Chris Meloni Teases What's Next for Benson and Stabler's Complicated Relationship

The 'Law & Order' star teased what's next for the former partners as 'SVU' and 'Organized Crime' return this fall.

Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on Special Victims Unit, and Chris Meloni, who recently returned to the Law & Order franchise as Elliot Stabler on Organized Crime, know that fans are eager for the two former partners to ignite their romance onscreen. But Meloni played coy about whether or not that will happen when both shows return to NBC in September. 

“I think it’s going to be a collaborative effort between both showrunners and Mariska and I to figure it all out. It’s a complicated relationship, so we’ll see,” the actor said during NBCUniversal’s 2021 Summer Press Tour on Monday. 

With Organized Crime season 2 seeing Stabler going undercover as he tries to infiltrate a notorious crime family aiming to take over New York City’s cocaine trade, Meloni teased that it will add new pressures to the dynamic between the two as they continue to rebuild their personal and professional relationship.  

“Benson recognizes certain telltale signs that he might need to talk to people and that it might not be the healthiest place for him to be in the moment,” Meloni said, noting that Stabler was reintroduced alongside the death of his wife, Kathy (Isabel Gillies), which he’s still coming to terms with. 

“From what I’ve heard from the undercovers that I’ve spoken with, you do kind of lose yourself in the job and we find Elliot in that place,” the actor continued. 

That said, “Our lives do overlap and intersect,” he shared. However, “things are more professional than personal in the first few episodes.”

When it comes to working with Hargitay, Meloni had nothing but praise for his longtime co-star. “We love and honor and respect each other’s gifts,” he shared. “We’ve always had each other’s best interests at heart.” 

Meloni also commended Hargitay for keeping “the SVU train going for 23 years now,” especially after his abrupt departure from the franchise. 

“Things were left unfinished,” he said of how things ended for Benson and Stabler, acknowledging that fans were left with an “unsatisfying ending” to a journey they followed for 12 seasons. 

Among the several new cast members joining Organized Crime season 2 is Vinnie Jones, the British actor famous for his roles in Snatch and Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels. He plays Albi Briscu, “an Eastern European gangster who is the last remaining member of the organization from the old country.”

“We’re dealing with an Albanian crime family. You get to see a little bit of the hierarchy and it’s very much a family organization,” Meloni said when asked about the new dynamic, teasing that “there’s a Shakespearean intrigue surrounding it.” 

Meanwhile, SVU marks its historic 23rd season with a two-hour premiere as Benson continues to run the elite squad tackling sexually-based offenses. This season will include its 500th episode as it continues to extend the record for the longest-running live-action TV series.  

Law & Order: SVU season 23 premieres Thursday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. ET/PT followed by Law & Order: Organized Crime season 2 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.