Hargitay and Meloni first portrayed Benson and Stabler in 1999, in the pilot for Law & Order: SVU (a spin-off to the now-defunct Law & Order) – meaning the characters have been known for their undeniable on-screen chemistry for two decades.
Meloni left the franchise in 2011 and has now returned in the new spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime. Hargitay has kept starring as Benson in SVU.
Both actors joined the Today show on Thursday for a joint interview marking the premieres of SVU and Organized Crime. While they star in different series, the franchise has produced crossover episodes, meaning Benson and Stabler have been reunited on-screen.
This has led to some speculation – and, for some fans, hope – that the two characters might finally get involved romantically after years of will-they-won’t-they.
— Chris Meloni (@Chris_Meloni) August 21, 2021
“Do you know whether you’re going to get together this season?” Craig Melvin asked the duo on Thursday. “Are you just not telling or do you honestly not know?”
“I don’t know,” Meloni replied.
Hargitay elaborated: “No, we’re really – it’s all underneath, percolating. After Stabler being gone for 10 years, and the way he left, and the complexity of what’s happened in the last 10 years, and now he came back, surprisingly – 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.”
The Today show polled its viewers over whether Stabler and Benson should date. A majority (68%) said yes, while only 22% said no and 10% said they were not sure.
In August, Meloni contributed to some of the speculation around Benson and Stabler by posting a photo of himself with his co-star with their faces very close to one another on set, simply captioning it: “#rehearsing what @Mariska?”
Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime both return on Thursday 23 September on NBC.