Warren Leight Returns as 'Law & Order: SVU' Showrunner — What Does It Mean for the Show?

Meredith Jacobs
Will Hart/NBC

Good news for Law & Order: SVU fans for the upcoming Season 21!

Warren Leight will once again be the showrunner and executive producer of the drama, NBC revealed this week. Law & Order creator Dick Wolf said he's "thrilled" about the return.

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'We have always told compelling stories that are close to our hearts, our souls and our core,' star Mariska Hargitay notes.

Leight previously served as showrunner on SVU for five years, beginning with Season 13 in 2011. It was the first after Christopher Meloni's exit, and Leight focused on Mariska Hargitay. Her character, Olivia Benson, has shined in a new way ever since.

When Leight left the series in 2016, Hargitay reflected on what he meant for her character and the series to The Hollywood Reporter. "Prior to Warren's arrival, I was doing a lot of thinking about how and if I'd move forward with the show," she said. "I met with him and he just felt like such a kindred spirit. There was this huge exhale and I just thought, 'Oh, oh, he gets it.'

(Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

"The way he's woven in these deeply personal themes and moments, the opportunity to let these characters stretch in a three-dimensional way, has been very fulfilling, not only for me, but for all the actors on the show to play," she added. "I think that also expands the show's original conception."

That included Olivia adopting Noah, which has allowed the series to explore a different area of her life outside of the precinct.

That bodes well for Leight's return for SVU Season 21 as he can bring more of that to the show. Olivia has remained the heart of the series, and will likely stay that way. SVU has explored different areas of each of the characters' lives, and with Leight back, that should also continue to be the case.

(Peter Kramer/NBC)

However, Leight also previously took over just after a major exit. Should fans be braced for the same to happen again?

Philip Winchester already announced that he won't be returning as Assistant District Attorney Peter Stone for Season 21. He played his Chicago Justice character in New York for two seasons. But does that mean that he'll be the only exit? Fans can hope, but anything is possible at the end of Season 20 or the beginning of Season 21.

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But don't just focus on potential losses. There's also the chance that past characters could return. Leight could choose to revisit some stories or cases from his previous time with the show. With Winchester's exit, that could even include a familiar face or two as the ADA.

One thing's for sure: Law & Order: SVU fans know the series is in good hands with Warren Leight back as showrunner for Season 21.

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The longtime 'SVU' star also opened up about working with guest star Jennifer Esposito, his deep respect for Mariska Hargitay, and more.

Sound off in the comments below with what you're hoping to see next season.

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC