‘Law & Order: SVU’: Octavio Pisano ‘Surprised’ By Showrunner Warren Leight’s Exit

Octavio Pisano as Detective Joe Velasco in Law & Order: SVU
Eric Liebowitz/NBC

Law & Order: SVU showrunner and executive producer Warren Leigh’s announcement that he is stepping down from the NBC crime drama came as a surprise to the cast and crew.

“I saw him yesterday on set, but it was a surprise to us all,” series regular Octavio Pisano told The Wrap. “I expressed my gratitude to him yesterday, and I wish I would have known [he was leaving]. I would have gone a little bit deeper.”

Leight revealed he was exiting the series in a Twitter thread May 3, where he outlined how tough it has been filming the series during a pandemic. “As some of you have already figured out, I am stepping down at the end of #SVU23,” he wrote. “The last two years of show running during a pandemic have been arduous, and I’ve decided to take a break.”

“Obviously, I’m sad to see him go, but I’m also super grateful and honored I got to work with him at least this season,” continued Pisano, who joined the long-running Dick Wolf series at the start of Season 23 as Detective Joe Velasco. The actor went on to compliment Leight’s writing, stating, “He’s really an actor’s writer. He really likes to think about things that are not in the script, whether it be backstory or motivation.”

He added: “For me as an actor, I was able to talk to him whenever I had a question. You could just open up a conversation with him. He put me in contact with certain detectives in the NYPD, so I was able to dig deeper into that world; that was such a joy.”

Leight first joined SVU for Season 13, not long after the show’s co-lead Christopher Meloni left the series. After helping rebuild the Emmy-winning series, Leight departed after Season 17 but would return in 2019 for the show’s 21st season.

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC