Christopher Meloni Explains Why He Wouldn't Go Back to 'Law & Order: SVU' Permanently

Christopher Meloni's long-awaited return to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is now just days away, leading into his own spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime. Although SVU showrunner Warren Leight has revealed that Meloni will appear in more than just one SVU episode, Meloni recently told Entertainment Weekly he was not interested in going back to SVU full-time. The idea of playing Elliot Stabler again was attractive to the actor, but not if it only involved partnering with Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson every week.

"That, I didn't want to do," Meloni, 59, told EW when asked why he was not interested in joining SVU again. "That felt like going back to what was. That boat had sailed." Meloni left SVU after Season 12 finished in 2011, amid a rumored contract dispute with NBC. When SVU returned for Season 13, Stabler's absence was revealed in dialogue, confirming Stabler just retired from the NYPD.

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One other part of Stabler's character that is not coming back is his famous fury. During the show's first 12 seasons, Stabler and Benson worked together so well by providing a balance. While Benson sought to understand the victims, Stabler often exploded at suspects. Do not expect to see that in Organized Crime. "I don't want, you know, a fifty-something Elliot Stabler stomping around, unable to control his anger anymore," Meloni said. "That's not an attractive thing to watch."

Meloni admitted the idea of playing Stabler after a decade away from the character was attractive to him for personal reasons. "If you have, at least from my perspective, a very well-known and beloved TV character who left abruptly and, I would argue, unceremoniously... there's a built-in recognizability, a thing that needs to be satiated with a sense of closure," Meloni said. "Those are all very attractive things."

There was some truth to the rumor that Meloni left SVU after contract negotiations broke down. However, Meloni stayed in close contact with Hargitay and Law & Order creator Dick Wolf over the years. Meloni said he also felt like "it was time" to leave SVU after its first 12 seasons. "There were some triggers to it," he told EW. "But when I walked, I was like, 'Okay, good.' That was it."

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Stabler will first appear in the SVU episode "Return of the Prodigal Son," which airs on Thursday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The first Organized Crime episode follows immediately afterward at 10 p.m. ET. The new show also features Dylan McDermott, Tamara Taylor, Danielle Mone Truitt, and Ainsley Seiger.