After producers hired not one, but two, new actors for lead roles in the wake of Meloni's departure, worried fans have been left to question the fate of Mariska Hargitay and her character, Det. Olivia Benson.
Now producers have acted to reassure fans, telling 'Entertainment Weekly' that the new additions to the cast do not pose a threat to Hargitay, and that she will continue to play a marquee role in the 'Law & Order' franchise when it returns in the fall.
A NBC spokesman said that Hargitay will appear in every episode of the upcoming Season 13 even though Kelly Giddish ('The Chase') and Danny Pino ('Cold Case') have joined the cast.
With all the major players except Meloni returning it sounds like the 'SVU' squad room may be a little crowded.
However, new mom Hargitay has only renewed her contract for one year, and she asked for a lighter work schedule. Producers said they'll be able to accommodate Hargitay's wish to spend more time with her family while continuing to have her appear every week, so it seems likely that we'll see less of Olivia in the second half of the season as she gradually makes room for Giddish's character.
Over the course of 12 seasons Hargitay and Meloni have created one of the top on-screen partnerships, with their characters of Dets Benson and Stabler forming the 'SVU' lynchpin. It's still unclear how Stabler will be written out of the series, but at least fans can rest easy that they'll have time to get used to an 'SVU' without Olivia.
With production on the new season due to get underway soon, it will be interesting to see how the new detectives are introduced. Stay tuned for updates.
'Law & Order: SVU' Season 13 is due to premiere in September, on NBC.