Earlier this year, NBC announced that it was bringing Meloni’s character, Elliot Stabler, back for a spinoff from franchise mastermind Dick Wolf called “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” The actor starred on “Law & Order: SVU” for 12 seasons before being written out of the show somewhat unceremoniously. It was revealed at the beginning of Season 13 that Stabler had retired from the force off-camera after a deadly self-defense shooting in the Season 12 finale.
The abrupt exit caused many to speculate as to the reason for Meloni’s departure behind-the-scenes. However, speaking to the New York Post, the 59-year-old actor said he left with “zero animosity.”
“How I left was a different issue and had nothing to do with the ‘Law & Order’ people, the ‘SVU’ people or with Dick Wolf,” Meloni explained. “I left with zero animosity, but I did leave clearly and open-eyed in going forward and finding new adventures."
“I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do, keep moving forward,’” he said. “I had done the ‘Law & Order’ way of storytelling, which they do really well, and I was interested in telling stories from a different angle — whether comedic or inhabiting a new world or doing it on different platforms.”
Since his “SVU” exit, Meloni has had roles on “True Blood,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Pose,” “Veep” and appeared in movies like “Surviving Jack, Happy!” and two “Wet Hot American Summer” spinoffs for Netflix.
However, he explained that the circumstances for him have changed. So, when Wolf approached him with an idea for a new “Law & Order” spinoff, he was onboard.
“I never thought this was going to happen, but the circumstances for me changed,” he told the outlet. “So ‘yes’ became the correct answer.”
The new show will find Stabler returning to the NYPD after suffering a personal tragedy. However, he remained tight-lipped about just what that tragedy is. When he returns, he won’t be returning to his old unit. Instead, he’ll be part of a task force cracking on organized crime.
“Dick gave me a general brush stroke of the unit that Elliot will be a part of,” Meloni explained. “The whys, what fors, what brings him back to the fold and where he’s been."
The actor also teased a potential reunion between his character and his old partner, Olivia Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay.
“It just has to be,” he says. “Benson and Stabler are inextricably linked, locked and connected. I think there is truly and deeply a worthwhile, inherent drama in exploring that relationship and the complexity of how Stabler left — the unresolved emotions both characters feel and how the fans feel.”