‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’: Christopher Meloni Breaks Down Stabler’s Return to the ‘SVU’ World
Liv and Elliot are back!
Nearly 10 years after Christopher Meloni’s last appearance as Det. Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (the actor quit over a contract dispute), the fan favorite cop is teaming up to catch bad guys with his former partner turned SVU captain, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). The much-anticipated reunion happens on a two-hour April 1 crossover, which opens with an SVU episode that leads into the premiere of producer Dick Wolf’s Stabler-centric spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Though many details about the show are strictly top-secret, Meloni shares what he can about his new role and happily reveals his joy to be working again with his old friend and onetime screen partner.
What drew you back to the L&O family?
Christopher Meloni: Dick Wolf’s persuasive pitch! I liked the idea of a recognizable character in an unrecognizable landscape. The [NYPD] environment has changed, as has Stabler’s place in it. He has to grapple with and evolve on lots of issues.
How much of a plus is it being able to work part of the time with Mariska?
When I walked onto the SVU set, for Mariska and me it was an instantaneous, almost [psychic] connection. There’s a shorthand which is very comfortable.
What’s the key to that comfort?
We both care very much but also connect very deeply through humor. We are serious when it needs to be, but we appreciate the lighter side, or at times the edgier side, of things with humor. Some might call it inappropriate. [Laughs] We know these characters and this relationship better than anybody.… It’s been a difficult time; we did the table reads by Zoom, we rehearse with masks on and it’s so distancing. But whenever I look at Mariska’s eyes — there it is. We’re back!
That makes a good recipe for her future visits to Organized Crime.
It does. The producers see what happens when we’re on camera together.
Have you teased Mariska yet about your show competing with SVU?
Not yet, but as soon as we’re ahead of them in the ratings, maybe I will!
Stabler’s abrupt resignation from the sex crimes team devastated Benson. Is a conversation needed?
It wasn’t handled well. There are deep wounds that need to be addressed and healed. We take fumbling steps toward that.
Does he lead the organized crime unit?
I thought he was going to be the boss, but I’m just a detective taking orders from the boss lady [Sgt. Ayanna Bell, played by Deputy‘s Danielle Moné Truitt]. They’re two people doing a dance, learning each other’s style.
After all these years, he’s still a detective?
That’s what you get for not taking the sergeant’s exam and making bad choices. Elliot has always had a problem with authority. He always bristles about the system — to his detriment.
Has that hotheaded guy matured?
He’s gained more worldly experience, which has given him a wider lens to see people, the job and the system.
That said, we know he’s dealing with a family tragedy, perhaps involving his wife, Kathy (Isabel Gillies). How is he emotionally?
He’s lost and trying to find an anchor, the compass pointing north.
Where has the detective been for the last decade?
He wanted to get far away from the sense of betrayal he felt from the NYPD. But bitter is no way to go through life. He needed to heal himself, which started with healing his relationship with his wife. That made him a better man who’s better equipped to handle things.
Was he involved in law enforcement?
He was in a very interesting unit of the NYPD.
He stayed with the department! That’s a surprise.
I plead the Fifth!
What kind of crimes fall under his new purview?
Organized crime is not about the old-school Italian mob. It’s more of a hybrid, which is international and far more high-tech, [involving] the dark web and cybercrime.
How do Stabler and Benson find themselves collaborating again?
The first eight episodes will be about one crime. Elliot was doing an investigation somewhere else, then followed a lead to New York, where it’s causing him problems. Benson tries to help and then she’s called off the case. He goes on to investigate with her help every once in a while.
Who is the major character played by Dylan McDermott? There’s an Instagram photo of him looking like a rich big bad with two Irish wolfhounds! Is it safe to say he’s more the American Horror Story Dylan McDermott than The Practice‘s Dylan McDermott?
How does Stabler get along with his team?
Good — for the most part. So far, they’re a ragtag group that’s been pulled together. Stabler was put out to pasture for a while, so I guess he’s the old bull. If I said elder statesman, he’d take that as an insult. There’s one guy they seem to be setting up so that he and Elliot will be two alphas [facing off].
How are your many fans reacting to your return to the Law & Order family?
I’ve felt a lot of love and appreciation from fans over the years, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt it to this depth or this extent or this volume. It’s very touching.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Organized Crime, Series Premiere, Thursday, April 1, 9/8c and 10/9c, NBC