Kelli Giddish’s ‘SVU’ Exit: A Deep Dive Into Rollins’ Story, Controversy & Future

Kelli Giddish as Amanda Rollins in Law & Order: SVU
Eric Liebowitz/NBC

Fans of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit are preparing to bid farewell to Amanda Rollins. Kelli Giddish, the third longest-serving current SVU series regular, is leaving the NBC show in this 24th season. Her last episode is slated for December 8 (though she’ll be back for an episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime later in the season).

“Playing Rollins has been one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life,” Giddish wrote on Instagram this August, when she announced her impending exit. “I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of the Law & Order family for the last 12 years. There is simply no other character on TV like Rollins. She’s grown and changed, and I have as well. I started on this show when I was in my late 20s, and I’m grateful I got to spend so many of my adult years with Rollins in my life.”

Kelli Giddish joined SVU after Christopher Meloni’s exit

After Christopher Meloni departed Law & Order: SVU at the end of its 12th season — reportedly turning down an $8 million salary offer — SVU producers added both Giddish and Danny Pino to the mix in June 2011. (Jennifer Love Hewitt was also in contention for a role on the show before Giddish’s casting, according to The Hollywood Reporter.)

“I’m very pleased that we have two amazing actors joining the cast,” executive producer and creator Dick Wolf said in a statement at the time. “I know this combination will give us the opportunity to explore the world of SVU with new eyes.”

Rollins debuted in the Season 13 premiere — and her troubled past has haunted her

In the Season 13 premiere, “Scorched Earth,” Rollins arrived at the Manhattan SVU and joined a case literally eight seconds after getting off the elevator. As SVU’s writers developed the character, viewers learned the reason Rollins had transferred from Atlanta: She had been raped by a deputy chief who used her sister’s arrest as leverage.

That sister, Kim (Lindsay Pulsipher), has been a frequent thorn in Rollins’ side. Rollins is protective toward Kim — especially since they both survived a childhood with an abusive father — but her sister exploited the detective’s devotion by getting her to shoot Kim’s ex-boyfriend in what was ultimately a scheme for Kim could cash in on a life insurance policy.

Those aren’t even all of Rollins’ troubles: She also became addicted to gambling and ended up $20,000 in debt. And she’s been shot on the job twice now, with her second brush with death especially traumatizing.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Rollins has two children — one with Declan Murphy (Donal Logue) and one with Al Pollack (George Newbern) — and she’s currently in a relationship with ADA Dominick “Sonny” Carisi Jr. (Peter Scanavino).

Giddish’s exit was reportedly a decision from above

In her Instagram post on August 24, Giddish confirmed that she and SVU would soon be parting ways. “This will, indeed, be my last season on Law & Order: SVU,” she wrote.

In a comment on that post, SVU showrunner David Graziano alluded to “complex” reasons for Giddish’s departure from the show. “All I’ll say is Kelli has handled this with the most incredibly classy comportment,” he added.

A day after that Instagram update, Variety reported that Rollins’ exit was neither Giddish’s nor Graziano’s idea. Instead, Variety said, the decision was “a call made from above” and “the company is always looking to keep the show as up to date and current as possible.” The report also claimed that salary negotiations were a factor in the decision — and that Mariska Hargitay and at least one other producer pushed to keep Giddish on SVU.

Some viewers aren’t sorry to see Rollins go

Tributes to Amanda Rollins are all over YouTube and social media, but not everyone shares the love. “This writer won’t miss Giddish’s Detective Amanda Rollins and her legacy of victim-blaming and slut-shaming,” Scarlett Harris wrote for Polygon, “and her departure shows just how far the Law & Order universe has to go. … She quickly (and often) became an example of the limits of cop shows to truly protect and serve their communities. She’s judgmental, reproachful, and probably more conservative than we know, if her defense of an Ann Coulter-like political pundit in the season 19 episode ‘Info Wars’ is any indication.”

Some fans have similar critiques, including the viewer who observed in a 2019 Reddit post that Rollins “seems to see all victims as inherently weak in some way.”

“It finally occurred to me that, in some way, she sees the victims at fault for their own victimization,” that Reddit user wrote. “She sees them as weak, and therefore [they] allowed themselves to be victimized.”

“I’ve noticed this, too,” another viewer commented. “Especially in cases where sex workers are victims, she feels no sympathy whatsoever.”

Fans are already speculating about how Rollins will leave

In a Reddit thread about Rollins’ exit, one fan speculated that the character and her family could have another run-in with psychopathic antagonist Henry Mesner (Ethan Cutkosky) as Season 24 progresses. “Maybe work becomes too dangerous and the girls get threatened, or one may be abducted, and [Rollins] decides it’s easier to keep them safe if she quits,” that Reddit user wrote.

Another commenter “immediately thought of the Mesner situation as being most likely,” as well. They added, “I could see the kids being threatened and Carisi wanting the best for her. Pretty sure we’re getting a wedding and then she’s out. That’s probably the best we can hope for.”

And a third Reddit user wrote, “The most plausible theory is that [Rollins and Carisi] do get married, but something forces Amanda’s retirement from the NYPD and moves her to an entirely offscreen character. I don’t know that I like this, because, at some point, it would strain credulity that we never see her, but it’s probably the best option, as it leaves the door open to guest appearances and keeps Amanda alive in the L&O universe.”

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