‘Law & Order: SVU’: Was Jennifer Love Hewitt Going to Replace Mariska Hargitay?
With Christopher Meloni returning to the Law & Order franchise as Elliot Stabler, it seems like at some point he will be reuniting with his former co-lead, Mariska Hargitay, who still stars on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Olivia Benson. Right before Meloni left the franchise back several years ago, did the show have a plan in case Hargitay was leaving too?
In an interview with TVLine, Bob Greenblatt, the NBC chairman at the time, was candid about recruiting Jennifer Love Hewitt for the show. Greenblatt clarified the rumor that Hewitt would replace Hargitay and that she would be working alongside her and Meloni. The interview came at a time where the show could have been looking toward a future without its original two leads and Meloni would go on to leave the show a few months after Greenblatt’s comments were made.
NBC’s chairman was candid about Jennifer Love-Hewitt being recruited
When asked if there was life for the show beyond Hargitay and Meloni, Greenblatt said, “I do believe that. Although, to clarify, this isn’t to replace Mariska. The idea is that we want to bring in somebody midway through the season alongside Mariska and Chris. Mariska’s deal is closed for [a 13th] season, so she’s not disappearing.”
He continued, “Creatively, I think it will give [Benson] some competition, which I think will be interesting. And then we have to look at what a 14th season might require. Mariska just adopted a child. We don’t know yet if she wants to do the show for a season 14, and we’re looking at options. Jennifer Love is somebody who we’ve been circling, but I don’t know that that is going to happen at all.”
TVLine clarified by “replacement” they meant that the Hewitt character would be replacing Benson’s role as the character would move up in the ranks if Stabler and Meloni left. With that amendment, Greenblatt went on to explain, “That creatively is the thinking. New showrunner Warren Leight is in the process of figuring all of that out. We’re trying to change it up and see if some new configurations could keet the show going for several more years.”
The actress guest-starred on the show before
If Hewitt did end up on the show, there would have been some retconning since she appeared on the show once before.
In one of the most memorable episodes of the series, Hewitt guest-starred in the 2010 episode “Behave.” She portrayed a rape victim who is repeatedly attacked by her attacker for many years before she is able to take him head-on, with help from Benson.
The episode was also memorable due to the fact that it featured the first character on the show from Law & Order: LA. Skeet Ulrich, who starred in the spinoff as Detective Rex Winters, appeared as a Los Angeles detective who had worked on Hewitt’s character’s case when she lived there. Law & Order: LA premiered right after this episode debuted. The next year, another character from the spinoff appeared in the form of Deputy District Attorney Jonah Dekker, portrayed by Terrence Howard.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays on NBC. The untitled Elliot Stabler spinoff series should be on air by 2021. Jennifer Love Hewitt currently stars in Fox’s 9-1-1.