Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni's Cutest Friendship Throwback Photos
You have the right to remain best friends forever!
In 1999, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni stepped into their roles as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, playing partners on screen and ultimately becoming pals off.
Now, over two decades later, the pair continue to be friends (Hargitay is even godmother to Meloni's daughter) and are reuniting for a crossover event between Law & Order: SVU and its new Stabler-centric spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime.
The pair described their screen test to PEOPLE, recounting how they walked into the audition room while Meloni was telling Hargitay a story and were so engaged that they told the executives that they needed a second to finish the story before they could get started.
From there, Hargitay says it was "effortless, easy, fun." (And yes, you're correct: This photo is from the 2000 premiere of Coyote Ugly, a film we also saw in theaters with our BFF.)
Hargitay described meeting Meloni, telling PEOPLE, "I walked in, saw him, and I went, 'That guy. That's the guy.' It went deep, very fast. We both knew that it was something big." She added, "I won't say that I fully understood it, but I knew that meeting him was important and life-changing."
"It was like family," Hargitay said of their relationship. "It was like having a brother that had me."
And Meloni certainly had her back (or at least, the back of her dress) at the People's Choice Awards in 2000.
Their chemistry off screen made for even better chemistry on the show, with Hargitay playing the even-keeled "good cop," Olivia Benson, and Meloni playing the passionate (and at times impulsive) Stabler.
The pair played the partners — who worked in sync and always had each other's backs — for 12 years before Meloni left in 2011 due to issues with contract negotiations.
Hargitay told PEOPLE she was "devastated" when her friend and costar abruptly exited the series.
"I was just so sad, because we started this thing and built it together," she explained. "And we went through so many milestones and spent so much time together and understood so many things that nobody else could understand."
Milestones that included seeing each other get married and have children ... and this blonde hair that Hargitay rocked in 2001.
Meloni told Entertainment Tonight that, despite his departure from the show in 2011, that they have always stayed friends.
“We just pick it up right where we left off and we’ve said it’s like we don’t have this relationship with anyone else… It’s unique, it’s full of laughter, she’s full of love. We just kind of fall seamlessly into that place every time we see each other," he told the outlet.
The future of their friendship was so bright, they had to wear shades.
Meloni told PEOPLE of Hargitay, "Her insights into life and how she engages life — which I have always found fascinating, interesting — makes me consider my engagement with life and how I go through life. It's kind of enviable and nice to be around."
In 2010, the pair looked gorgeous while presenting at 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Hargitay has been nominated eight times, winning once in 2006. Meloni earned himself a nod in 2006 for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.
Here they are on Valentine's Day, 2011, pulling apart two other actors (one of which is Rose McGowan) on set of Law & Order: SVU.
Who hasn't wanted to do this with their bestie at some point or another?
Hargitay told PEOPLE that the moment they came back together on screen was "so emotional."
"It was this thing that I had really dreamed about," she added.
Us, too, Mariska. Us, too.
"It was Pavlovian: Ring that bell, and you get right into Stabler and Benson," Meloni told PEOPLE of their return to the screen.
"There was so much shorthand between us, which all goes back to the trust we have," Hargitay added. "He's always made me feel like I could just jump off the ledge, the cliff, the bridge, and he would catch me, in so many ways, whether it was comedy or acting or friendship."
"It's simple," Meloni said. "We have each other's back."
This is an accurate depiction of me screaming about how much I love that these two are friends after all these years.