Now that Law & Order: Organized Crime is halfway through its first season, Christopher Meloni is opening up to ET’s Kevin Frazier about what drew him back to Dick Wolf’s TV universe, where things are headed for Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) following their emotional reunion, and why his butt may need a publicist of its own.
When it was first announced that Meloni would be reprising his role as Stabler in an all-new Law & Order spinoff, it came as a huge surprise to longtime fans of the franchise, especially after the actor made an unceremonious exit from Special Victims Unit a decade prior. While speaking to ET last summer, Meloni said his return was the result of certain things falling into place.
“And now, in retrospect, I feel as though the timing couldn’t have been more right,” Meloni says, adding that Wolf “is a very seductive character. And I knew what I was getting into.”
The actor adds that Wolf had a vision for Law & Order 2.0, which has been brought to life by showrunner Ilene Chaiken and executive producer Fred Berner. “We all understood the vision and [have been] growing in the same way, same place and same rhythm.”
And since its debut, it has delivered on that. Organized Crime has changed the format of typical Law & Order series, with a season-long arc following Stabler, who has not only joined a new task force meant to bring down various illegal and underground businesses, but is seeking vengeance for his wife’s murder. The big bad of season 1 is Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), the head of a digital drug cartel with ties to the mob.
By having a recurring antagonist, the series has been able to develop a complicated relationship between Stabler and Wheatley as the two play a dangerous game of cat and mouse that’s been fun to watch develop week to week. And for both actors, “it’s been a blast,” McDermott says, adding that’s why he signed onto the show. “To work with this man… so we could have those moments, so we could go head-to-head and so we could get in there with each other.”
The chemistry between McDermott and Meloni is only second to Meloni’s longtime, on-screen relationship with Hargitay. Following the dramatic reunion between Benson and Stabler in a highly anticipated crossover event between Law & Order series Special Victims Unit and Organized Crime, fans have watched as the two navigate being back in each other’s lives.
Since the first crossover event, there’s been some unexpected tension between the two characters, leaving many to wonder if they’ll ever start up a romantic relationship. But there’s also been some clashing as Benson has offered to help Stabler overcome his PTSD, even staging an unsuccessful intervention.
Before the two can truly move forward, Meloni says there are lots of “issues” the two need to resolve to get their relationship back on track. “I think it’s going to require a lot of work, a lot of healing,” Meloni says. “It’s a complicated situation, which I think is going to make both series better.”
He adds that when it comes to “something as sacred as this relationship,” everyone on the show has to do their work correctly in order to figure out “if this relationship needs to go to another place.”
In the meantime, the other thing about Meloni’s return causing a commotion is all the attention paid to his butt, especially after photos of him on set went viral. When asked about it now, Meloni jokes that his “a** had to get a publicist.”
But at the end of the day, Meloni says, “It’s very nice. I am a man of a certain age. So look, if they’re about it, you know, good. Then, if we’re talking about your show, even better… So yeah, it was flattering.”
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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