'Law & Order: SVU' Regular Philip Winchester Not Returning for Season 21

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is known for surviving cast turnover and, as the show prepares [...]

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is known for surviving cast turnover and, as the show prepares for its record-breaking 21st season, it will be experiencing another change. Philip Winchester is not returning as Assistant District Attorney Peter Stone.

Shortly after NBC confirmed SVU will be back in Fall 2019, Winchester broke the news on Twitter.

"Sadly for me, Peter stone and his 'the facts don't care about you're feelings' attitude will not be returning," the actor wrote. "A huge tip of the hat to my amazing fans and not so big of fans. You ALL make me work harder. Thank you! See you on the next adventure."

In another tweet, Winchester thanked his fans and his soon-to-be-former co-stars.

"I want to congratulate the cast and crew of [SVU] for making history today. Also to thank everyone for two great seasons. I have learned much and enjoyed being part of an elite unit. Here's to you all and a historic run," he wrote.

Winchester first joined the Dick Wolf universe in the 2016 Chicago P.D. episode "Justice" and was a main character on the short-lived Chicago Justice. After NBC cancelled the show, Wolf brought Winchester to New York for two seasons on SVU. The character was written as the son of Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarty), the first A.D.A. on the original Law & Order. In his first SVU episode, Stone attended his father's funeral.

In Season 20, Stone's role has been sidelined as the writers continued to focus less on the "order" side of Law & Order. However, the episode "Dear Ben" focused on Stone, as the team tracked down a serial rapist obsessed with his father.

On Friday, NBC renewed SVU for a 21st season. It is the first network primetime drama to reach that milestone, passing the 20-season record previously held by Gunsmoke (1955-1975) and the original Law & Order (1990-2010).

"As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate and crusader for women," Wolf said in a statement. "She is an enduring champion of the movement to end sexual violence, and dozens of episodes have dealt with the very same issues that have shifted into the spotlight in this country in the past two years. Mariska is a delight as #1 on the call sheet and, to me, a true friend."

"I'm deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today," Mariska Hargitay, the only cast member to appear on all 20 seasons, added. "The longevity and continued success of SVU is a testament not only to the show's powerful storytelling and ability to connect with viewers, but to its necessity. We have told important stories for 20 years, and we will continue to tell them."

The rest of the main cast includes Ice T as Sgt. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola, Kelli Giddish as Det. Amanda Rollins and Peter Scanavino as Det. Sonny Carisi.

New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo credit: NBC