- “Law & Order” celebrates 30 years on TV this month – one of the most popular shows in the franchise, “Law and Order: SVU,” wrapped its 21st season this year.
- Throughout the show’s run, there have been 18 actors who have been cast as series regulars.
- Mariska Hargitay has played Detective Olivia Benson since the show aired in 1999. Ice-T is still on the show after joining in the second season.
- Actors like Stephanie March, BD Wong, and Richard Belzer have all returned to the series in guest appearances after leaving the show as a series regular.
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Over the course of its 20-year history, “Law and Order: SVU”has become known for its lengthy list of guest appearances â€” from Serena Williams to Bradley Cooper. But the show’s regular cast members have also been making a name for themselves throughout the years.
Some of these actors have stayed on the show for decades, like Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, and Ice T, while others only appear for a season or two. Some even return in guest appearances after their departure.
Keep reading to find out when each actor joined the series and to see what they’re up to now.
Mariska Hargitay started playing Detective Olivia Benson when the show premiered in 1999.
Mariska Hargitay started playing Olivia Benson, a passionate New York City special victims detective, in 1999. Benson is the heart of the show, leading most of the investigations. As a product of her mother’s rape, Benson often feels a personal connection to the cases.
While playing this role for two decades, Hargitay has earned eight Emmy nominations and one win.
Twenty years later, Hargitay continues to play Olivia Benson and says she has no plans to leave the drama series any time soon.
Hargitay has focused on sexual assault advocacy in real life too, becoming a rape crisis counselor and founding the Joyful Heart Association to help survivors of sexual assault.
She has also continued to play Benson on “SVU,” becoming the longest-serving actor in the “Law and Order” franchise.
On the show, Benson was promoted to lieutenant and has become a mother to an adopted son, Noah. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for the character, as Hargitay said she has no plans to leave the popular drama.
“I said, ‘You keep writing like this, I’ll stay for 25 years,'” Hargitay told The Hollywood Reporter. “Why would I leave? I’m so grateful.”
Hargitay has been married to Peter Hermann, who played Trevor Langan on “SVU” for 32 episodes, since 2004.
Christopher Meloni was one of the original leads, playing Detective Elliot Stabler, but he left the show in 2011.
Christopher Meloni starred alongside Mariska Hargitay for 12 seasons as Detective Elliot Stabler. Meloni’s character was a father of five, so he took a lot of sexual assault cases personally, and his hot-headed approach to crime-fighting often got him in trouble.
Between 1998 and 2003, Meloni was simultaneously starring in HBO’s “Oz,” playing an inmate. But it was for his role in “SVU” that Meloni earned an Emmy nomination in 2006.
Meloni abruptly left the crime drama in 2011 while filming the 12th season. In the season 13 premiere episode, the “SVU’s” writers explained away Stabler’s sudden absence as an abrupt retirement.
Since “SVU,” Meloni has turned to comedy, starring in films like “Wet Hot American Summer.” But he’s set to make his return to the “Law and Order” universe.
After leaving the show in 2011, Meloni appeared on HBO’s “True Blood,” “Surviving Jack,” and “Veep.” Most notably, however, he reprised his role as Gene in the “Wet Hot American Summer” reboots.
More recently, the actor has starred in SyFy’s “Happy!” as a hitman who befriends his daughter’s imaginary friend. He also appeared on Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale” in 2019.
In 2020, it was announced that Meloni will reprise his role as Elliot Stabler in a “SVU” spinoff series about organised crime.
Richard Belzer played Detective John Munch long before “SVU” premiered.
Richard Belzer introduced Detective John Munch to audiences on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1993. Munch was an offbeat detective known for his one-liners. When the show ended in 1999, Belzer was offered to reprise the role of Munch on “SVU.”
While being a series regular on “SVU,” Belzer took Munch outside of the “Law and Order” franchise and made cameos on “The Wire,” “30 Rock,” “X-Files,” and “Arrested Development.”
Since leaving “SVU,” Belzer reprised his role as Detective Munch in a number of other series.
Although Belzer left “SVU” in 2013, he continued playing Detective Munch for a few more years, making cameos on Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “30 Rock.” Munch also returned to “SVU” to help Benson and the team with a number of cases in recent years, becoming one of the longest-running characters on television.
