Chris Meloni Reflects on 'Inelegant' Law & Order: SVU Contract Dispute That Led to His Abrupt 2011 Exit

SVU Christopher Meloni Return Season 21

A decade after his abrupt Law & Order: SVU departure, and a month before his much-ballyhooed return to the ‘dun, dun’ franchise in the Stabler-centric Law & Order: Organized Crime, Chris Meloni is still reckoning with his unceremonious exit from the franchise.

“For me, it was about how things fell out — and the word I’ll use is that it was inelegant,” Meloni tells People magazine of the contract dispute that led to his character’s extremely unsatisfying ouster.  “At the end of the day, how it was handled was, ‘Okay, see you later.’ So I went, ‘That’s fine. We’re all big boys and girls here. See you later.’ And I was off on new adventures and doing what I wanted to do.”

Despite the unpleasant parting of the ways, Meloni is quick to note that he and his longtime SVU co-star Mariska Hargitay “stayed connected” during the 10 years that followed. (Prior to Organized Crime‘s April 1 debut, Meloni and Hargitay will reunite in an episode of SVU that introduces the spinoff; watch a preview here.)

A year after his 2011 exit, Meloni lamented the fact that longtime SVU fans were cheated out of proper farewell between Stabler and Hargitay’s Benson. “The fans really got the rug pulled out from under them,” he told us at the time. “I am absolutely very empathetic about that; I get it.”