Law & Order SVU: What we suspected of Christopher Meloni’s departure from the series


For nearly 12 years after the show’s 1999 premiere, Christopher Meloni worked on Law & Order SVU as Detective Elliot Stabler, the other half of the dynamic investigative duo also made up of Mariska Hargitay’s Detective Olivia Benson. Prior to SVU, Meloni had had small roles in big movies like 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but like many Law & Order Mothership alumni and the spin-off Oz it was what gave the actor the big break. television work as Detective Stabler that ultimately launched him to household name fame.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, Law & Order SVU was a staple of primetime television, and Stabler’s borderline vigilantism and excellent chemistry with Benson as her partner brought many of those eyeballs to the show. . It was a huge disappointment to many when the actor rushed off the show in 2011; many probably didn’t even know what had happened in the interim, as season 12 of the series premiered without him and with very little explanation. departure of the character from the sexual crimes division. So why did Christopher Meloni suddenly quit Law & Order: SVU all those years ago?

It’s a bit blunt to say that money is the reason Christopher Meloni left, but that’s what it is. To be fair, NBC lived up to a surprisingly progressive standard with Law & Order: SVU by paying both the actor and Mariska Hargitay, the duo who made the heart of the show’s interpersonal narrative, the same per episode: $400,000. .

However, in mid-2011, between seasons 12 and 13, Meloni’s contract expired, so he and NBC went back to the negotiating table for a new one. Everything seemed fine that summer; NBC programming executive Bob Greenblatt at the time even publicly stated his faith that Christopher Meloni would soon be signed to a contract, as production would begin soon on season 12.

However, it fell apart and Christopher Meloni eventually walked away, though whispers continued for a while that things might somehow work out mid-season. Rumors reported at the time that Meloni turned down an $8 million salary; We know that sounds like a lot, but spread over Law & Order: SVU’s usual 26-episode-per-season order, that works out to just over $300,000 per episode, so that would have been a substantial pay cut. Why did he keep working for less money than he used to earn?

A comeback obviously never happened. And considering the fact that Law & Order: SVU brought in an entirely new character that season to replace Christopher Meloni, Danny Pino as Detective Nick Amaro, and season 13 opened to write Stabler to little fanfare beyond affect Benson’s emotional state of mind throughout the season was probably never meant to be.