(KGET) — Some may have thought it was a cruel April Fool’s Day joke when it was announced former “Law & Order: SUV” co-stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay would be working together again on that date. It had been a decade since Meloni’s character of Elliot Stabler had been unceremoniously written out of the popular NBC crime drama after12 seasons.
It proved to be a very serious matter as the pair were reunited for a special episode of “SVU” that helped launch Meloni’s new series “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” The latest tale of crime and punishment from executive producer Dick Wolf now airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays.
Stabler’s reunion with Olivia Benson started with a tragedy. A car explosion killed Stabler’s wife when the couple were in town to be part of a special event. The links to organized crime helped set up the new job for Stabler.
Meloni has been away from the “Law & Order” world for years but Stabler hasn’t changed. Before his departure, Stabler was one of the angrier members of the “Law & Order” family. The death of his family has added new fuel to his fire.
The reason the character has remained so consistent is that it started with a solid foundation that was created in the first episode of “Law & Order: SVU” when it aired in 1999.
“I saw this guy as a guy under pressure constantly,” Meloni says in an interview a few days after the launch of “Organized Crime.” “I knew I – Christopher Meloni – would have a hard time downloading and processing what these real people and heroes do every day.
“That’s the genesis. He’s not a hot head to be a hot head. It is his reaction to injustice. I think injustice makes his head explode.”
He adds that it will be how his “Stabler 2.0” deals with the realities of the world that keep punching him in face that will be the driving force in the new series.
The death of Stabler’s wife is the major hurdle for him. The injustice Stabler saw through all those cases on “SVU” were done to others. He now must deal with all of the injustices to others while being a victim himself.
“Now, it is how do you go and attend to your own wound,” Meloni says. “How do you attend to your own injustice? How do you go on carrying that much grief? Let’s hope Elliot has found better coping mechanisms but is still very passionate.”
Meloni brings some extra acting tools to this new version of the very familiar character that he cultivated by working on a wide range of projects since his departure. He was last seen starring on the Hulu British comedy “Maxxx” and before that starred in SYFY’s dark comedy “Happy!” based on Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s graphic novel.
His other credits include “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Veep,” “True Blood,” “Pose” and “Underground.” His film credits include “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” “Man of Steel,” “42,” “They Came Together,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”
One thing Meloni didn’t do while he was away from the “Law & Order” world was watch the shows. He’s never been a big TV watcher so his lack of viewing was not something personal.
“My thinking was it is time to go. So I went,” Meloni says. “I don’t tend to look back. So, I didn’t. My journey has been fantastic and very fulfilling.”
The character of Stabler has remained the same but the “Law & Order” world where he exists is very different from the past. The format of “SUV” has been a different story each week. Wolf explains that “Organized Crime” will be more of a continuing story.
“This is a very long – but not too long – way to get inside both your protagonist’s and antagonist’s heads,” Wolf says. “This is not episodic casting. We are shooting for bigger game.”
A major part of the story will deal with the crime boss played by Dylan McDermott. Stabler will have to deal with the challenge he presents while living in a legal world that has changed during his absence.
At the same time, Stabler and his family will be facing their loss. “SVU” has offered glimpses into the personal lives of the characters but “Organized Crime” will deal in greater depth with Stabler’s home life.
There also will be more time for Stabler and Benson to be together. Wolf will not say specifically how often “Organized Crime” and “SVU” will have crossovers except to say it will only happen when the story requires it. He points to how crossovers have been used with his three “Chicago” series as an example of how it will work.