Benson and Stabler are reunited and the actors couldn’t be happier.
In a new dual interview, Law & Order SVU stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay discussed how it felt to have their former partners reunited on both SVU and Organized Crime, reviving their partnership and if it can become something more.
The partners’ bond
From the beginning of SVU, Stabler and Benson were the heart of the show. The two partners handled the often dark SVU cases even though it seemed there could be no romance with Stabler happily married to wife Kathleen.
Yet it became obvious the pair had an incredible bond that went beyond just a love affair. Even Kathy noted that Olivia understood Eliott better than his wife could. Each was willing to put their lives on the line for the other without question, even if they had some tension on cases.
That’s why Benson was devastated when Stabler left after the eleventh season finale following his being forced to shoot a teenage girl avenging her mother’s murder.
That was the last fans saw until earlier in 2021 when Kathy was attacked and Stabler returned. He and Benson had some obvious tension over their lost years.
When Kathy succumbed to her injuries, it sent Stabler to a darker place, with Olivia doing her best to help. She even got his family to stage an “intervention” for his temper and investigate criminal Richard Wheatley.
In a video interview with Variety’s Cynthia Littleton, the actors discussed the difficulties in crafting the reunion. Both shows were affected by the shutdowns to the coronavirus pandemic as originally, a 2020 SVU episode would have set up Stabler’s return.
It was clear Hargitay was channeling some of her real feelings over Meloni’s leaving into Benson upset at Stabler going with Meloni stating the challenge was living up to fan expectations.
Hargitay joked how she had “been working on this for ten years,” and both actors were surprised at how easily they got back into it. Meloni stated it was “immediate and effortless,” while Hargitay added that just seeing him back on set was like being back filming the very first episode in 1999.
Both actors acknowledged that the first 12 seasons created a natural bond that quickly allowed them to slip back into their characters with almost no preparation.
“I think it is very human in that faults of the characters come out, and their pasts come out and inform how they engage each other,” Meloni said. “And those are, to me, some of the cornerstones of what we built with these two.”
“We went through so much in the first 12 years and dug so deep and had a very full relationship and a very honest one and brave one,” Hargitay said. “I think we’re pretty locked in and dialed into each other, and so that’s been a joy and a pleasure to find.”
The romantic future?
Each actor noted how their characters have changed over the years. Benson has risen to lead SVU and is now raising an adoptive son. Stabler spent time with law enforcement in Europe before joining the organized crime unit. For Meloni, it was simply “the right time in Eliott’s evolution” for him to accept a new police job.
Hargitay admitted that she faces an annual question of “am I ready for another year of this?” but seems inclined to stay with SVU for as long as she can. “Dick Wolf comes out with a new series every 20 minutes, so it looks like I’m going to be busy acting.”
Obviously, the discussion turned to whether the partners might end up becoming romantic after all. While Hargitay seemed open to it, Meloni pointed out that Stabler is still mourning Kathleen and handling his emotions, and it might be a while.
“You have to be where they are right now and what they have to grapple with personally and professionally. And I would argue, especially Stabler, it’s miles down the road,” Meloni said.
“I concur,” Hargitay added, although she cracked on how her on-screen son would be named “Noah Benson Stabler.”
Littleton summed up how “this entire conversation is likely to crack the Internet.” The discussion shows how, over 22 years since they first joined up, Meloni and Hargitay are still eager to explore more of the Benson/Stabler dynamic.
Law & Order SVU season 22 and Law & Order: Organized Crime season 1 streaming on Hulu and Peacock.