‘Law & Order: SVU’: Inside Mariska Hargitay & Chris Meloni’s Real-Life Friendship

Detective Elliot Stabler and Captain Olivia Benson’s undeniable chemistry was a highlight of Law & Order: SVU’s early seasons. While this could be chalked up to good writing, the real reason the two are so convincing is the real-life friendship between Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.

The two met back when they joined SVU in the late 1990s. In fact, Hargitay and Meloni first saw each other at the audition. In what must be a running joke between them now, the actress mistook him for Mad Men star John Slattery. She explained the interaction: “I said, ‘Slattery!’ He goes, ‘Meloni!’”

According to Hargitay, the two hit it off immediately in spite of the mistake.

“I was already standing up, and so we did this huge hug, and we’d never met,” Hargitay continued. “He has a huge tattoo of Jesus on the cross, and so I said, ‘Oh my gosh, are you a Christian?’ And he’s like, ‘Um, no.’ And I said, ‘Then why do you have that?’ He goes, ‘Just liked his commitment.’ That sort of sums up Meloni.”

Though they were originally supposed to audition for SVU separately, the executives decided to pair them up instead.

“I knew it was done then. It just happened, it was a pairing,” she added. “From the first second before we even [auditioned]. You can’t write it.”

Law & Order: SVU Stars Praise Each Other

Since then, Hargitay and Meloni have done nothing but compliment one another. Throughout their many joint and separate interviews, the costars are quick to say a kind word.

Discussing Hargitay, Meloni said, “she brought her game, I brought mine, and I liked the results.” When asked how to describe her, Meloni offered many options: “Radiant. Charming. Funny. Generous. Elegant. Bawdy. Honest. Appreciative. Inclusive. Direct. Vivacious.”

Because of their closeness, Hargitay chose Meloni to introduce her when she was honored as one of Glamour’s 2021 Women of the Year.

“I have been trusted with one task tonight, introduce someone who needs no introduction, who I’ve been working with for 13 years, and been friends with for 22,” he began. “She’s got great energy, great personality… She’s fearless, without the bravado of the warrior stance, but always with the open arms, the open heart.”

The praise isn’t one-sided. When interviewed about Meloni’s return to SVU, Hargitay shared his affection.

“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,” Hargitay explained, saying that “he, after [her] husband, he knows [her] pretty well.”

As for why the two have such a good working relationship, Meloni put it this way: “It’s simple: we have each other’s back.”

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