Outside of acting, Belzer has written several books on conspiracy theories about the John F. Kennedy assassination, UFOs, and Elvis.
Dann Florek started playing Police Captain Donald Cragen on “SVU” in 1999.
Dann Florek first played Donald Cragen in 1990 on “Law and Order” as a captain of the homicide unit. He reprised this character when “SVU” premiered in 1999, playing the captain of the Special Victims Unit.
In 2013, it was announced that Florek would be leaving the crime drama after appearing in over 300 episodes.
“Friday was the last day for Cragen/Florek. It was a sweet send off! But he’ll live on in syndication land 4 evah!” Florek wrote on Twitter at the time.
Florek has remained relatively under the radar in recent years.
Since leaving “SVU,” Florek appeared on one episode of CBS’ “Under the Dome,” and in a television movie called “Disillusioned.” In 2015, he reprised his role as Cragen on “SVU” for a single episode.
Michelle Hurd played Detective Monique Jeffries for two seasons on “SVU.”
In 1999, Michelle Hurd started playing Detective Monique Jeffries, who was Detective Munch’s partner. When her character revealed she had had sex with a former rape suspect, she was taken off active duty and transferred to Vice.
In the real world, Hurd left the show in 2000.
Since then, Hurd has appeared on several TV shows, including “The Glades” and “Blindspot.”
Immediately after “SVU,” Hurd played Athena Barnes on Showtime’s “Leap Years.” Since then, she has had several story arcs on notable series like “ER,” “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “The Glades,” Daredevil,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Lethal Weapon,” and “Blindspot.” She also played Raffi Musiker in “Star Trek: Picard,” which premiered on CBS All Access in January.
Hurd made headlines in 2014 when she revealed that comedian Bill Cosby was inappropriate with her when she was a stand-in on “The Cosby Show.” Years later, she made news again when she went to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s trial to show support for his victims.
Stephanie March joined the show in its second season as Alexandra Cabot, the assistant district attorney.
In 2000, Stephanie March played Alexandra Cabot for the first time. Cabot was an assistant district attorney who worked closely with the SVU unit, trying suspects that the detectives arrested.
When March was ready to leave the show, the writers had her character fake her own death and enter the Witness Protection Program. March officially left the show after three seasons in 2003.
“It was a fantastic work experience and I really miss the people quite a bit,” March told TV Guide. “But, you know, you get to a point where you feel like, as a character, you kind of said everything you can say. And then it becomes quite redundant. It was my first on-camera job after college. I got really lucky and I thought, I just have to do a couple of more things before I get too comfortable. Perhaps all I need is a long break.”
Since “SVU,” March has started her own makeup line, SheSpoke.
Although March has returned to “SVU” a few times in recent years, she has expanded beyond the world of acting. She and her makeup artist created SheSpoke, a makeup bar in Manhattan that creates custom makeup for customers. March is also known for her philanthropy and travel writing.
Most recently, she was the executive producer of “Social Ones,” a mockumentary on social media influencers.
Ice-T joined the series in the second season as Detective Fin Tutuola.
Ice-T was known as a rapper and musician, but in the late ’90s, he worked with the “Law and Order” creator on a few crime shows. In 2000, Ice-T joined “SVU” in its second season, playing Detective Fin Tutuola. The character became Detective Munch’s partner after Michelle Hurd’s character left the show.
While Ice-T is still on “SVU,” he has also expanded into the world of reality television with his wife, Coco.
Today, Ice-T continues to play Tutuola on “SVU,” who has been promoted to sergeant. Beyond the show, the actor has co-starred in E! Network’s reality series “Ice Loves Coco” with his wife, Coco Austin. The series lasted three seasons and ended in 2013.
The couple took another stab at co-starring when they started a talk show called “Ice & Coco,” but it lasted only a few weeks in 2015.
In 2019, Ice-T released two songs, titled “Feds in My Rearview” and “I’m Too Old for This Dumb S—.”
Tamara Tunie joined the cast in the show’s seventh season to play medical examiner Melinda Warner.
Tamara Tunie appeared in early seasons of “SVU” as a recurring character, but it wasn’t until the seventh season that she became a series regular. Her character, Melinda Warner, is a straightforward medical examiner who strives to find the truth.
