Call a bus! Christopher Meloni is picking up his Law & Order badge and gun once again.
According to Deadline, Meloni will reprise his fan-favorite Law & Order: SVU character for a new series following Elliot Stabler leading the NYPD's organized crime unit. Deadline reports it's a 13-episode series order as part of the massive new deal Dick Wolf signed with the company that saw SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med all get three-season renewals.
Meloni played Stabler alongside Mariska Hargitay for the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU. He exited the drama between season 12 and 13 when contract negotiations fell through.
In the season 12 finale Stabler was involved in a shootout in the precinct and it was explained that he retired following his leave of absence. Hargitay has remained the anchor on the long-running SVU as her character, Olivia Benson, has moved up in ranks to captain.
Despite fan fervor, Meloni has never returned to SVU, which is now in its history-making 21st season. Ahead of the season 21 premiere, SVU showrunner Warren Leight said, "someday, I would hope to see [Stabler] again."
"I don't know how, I don't know when, but, yeah, that's kind of, I think the fans and Benson and Stabler are owed that," Leight said.
Leight, who took over as showrunner in season 13 and had to address Meloni's exit from the show, has long maintained bringing Stabler back to SVU was above his pay grade.
Hargitay and Meloni have remained close over the years, often sharing photos of their reunions to the delight of their legions of fans. Meloni took part in The Paley Center Salutes Law & Order: SVU, a retrospective on the NBC drama, and opened up about his instant chemistry with Hargitay.
"She and I hit it off right from the get-go," Meloni said about working with Hargitay.
In the special, Hargitay described their relationship as "instantaneous ease, chemistry, trust, comfort."
Hargitay is the only remaining original cast member of the series and discussed seeing friends who have become like family leave. "It was really hard. It's been really difficult over the years to see people leave and painful and scary. I didn't want them to go," she said. "It's life. One door closes and another one opens. People come into our lives and then they leave their lives. You feel all of that and it's a lot to feel and you keep on going. You keep on going."
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays, 10 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)