"Maybe I should call him ..."
And with those five words, an entire fanbase melted. Law & Order: SVU fans were teased with the potential return of fan favorite Chris Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler in the long-running NBC hit's season 15 premiere. In the torturous two-hour outing, Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay, who deserves an Emmy nod next year for her amazing work in the ep, by the way) is tormented by a serial rapist, leading her to admit she wished she could torture him the way her old partner, Stabler, would have. Feelings, we had 'em after that!
But could Meloni, who exited the series at the end of season 12 (crushing viewers rooting for a Benson and Stabler hookup's hearts in the process), actually return to the precinct this season to help Benson? At an event for her Joyful Heart Foundation, which raises awareness of domestic violence, we chatted with Meloni and Margitay about his potential return to the series...
When we asked Hargitay if Meloni would be putting on his badge once more to play Stabler, she told us, "You'd have to ask him!"
So that's just what we did! "That's a question that's above my pay grade," Meloni simply said. OK, but would he want to return for a few guest spots in the future? After a long pause, he answered, "Things would have to be specific and right."
And while Meloni didn't give us a straight answer, showrunner Warren Leight told TODAY that his return doesn't seem likely, thanks to the actor's new midseason sitcom Surviving Jack for Fox. "I don't know how it could work logistically, economically or given the network politics of it," he said. "I think we just have to accept the fact that the closure we got was somewhat half a--ed because these guys couldn't work out a way to arc [Meloni's story] out, and it's unfortunate."
So why tease fans with the possibility of Olivia calling Stabler? Leight explained. "When people are in these situations, they think about the most important people in their life, so we had to go there!"
The event we chatted with Meloni and Hargitay at served as the launch of the foundation's "NO MORE" public serve announcement, a campaign which features Amy Poehler, Debra Messing, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Gunn, Courteney Cox and Meloni, among many others, that aims to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.
"Not only was the show a good experience, it was also a good educational experience," Meloni told us. "I learned a bit about the issues and about the lack of knowledge about the issues and how things are kind of swept under the rug. I think that's what this campaign is about, to put a megaphone to all these things that are not everyday topics that people want to talk about. It's nice. It's what this campaign's about; get the word out."
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)