Tunie appeared on the show as a series regular from season seven to 12, and returned as a recurring character for seasons 13 to 17.
Since breaking away from “SVU,” Tunie has appeared on several TV shows, including “Better Call Saul.”
Tunie has continued acting, getting several story arcs on “Better Call Saul,” “Blue Bloods,” “Dietland,” “Black Earth Rising,” “The Red Road, and “Almost Family.”
Most recently, Tunie has transitioned into singing, releasing her first album, “Dreamsville,” in 2019.
BD Wong first appeared on “SVU” in the second season, but didn’t become a series regular until the fourth season.
BD Wong played Dr. George Huang, a forensic psychiatrist who specialises in sexual assault. In the 2009 episode titled “Hardwired,” Wong’s character comes out as gay.
Wong played Huang for 12 seasons and announced in 2011 that he was not returning for the show’s 13th season.
Since “SVU,” Wong has continued his acting career on TV shows like “Mr. Robot” and movies like “Bird Box.”
Despite leaving “SVU” in its 12th season, Wong has made several guest appearances in the last few years.
He’s also expanded his acting career beyond the crime drama. In 2015, he played Dr. Henry Wu in “Jurassic World,” and reprised the role in 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” He also played a role in Netflix’s popular film “Bird Box” in 2018.
On the small screen, Wong played Hugo Strange on CW’s “Gotham,” Whiterose on “Mr. Robot,” Dr. John Lee in “Awake.”
Diane Neal started her career on “SVU” as Casey Novak in the show’s fifth season.
In 2001, Diane Neal guest-starred on “SVU” as a female rapist named Amelia Chase. Two years later, Neal returned to the show as a series regular to play a different character: Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak. She replaced Stephanie March’s character, Alexandra Cabot.
In season nine, Neal left the show amidst rumours of firing, though nothing was ever confirmed. Her character, however, was put on probation after she violated due process and was forced to stop working with the SVU team.
After “SVU,” Neal appeared in several other crime shows like “NCIS,” but more notably, she ran for Congress in New York.
Neal returned to “SVU” a few times in recent years to reprise her role as Casey Novak, but she has also appeared in a number of other crime shows, like “NCIS,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Suits.”
In 2018, Neal announced she was running for Congress in New York. At the time, the actress tweeted, “OK, so it’s ON!!! But I’m doing with nearly no staff, no donations (yet), with no party. Goal is no negativity. Goal is HIGH ROAD all the way.”
However, theSupreme Court of New York blocked her from appearing on the ballot because she did not get enough signatures.
Adam Beach played Detective Chester Lake for only one season.
Known for his role in “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” Adam Beach joined “SVU” in season eight as Detective Chester Lake, and became a series regular in season nine as Detective Tutuloa’s partner. Lake was the first and so far only detective on the show of Native American descent.
In 2008, Beach and his character left the series after just one season.
“I very much enjoyed my year on ‘Law & Order: SVU’,” Beach told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “Now I’m looking forward to new adventures.”
Beach went on to continue his acting career in blockbusters like “Suicide Squad,” and is also an activist for Native American rights.
After his brief stint on “SVU,” Beach went on to play Tommy Flute on HBO’s “Big Love” for nine episodes.
In 2011, he appeared in “Cowboys & Aliens,” opposite Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Sam Rockwell. Beach also took roles in “Suicide Squad,” “Hostiles,” and “Supernatural.”
Beach has also become an advocate for Native Americans in Hollywood.
“There is no need to cast non-Native performers and actresses in Native roles,” Beach wrote in an op-ed on Deadline in 2017. “This is not 1950. The practice of whitewashing is unnecessary, unacceptable and discriminatory. It promotes the erasure of communities of colour. Natives are often typecast in stereotypical roles or removed from the narrative entirely.”
Michaela McManus was a series regular for barely one season, playing Assistant District Attorney Kim Greylek.
Michaela McManus joined “SVU” in its 10th season, taking on the role of assistant district attorney. Halfway through the season, however, McManus and her character, Kim Greylek, were written off the show.
Since then, McManus has continued her career as a TV actress, appearing in “SEAL Team” and “The Orville.”
