Dun-dun! Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been going strong since 1999, but not all of its major characters have stayed throughout its long run.
In fact, the only remaining original cast member from season 1 of the series is Mariska Hargitay who started as detective Olivia Benson and has since become the captain of the Special Victims Unit. She replaced Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) in 2014 as the SVU leader — becoming sergeant then lieutenant before making her way to captain.
The cast is rounded out by Ice-T (Odafin “Fin” Tutuola) who joined the show in 2000, Kelli Giddish (Amanda Rollins), Peter Scanavino (Sonny Carisi) and Jamie Gray Hyder (Katriona Tamin).
Its history-making run, however, is in part thanks to all of the actors that came before the current roster of detectives.
One of the most memorable stars to walk away from the hit drama was Benson’s original partner, detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), who after 12 seasons left the show in 2011. However, since his departure, Meloni and Hargitay’s off-screen friendship has remained strong.
In March 2020, Deadline reported that Meloni’s beloved character would be getting his own spinoff series from the show’s creator Dick Wolf. The show will revolve around the NYPD organized crime unite, which Stabler will lead.
“Happy birthday @Chris_Meloni #It’sBeenAWhile #WelcomeHome,” Hargitay wrote via Twitter days after the news broke to give her longtime friend a warm welcome back and celebrate his birthday on April 2.
The actor’s new show will begin after Meloni’s character makes his return to SVU during the season 22 premiere, according to showrunner Warren Leight.
“It’s pretty clear that Elliot will be in the SVU season opener,” Leight revealed during an April 2020 episode of the “Law & Order: SVU” podcast. “I think that much I know.”
Ahead of his return announcement, Scanavino told Us Weekly exclusively that he’d love to see Meloni back on the NBC drama for the fans’ sake.
“You know, it would be really great if he did,” the actor told Us in September 2019. “I think that was kind of a story line that a lot of fans don’t have closure on.”
Meloni is one of many stars who walked through the fictional New York City precinct over the past two decades — a lot of whom reprised their roles for an episode here and there following their initial departure.
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Scroll below to see what some of your favorite Law & Order: SVU alumni — including detectives, medical examiners and ADAs — have been up to since their departures.