‘Law & Order: SVU’ E.P. Says He Would Only Bring Christopher Meloni Back For A Series Finale

Law & Order: SVU has been an NBC staple for 17 years, but even shows with such long running histories eventually lose steam, and such has been the case with this Dick Wolf series. When it looked like Law & Order: SVU was on its way out, executive producer and showrunner Warren Leight planned to bring Christopher Meloni back for the series finale, but the good news of a renewal changes any plans for Elliot Stabler’s return to the Special Victims Unit. As Leight reveals, there is much he might have done differently, if there were no plans for a Season 18 of the show.

Warren Leight Speaks Out About Christopher Meloni’s Return And The Future Of Law & Order: SVU

Rumors of cancellation have often surrounded Law & Order: SVU, a condition showrunner Leight blames on the 9:00 p.m. time slot. He says the day of the week doesn’t matter as much as being stuck in that time slot and it has often felt like a death march for the series, but the show still struggles on with the placement NBC has granted it. Warren adds that the cast & crew felt under-appreciated in the early years of the show, but after having built a loyal following, they have moved beyond that and now feel as much love for their fans as their audiences feel for them.

Even so, premature plans for the cancellation of Law & Order: SVU were made. Leight didn’t want the show to just end. He wanted to bring a sense of closure to the characters of the series and that included a possible return of Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni.

“If we weren’t coming back, there were a couple things I was absolutely going to do,” Warren says of bringing back Christopher Meloni. “We had been talking [about], had this been the last episode, we would have tried him to bring him back.”

Now, with the renewal of Law & Order: SVU, Leight is hopeful that the show has many more seasons in its run, suggesting that he would like the series to go to at least 21 seasons to make it the longest running show in television history. He adds that it would really depend on Mariska Hargitay and how much longer she would like to continue playing Olivia Benson. Warren says that, if Hargitay chose to make 18 her last season, he would back her up on that, just as he would, if the actress chose to play her character indefinitely.

Christopher Meloni Walked Away From Law & Order: SVU, But That Doesn’t Mean He Still Isn’t Open To A Reunion Episode With Mariska Hargitay

Meloni is said to have exited the series abruptly, after having filmed the Season 12 finale, leaving fans, as well as character Olivia Benson, stunned with the Season 13 premiere and the absence of Elliot Stabler. That premiere dealt with Meloni’s departure in a quick and cold manner, as Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) tells Benson that her partner had resigned from the force, following the shooting of an unarmed woman.

Leight, who was brought in as a writer for Season 13, wishes everyone involved would have handled the situation better. He says Stabler’s absence from season 13 could have been handled with more care and empathy for the fans.

“None of the people in the room thought for a second, How will the fans experience this?” the Law & Order: SVU showrunner said. “It was a negotiation handled without much empathy on any of the participants’ parts, and I think they all sort of know that now. And there wasn’t much empathy for the fans either. I think everyone probably learned, but you can’t roll the clock back.”

Warren Leight still holds hope for a reunion for Detectives Benson and Stabler. He suggests that Christopher Meloni would be open to the idea, if the offer came from Mariska Hargitay, herself.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays on NBC.

[Image by Taylor Hill/Getty Images]