Christopher Meloni Finally Reveals the Truth About His Law & Order: SVU Exit

In an interview with Men's Health, Christopher Meloni discussed the drama that went down prior to his abrupt exit from Law & Order: SVU in 2011.

By Alyssa Ray Aug 04, 2021 6:46 PMTags
Watch: Mariska Hargitay Welcomes Chris Meloni Back to "Law & Order"

Where's the "dun dun" sound when you need it?

In an in-depth chat with Men's Health posted on Aug. 4, Christopher Meloni discussed rejoining the beloved franchise with Law & Order Organized Crime and revealed what really went down before his unexpected departure from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. For those who need a refresher, Meloni played Detective Elliot Stabler on SVU for 12 seasons between 1999 and 2011.

When fans last saw the quick-to-anger detective in season 12, Stabler was dealing with the aftermath of fatally shooting a young woman who'd opened fire on the precinct. Then, in the season 13 premiere, his longtime partner, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), was blindsided with the news that Stabler had retired.

So, we know what happened with Stabler, but what happened with Meloni? At the time, it was reported that Meloni had left the franchise over a contract dispute. The 60-year-old actor has now confirmed this to be true, revealing that he tried to find a creative compromise with NBC. 

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"My thought was: Instead of 22 episodes, bring me back for nine episodes, or bring me back for 18 episodes," he told Men's Health. "They literally came to me on a Thursday night and said, 'This is the deal. We want the answer by tomorrow. It's our way or no way.'"

This didn't sit right with Meloni, who said he responded with: "I don't want to f--k around with you guys. This is what I want. If you can't do it, that's fine. Let's figure out my exit."


It took a decade for Meloni to return to Law & Order, but it was well worth the wait. The Meloni-led spinoff is the 12th most watch show in the United States and ranked fifth among scripted series.

And this time around, the actor has a different, less anxiety-driven mindset about his job: "I'm not stressed by: Will it go well? Will it not go well? Not that I know how it's going to go. Just that, eh, just ride. Just do, just be."

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Organized Crime follows Stabler as he returns "to the NYPD to battle organized crime after a devastating personal loss," per NBC. "However, the city and police department have changed dramatically in the decade he's been away, and he must adapt to a criminal justice system in the midst of its own moment of reckoning."

Be sure to catch Law & Order: Organized Crime when it returns for season two Thursday, Sept. 23 on NBC.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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