Law & Order: SVU fans are in for a treat on Thursday night as the show returns for a special crossover event to mark the return of Christopher Meloni's character Elliot Stabler.
As it's been a long ten years since viewers last saw the actor in the role, we take a look into why the actor abruptly exited the show in 2011, and everything he has said about it.
WATCH: Law and Order: SVU returns with a special crossover episode
From 1999 to 2011, Christopher served on the show as the co-lead opposite Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson. As a result, he became a household name, won over legions of fans and even bagged himself an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the NYPD detective. So when he announced he would be leaving the NBC show after 12 seasons, viewers were understandably shocked.
At the time, fans weren't given much of an explanation aside from the fact that contract negotiations had broken down between the actor and the network. As a result, his character Stabler made an off-screen exit and was never seen again.
Christopher remained tight-lipped about his exit at the time but has recently opened up about what really happened. Speaking to People this year, the actor revealed that the talks between him and NBC became "inelegant", causing him to walk away.
He also opened up about his reasons for leaving the show last year. Speaking to the New York Post, the actor revealed he was "interested in telling stories from a different angle" after playing the straight-laced detective for over a decade.
Mariska and Christopher led the series together for the first 11 years
"How I left was a different issue and had nothing to do with the Law & Order people, the SVU people or with Dick Wolf. I left with zero animosity, but I did leave clearly and open-eyed in going forward and finding new adventures," he said.
"I was like, 'That's what I want to do, keep moving forward.' I had done the Law & Order way of storytelling, which they do really well, and I was interested in telling stories from a different angle—whether comedic or inhabiting a new world or doing it on different platforms."
True to his word, he went on to land a variety of different roles in television and film, including drama series The Handmaid's Tale, superhero flick Man of Steel and sitcom Happy!. But it sounds like ten years away was enough for the actor, as he now brings back his beloved SVU character for a new spinoff series called Law & Order: Organized Crime, which will see him reunite with Benson and the NYPD.
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