It's been over 21 years since they first worked together on the long-running cop drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but former detective partners Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni still make a good team. The two stars opened up about their long friendship with People Magazine ahead of the premiere of its new spinoff series Organized Crime, which follows Detective Elliot Stabler (Meloni) after he returns to the NYPD force. "It happened at the screen test," Meloni tells the outlet of his first time meeting his co-star. He "walked into the screen test, me telling her a story, and we get up on stage in front of all the suits, and we're just so engaged."
Hargitay joined in saying, "I walked in, saw him, and I went, 'That guy. That's the guy.' It went deep, very fast. We both knew that it was something big." She recalls, "I won't say that I fully understood it, but I knew that meeting him was important and life-changing. My father, my husband, [Law & Order creator] Dick Wolf and Chris are the four pillar men in my life. And that happened early."
Hargitay and Meloni recently reunited for an upcoming episode of Law and Order: SVU, which will premiere ahead of Organized Crime. "It was Pavlovian: Ring that bell, and you get right into Stabler and Benson," says Meloni of their reunion. "There was so much shorthand between us, which all goes back to the trust we have," Hargitay adds. "He's always made me feel like I could just jump off the ledge, the cliff, the bridge, and he would catch me, in so many ways, whether it was comedy or acting or friendship." Meloni adds, "It's simple, we have each other's back."
Meloni and Hargitay starred alongside each for 12 seasons until Meloni left in 2011 due to disagreements concerning his contract. The two quickly became close friends, celebrating birthdays and marriages (Hargitay married actor Peter Hermann, whom she first met when he had a guest-starring role on SVU), and even the birth of children together. Hargitay is also the godmother of his 19-year-old daughter Sophia.
"The birth of his first child and being privy to his amazing, solid relationship with his wife, before I had that for myself — I think that Chris and Sherman played a really big role for me, to see this really stable couple that loved each other," Hargitay says. "And it made me feel even safer with him, as opposed to: 'Great guy — but single.' Or 'Great guy — except for his romantic life.' Instead, he's this man who is as solid as a rock, and who is that rock in his relationship," she adds. "And I got to lean on it when I needed to. It was like family."