The Real Reason Christopher Meloni Left 'Law & Order: SVU'

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Lindsay Cronin

Christopher Meloni left his role as Detective Elliot Stabler in May 2011 after appearing on 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU. However, as fans of the long-running NBC series recently learned, that wasn't all she wrote for Detective Stabler.

In April 2021, 10 years after Meloni initially said "goodbye" to his beloved character, Meloni reprised his role as Detective Stabler in the series' spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime.

Following the character's return, we're looking back at why Meloni left his role in the first place.

Christopher Meloni Left 'SVU' For New Adventures

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During a January 2020 interview with The New York Post, Meloni said that he decided to walk away from Law & Order: SVU to pursue "new adventures.”

“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 said. “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.'”

Christopher Meloni Took On New Acting Endeavors After Leaving 'SVU'

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Meloni continued, "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.”

While Meloni did move on to star in a number of other projects, including The Handmaid's Tale, Harley Quinn, and Man of Steel, Law & Order: Organized Crime eventually came knocking. And, while Meloni was surprised to hear from producers, he was immediately on board.

Christopher Meloni Explains The Return Of Detective Stabler

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Looking back on the moment that Law & Order creator Dick Wolf contacted him about reprising his role as Detective Stabler for Law & Order: Organized Crime, Meloni admitted he was "shocked" by the idea.

“I was like, ‘Oh, really? OK.’ I was shocked. I never thought this was going to happen, but the circumstances for me changed. So ‘yes’ became the correct answer,” he explained to The New York Post of his decision to join the show.

Meloni went on to say that when it came to his exit from Law & Order: SVU after season 12, he felt his character's exit was "really unsatisfying."

Christopher Meloni Isn't Opposed To Continuing To Appear On 'Organized Crime'

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Speaking of the future of Detective Stabler on Law & Order: Organized Crime, Meloni said that his time on the spinoff series hasn't felt like a conclusion.

“It almost feels that we won’t do one or two [crossover] episodes and move on our merry way. I just think there will always be possibilities there,” he explained. “People will always be hungry to see how we interact and how that dynamic has changed.”

Law & Order: Organized Crime was renewed for a second season in May.