Mariska Hargitay Laments Chris Meloni's SVU Exit: 'I Love Him and Will Miss Him Terribly'

Law & Order: SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay is speaking out for the first time about the departure of her longtime partner in crime, Chris Meloni.

“For the past 12 years Chris has been my partner and friend, both on screen and off,” the Emmy winner tells TVLine exclusively. “He inspired me every day with his integrity, his extraordinary talent and his commitment to the truth. I love him deeply and will miss him terribly — I’m so excited to see what he’ll do next.”

Earlier this week, TVLine broke the news that Meloni was turning in his badge after 12 years of playing Detective Stabler. The actor tendered his resignation after marathon contract talks with NBC collapsed suddenly.

A search is now underway for a big-name actor to be paired with Hargitay’s Detective Benson before she steps away from her full-time beat at midseason.