After her brief appearance as a series regular, McManus appeared on “CSI: Miami” and CW’s “Vampire Diaries.” She went on to play Tara in NBC’s “Awake,” alongside fellow “SVU” alum BD Wong.
McManus has since had recurring roles on “Aquarius,” “SEAL Team,” and “The Orville.”
She also played Sarah Campbell on NBC’s “The Village,” which followed multiple residents in a Greenwich Village apartment building.
Danny Pino played Detective Nick Amaro for four seasons on “SVU.”
In season 13, Danny Pino joined the cast in 2011 as Detective Nick Amaro, who became Olivia Benson’s new partner after Christopher Meloni left the show.
Post “SVU,” Pino continued his television acting career on shows like “Scandal” and “Mayans M.C.”
In 2016, Pino joined the cast of ABC’s “Scandal” to play the Alex Vargas. He then went on to play Luke Healy in “BrainDead” for 13 episodes.
Pino then played the Bishop in “Gone” opposite Chris Noth. Today, he plays Miguel Galindo in “Mayans M.C.,” which is a spin-off of “Sons of Anarchy.”
Kelli Giddish joined the show in 2011 as Detective Amanda Rollins.
Kelli Giddish made her first appearance on “SVU” in 2007 as a rape victim, but she returned to the show in 2011 for the 13th season as Detective Amanda Rollins. In that season, it’s revealed that Rollins has a gambling addiction, which she deals with over the course of the series.
Giddish became pregnant in the show’s 17th season, and her pregnancy was written into the show. She gave birth to her son, Ludo, in 2015.
Giddish continues to play Detective Amanda Rollins today.
Additionally, she and her character crossed over onto “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Fire” in 2014.
Raúl Esparza made his first appearance in 2012 as Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba in the shows 14th season.
Known for being a stage actor, Raúl Esparza joined the cast of “SVU” in its 14th season, playing the first male assistant district attorney. His character, Rafael Barba, is often been portrayed as ruthless and no-nonsense, but he becomes a confidante of Olivia Benson’s in later seasons.
In 2018, Esparza decided to leave “SVU” in the show’s 19th season, saying it was time to move on to other projects.
“I’ve done six seasons, I felt like it was time to go. I had explored a lot of what I thought Barba was about,” Esparza told Entertainment Weekly about his decision to leave. “I just felt it was time to move on.”
Since then, he has appeared in Hulu’s “The Path” and has voiced Ralph Stilton in Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman.”
In season 16, Peter Scanavino joined the main cast as Detective Dominick Carisi, Jr.
Peter Scanavino joined “SVU” in 2013, as Detective Dominick Carisi, Jr., who was meant to be a temporary replacement for Detective Nick Amaro. But it was later announced that he had permanently joined the team, making Scanavino a series regular.
In a 2014 interview, Scanavino described his character as “brusque.”
“I might come on a little strong, but I’m always trying to get to the truth,” he said in the interview. “So maybe my style isn’t quite in line with SVU, but I do gain their respect and I am going for the same thing we’re all going for, so I think I do get some respect.”
Scanavino continues to play Detective Carisi today.
When “SVU” wrapped its 21st season, Scanavino passed his 120th episode.
Philip Winchester had a brief stint as a series regular, portraying Assistant District Attorney Peter Stone.
Philip Winchester first brought his character, Peter Stone, to life in “Chicago P.D” and then in “Chicago Justice,” followed by “Chicago Med.” Winchester then brought Stone to “SVU” in 2018 as a series regular, playing the assistant district attorney.
Ahead of the 21st season premiere, it was announced that Winchester would not be returning to the series.
“Also to thank everyone for two great seasons. I have learned much and enjoyed being part of an elite unit,” Winchester tweeted in May 2019. “Here’s to you all and a historic run!”
He has not made any appearances since then.
Jamie Grey Hyder is the newest actor to join “SVU,” appearing in the show’s 21st season.
Jamie Grey Hyder was introduced to the “SVU” audiences in season 21 as Katriona Azar Tamin. She first played an undercover cop but was then transferred to the SVU and made a detective. Hyder is now a series regular.
- Read more:
- 30 celebrities you forgot played the bad guys on ‘Law & Order: SVU’
- RANKED: All of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-offs
- The 37 most famous guest stars who have ever been on ‘Law & Order: SVU’
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