Stabler is back: Christopher Meloni stars again in new ‘Law & Order’ entry

'Organized Crime' expands enduring NBC crime-drama franchise

Christopher Meloni returns as Elliot Stabler in “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” premiering Thursday on NBC.

After years of suggestions and rumors, it’s finally official: Elliot Stabler is back.

Following a decade away from the police-detective role he originated on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Christopher Meloni reprises the part in the latest addition to the NBC franchise from executive producer Dick Wolf with the Thursday, April 1, premiere of “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” Reintroduced in the “SVU” episode immediately preceding the new show’s debut, Stabler now heads a New York task force targeting the title criminal activity; cast members also include Dylan McDermott, Tamara Taylor and Charlotte Sullivan (“Rookie Blue”).

“When you say ‘Yes’ to something like this,” the amiable Meloni reflects, “you can have all the fantasies you want about what it’s going to be like, how it will turn out, etc. I must say the reality has been very comfortable, though I wouldn’t say ‘effortless,’ since getting back into being the lead of a one-hour show takes effort. But it feels right and good, OK in all ways.”

Many viewers are familiar with the Stabler character — who has remained very evident in frequent “SVU” repeats on such cable outlets as USA Network and ION Television — but Meloni attests there are new differences to him, too. “I think what plays into it is the environment that he finds himself in,” the actor notes. “Policing in society is a big topic now, and certain aspects of the show will reflect where we’re at with that. We hopefully find Stabler a little older and wiser, but also with the heroic qualities that I think he possessed before.”

Christopher Meloni returns as Elliot Stabler in “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” premiering Thursday on NBC.

While he maintains his reason for agreeing to play Stabler again is a story for “years down the road,” reappearing on “Special Victims Unit” means Meloni has a much-anticipated reunion with Mariska Hargitay, who has played Olivia Benson since that show started 22 years ago. She’s the real-life godmother to Meloni’s daughter, indicating their closeness, but Meloni admits to having had butterflies over reteaming with her on camera.

“Prepping for it was nerve-wracking,” he says. “I had no doubt that the chemistry would find its familiar place, and that’s how it played out … but I did have the thought, ‘How is this going to work?’ ”

Though “Law & Order: Organized Crime” hit a couple of speed bumps on the way to premiering — a change in showrunners (it’s now “Empire” and “The L Word” veteran Ilene Chaiken) and a production shutdown over a positive COVID-19 test — Meloni considers it “a hall pass” to be back filming on the streets of New York. “We’re doing it under very strict guidelines, and everybody has to follow the protocols, but we’re getting things done.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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