Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni know what the fans want to see.
On a dual interview on the Today Show to promote the new seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime, the former co-stars dished on the latest storylines but also whether, at long last, their Benson and Stabler characters will get together.
The Benson and Stabler reunion
When Elliot Stabler quit the police force after shooting a teenage girl in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 12 finale, it hit partner Olivia Benson hard.
The pair had built themselves into a fine unit, utterly trusting one another, and a bond deeper than just friends or even lovers. Losing Stabler affected Benson for quite a while.
She was just as thrown when, after a decade, Stabler returned when his wife, Kathy, was mortally wounded. Season 1 of Law & Order: Organized Crime had Benson trying to help Stabler and that bond growing deeper.
“Our eyesight just got so bad that it’s the old, ‘Is that you? Is that you?'” Meloni cracked.
The pair discussed the bond between them, with Hargitay claiming “it was an instant, instantaneous connection that is inexplicable, that has only grown. I look at it as a gift, but the second we met it was like [mimics exploding sound]. There’s so much love and there’s so much trust and there’s so much ease and there’s so much chemistry. And the gift of it is that it has truly stood the test of time.”
When asked if they had ever dated in real life, Hargitay joked, “for four years and we just broke up two months ago.”
Meloni added, “don’t tell our spouses.” He has been married to Sherman Williams since 1995, while Hargitay married Peter Hermann (who plays lawyer Trevor Langan) in 2004.
Will Benson and Stabler get together?
The interview shifted to the chances of the characters finally having a romantic connection, with Hargitay saying it’s possible but still a lot of baggage in the way.
“It’s all underneath percolating. Right now after Stabler being gone for 10 years and the way that he left and the complexity of what’s happened and how he came back surprising me, we’re still finding our way. But it’s complex and real, and I think what I love about it most is that it’s earned. This relationship is truly earned. Not a lot of people have a 23-year relationship.”
A powerful Season 1 Law & Order: Organized Crime scene had Stabler’s family staging an intervention over his behavior. Benson was with them, with Stabler openly saying, “I love you.”
“I was under emotional duress,” Meloni said about his character. “I was saying it because I was in the midst of an intervention. My family was coming together with the help of Olivia Benson for an intervention. One of my daughters said, ‘I love you,’ but I was looking at Mariska.”
The pair were coy on that and other details, although Hargitay acknowledged Benson will be on crutches for a few episodes to work in her real-life broken ankle.
“It’s so funny because I’d love to say, ‘Oh, you should see the other guy,’ but the truth of the matter is I tripped in the rain walking across the street,” she said. “I’m feeling great. I’m feeling bionic now.”
While both shows will have their separate dramas, the actors seem as eager as the fans to see if their characters take their partnership to a new level.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 premieres Thursday, September 23 at 8/7c followed by the Season 2 premiere of Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC.