Forget coffee and donuts—with the amount of cash Detectives Benson and Stabler are about to rake in, they may want to consider upgrading to lattes and croissants.
After weeks of negotiations and insinuations that the franchise could fare just as well without its star castmembers, NBC has confirmed that Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actors Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni have extended their contracts for two more years.
Which means the fictional perps of sexually based offenses will be hunted down through at least 2009.
While neither NBC nor franchise mastermind Dick Wolf disclosed the financial terms of the renewed deal, the trades are reporting that Hargitay and Meloni will take home annual salaries of more than $6.5 million.
The hefty payday, which amounts to roughly $300,000 to $340,000 per episode each.
If the reports are accurate, the pay bump puts Hargitay on par with The Closer star Kyra Sedgwick, who, after signing a contract for a reported $300,000 per episode last week, had been pegged as one of, if not the, top compensated female stars on TV.
While he refused to talk specifics of the deal, Wolf did comment on the return of his leads.
"I'm thrilled that Chris and Mariska have decided to stay with a show that they've made an indelible stamp upon, as we move into our ninth season," he said in a statement.
The contracts were apparently finalized this week, though they had been in the works for some time and apparently were close enough to a done deal for for the network to announce last week during the Television Critics Association conference that Law & Order: SVU would be returning in the fall.
Hargitay, who's taken home both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her role as Detective Olivia Benson, and Meloni, who this year received an Emmy nomination for his role as Detective Elliot Stabler, have been with the series since its debut in 1999 and are considered more crucial to the show's success than players in other branches of the franchise.
Law & Order: SVU, the highest rated of all the Wolf procedurals, will not only welcome back its two stars this fall but will add another to its roster.
Flags of Our Fathers actor Adam Beach has signed on as a regular castmember, reprising his guest-starring role as Brooklyn-based Detective Chester Lake.