Production on the upcoming Season 13 is due to get underway soon and, according to Deadline.com, 'SVU' creator/executive producer Dick Wolf and NBC have narrowed the field to a short list of five.
The actors, who have all doubtless just spent a sleepless night in the Big Apple rehearsing their lines, have been named as: Danny Pino ('Cold Case'), Kevin Alejandro ('True Blood,' 'Southland'), David Conrad ('Ghost Whisperer'), Michael Raymond-James ('Terriers') and Rhys Coiro ('Entourage').
Each one will test today with Meloni's co-star, Mariska Hargitay, who plays Det. Olivia Benson on the drama. Both Alejandro and Raymond-James recently guest-starred on 'SVU,' so could be feeling like they've got the edge.
In May new NBC boss Robert Greenblatt said that the network "wants to keep refreshing an old franchise" by making changes to the veteran crime procedural. There have been frequent cast changes over the years, especially with the A.D.A. role, which has had numerous short-term inhabitants.
New 'SVU' characters come and go pretty regularly, and there have even been cross-overs from other shows. Dann Florek's character, Capt. Donald Cragen, started life on the mothership, 'Law & Order,' and Det. Munch (Richard Belzer) moved over from the now-defunct 'Homicide: Life on the Street.'
However, not all recastings have been successful. Munch swiftly blew through two partners before he finally met his match in Ice T's character, Finn Tutuola. And Adam Beach ('Big Love,' 'Flags of Our Fathers') was brought in at the beginning of Season 9, but his character, Det. Chester Lake, never really took off with fans -- many of whom felt that he was designed to gradually write out either Belzer or Ice-T -- and Beach left after only one season.
Producers are keen to replace the 50-year old Meloni with a younger actor in order to prolong the life of the series and to balance out veterans like Belzer (67), Florek (61) and Ice-T (53). With the exception of the 40-something Conrad, all the actors on the short list are in their mid- to late-thirties.
And soon they will be looking to cast a new female lead as well. New mom Hargitay only renewed her contract for one year, and she asked for a lighter work schedule, so we'll see less of Olivia in the second half of Season 13. Greenblatt reportedly lobbied for Conrad's co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt to take over from Hargitay, but she's already said to be out of the running.
'Law & Order: SVU' Season 13 is due to premiere in September, on NBC.
Who do you think should take over from Christopher Meloni?Leave your suggestions in Comments below.