Christopher Meloni is stepping back into the Law & Order: SVU universe. According to reporting in Deadline, a new series focused on Meloni’s SVU character Elliot Stabler is coming to NBC. The series, which was created by Dick Wolf, the mind behind the entire Law & Order universe, has been given a 13-episode series order.
The show will reportedly follow the NYPD organized crime unit led by Stabler. Like SVU, it will also be set in New York, which should allow for seamless crossovers with SVU. During his time in the Law & Order universe prior to his departure, Meloni played Mariska Hargitay’s partner in the special victims unit.
During their 12 seasons on the show together, Meloni and Hargitay became one of the most popular duos on television. On SVU, Stabler is an Irish Catholic who is married with five children. When Meloni announced that he would not be returning to SVU, the character was written off the show and it was explained that he had retired from the police force.
In the years since his departure, Deadline reports that Meloni has remained close with Hargitay and Wolf. He even participated in The Paley Center Salutes Law & Order: SVU on NBC in January.
Since leaving SVU, Meloni has starred in a number of other TV projects, including the Syfy series Happy!, the WGA America series Underground, and in guest roles on shows like True Blood and The Handmaid’s Tale.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether this new series will fall under the Law & Order branding, but Deadline has suggested that that’s a possibility. For Wolf, this show will join the four series he already has airing on NBC, which include all three Chicago series as well as SVU. The announcement of the new show is the first to come out of the nine-figure, five-year deal that Wolf struck with Universal Television last month.
In an interview with TVLine in 2019, current SVU showrunner Warren Leight was asked whether he thought Meloni would ever be willing to return to the show.
“Look: I assume that if some year, some decade, couple decades from now, we get to the last SVU, [Meloni] would have to come back before we do the last episode or before the show signs off… However, I don’t think we’re at that point in the show’s run,” Leight said at the time.
With the news of his return to the character of Stabler, it seems possible that Meloni’s return to SVU could come sooner than anyone originally anticipated.