on hold. When things get up and running, Stabler is going to return much sooner than anyone probably expected.

Christopher Meloni will (finally) reprise his role as Elliot Stabler on his mothership series when Law & Order: SVU has its Season 22 premiere. Yes, you read that correctly. Before too long, fans will be able to see Meloni’s Stabler in Law & Order: Organized Crime. While taking down various mafias, he will also be dealing with the death of someone important to him.

Take from that what you will. Christopher Meloni clearly harbors no ill will towards the Law & Order franchise. Time will tell when SVU fans will get to see the highly anticipated spinoff. Just know that Meloni did not stay away from the franchise over hard feelings. It seemed to be about spreading his wings.

Law & Order: SVU will return at some point on NBC for its twenty-second season premiere. While you wait for Elliot Stabler to return to the show and start his own one via that spinoff, you can peruse this summer’s premieres.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.