'Law & Order: SVU' Star Mariska Hargitay Says She Loves Christopher Meloni, Will Miss Him 'Terribly'

Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni pose for a photograph at the 2009 Joyful Heart Foundation Gala at Terminal 5 on May 5, 2009 in New York City Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni pose for a photograph at the 2009 Joyful Heart Foundation Gala at Terminal 5 on May 5, 2009 in New York City

Christopher Meloni will not be returning as Detective Stabler on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as it begins its thirteenth season on NBC in the fall, and his onscreen partner, Mariska Hargitay is sad to see her co-star go.

“For the past 12 years Chris Meloni has been my partner and friend, both on screen and off,” Mariska told TV Line in an article posted on Friday. “He inspired me every day with his integrity, his extraordinary talent and his commitment to the truth. I love him deeply and will miss him terribly – I’m so excited to see what he’ll do next.”

Christopher’s “SVU” departure, confirmed earlier in the week following contract negotiations, also came as somewhat of a shock to co-star Ice-T.

“I was surprised,” the rapper told E! on Wednesday, while promoting his new E! reality show “Ice Loves Coco.” “We all negotiate separately… I’m not somebody who’s dying to leave the show, but at the end of the day you still have to sit down with the execs and hammer it out. So I guess with Chris, it didn’t go his way. I’m sad though. Me and Chris have been together a long time.

“You gotta understand, when you’re No. 1 or on those shows you have no life,” he added. “I mean, they’re working 14 hours a day. They’re not being greedy. It’s really hard.”

As previously reported on AccessHollywood.com, while Mariska will return to the crime drama in the fall, she had confirmed reports that some big changes with her character, Olivia Benson, were coming in the 2011-2012 season.

“I think in the second half of the season, I’m going to go into a different position, which is very exciting,” Mariska told Access Hollywood in New York City at the NBC Upfronts earlier this month, responding to the news that she’s going to cut down her hours on the hit series in order to spend more time with her children. “It’ll be quite challenging and different, but I think it’s exciting.”

Following Christopher’s exit, however, it was unclear how plot lines will shape up as filming on Season 13 begins.

Prior to the news of Christopher’s departure, NBC executives had confirmed reports that “SVU” will be bringing in a new detective half way through the season.

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