By Jose Bastidas
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will not be saying goodbye to Mariska Hargitay, despite tabloid reports claiming the actress might be planning her gradual exit from the NBC drama.
The actress was the subject of a tabloid rumor after reports surfaced that Hargitay and the long-running NBC crime procedural were plotting her exit from the series so she could relocate to Los Angeles to explore opportunities in films.
The story was first reported by The National Enquirer, with an insider claiming that Hargitay felt like she has "done all she can [on the series] and it's time to embark on the next chapter of her life."
The source also claimed that the network was planning a "gradual" exit for Hargitay's Olivia Benson to minimize fan backlash, but failed to provide details on how the series would possibly move on without its lead character for the past 20 seasons.
Hargitay told press at a Paley Center panel honoring SVU that she was in the show for the duration.
"The joke with [then-showrunner] Warren Leight and I was season 16 was good, and we said season 17, we're going to phone it in," Hargitay said back in June. "That was our schtick on set, because we were so exhausted. And then season 17, we killed it. And then season 18 ... we had a wobbly year.
But season 19, I was like, 'I'm sorry, did anyone see the show?' [New showrunner Michael] Chernuchin, every single episode, he outdoes himself."
The resurgence in the series' creative direction under Chernuchin left Hargitay with the desire to stay with Benson for more time.
"I said, 'You keep writing like this, I'll stay for 25 years.' Why would I leave? I'm so grateful," she said. The feeling seems to be mutual, as NBC said at the time they're looking to keep the show moving as long as Hargitay stays on.
"With [Esparza] leaving I was so scared, as I always am with any big change, but it always pushes me, just like in life when we get out of our comfort zone. And that has been so thrilling, all good things come when we're out of our comfort zone. That's what keeps me so incredibly invested. I'm just trying to go a little bit deeper every day and I'm not done yet, because there's still so much to mine," Hargitay told the outlet.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.