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"It was such a seamless, effortless endeavor. It was great," the actor said

By Nicholas Rice
March 26, 2021 10:24 AM
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After all these years, Christopher Meloni still has an immense amount of love and admiration for Mariska Hargitay.

While appearing virtually on The Tonight Show Thursday, Meloni, 59, gushed about returning to the set of Law & Order: SVU and reuniting with Hargitay, 57.

The actors previously costarred on the series for 12 years as the famed detective duo before Meloni left in 2011 due to issues with contract negotiations.

When asked by host Jimmy Fallon if returning to the role was an easy feat, Meloni said, "It's such a cliché ... I got on the stage of the SVU set and it has changed. They have different actors and it's not my house, it's not my place, so I had no connection. But as soon as I got to act with Mariska, it was like yesterday."

The moment, Meloni continued, settled in for him as soon as the pair started working together. "We know each other and mess around socially and all that, but when we got down and cameras were rolling ... it was such a seamless, effortless endeavor," the actor said. "It was great."

Mariska Hargitay; Chris Meloni
Credit: Greg Allen/Shutterstock

On April 1, Meloni will reprise his role as Detective Elliot Stabler and reunite onscreen with Hargitay's Olivia Benson for a new episode of the NBC drama.

The episode will air right before the premiere of the Law & Order spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime, in which Meloni's Stabler is the central character. 

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Along with Meloni, the new spinoff, from creator Dick Wolf, will also star Dylan McDermott and Tamara Taylor.

The series will follow Stabler, who returns to the New York Police Department to battle organized crime. After a devastating personal loss, he will aim to rebuild his life as part of a new elite task force.

RELATED VIDEO: Law & Order: SVU: Elliot Stabler Returns and Calls Out to Olivia Benson in Sneak Peek

Speaking with PEOPLE last month, Hargitay said she was "devastated" when her friend and costar abruptly exited the series years back.

"I was just so sad, because we started this thing and built it together," she said at the time. "And we went through so many milestones and spent so much time together and understood so many things that nobody else could understand."

"I had to do so many mental gymnastics and sort of do a reinvention in my own mind, which of course turned out to be a gift, as any sort of growth is. But I was scared; I was sad," added the actress, who has continued playing Benson on SVU — now the longest-running drama series in TV history.

Meloni said he saw things differently, though. "She was left in the familiarity of what we were. And I'm sure there were echoes, constant reminders, everywhere," he said. "But for me, it was about how things fell out — and the word I'll use is that it was inelegant."

"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. Telling the stories I wanted to tell," added Meloni, who went on to appear in numerous TV series, including True Blood and The Handmaid's Tale, as well as several films, like Man of Steel and Snatched.