ENTERTAINMENT
05/28/2011 07:55 am ET Updated Jul 28, 2011

Mariska Hargitay Talks Christopher Meloni's 'Law & Order: SVU' Exit

While Olivia Benson was already preparing to go off the beat and into a supervisor role at the Special Victims Unit, she knew she could always count on Detective Stabler. Until she couldn't.

After 277 episodes and countless murders solved, Christopher Meloni's shock "Law & Order: SVU" exit has his 12-year partner, Mariska Hargitay, genuinely upset. In a statement given to TV Line on Friday, her bereavement was clear.

"For the past 12 years Chris Meloni has been my partner and friend, both on screen and off. 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," Hargitay said in the statement (via TV Line) late Friday night.

There's some irony to Hargitay's statement, as many thought it would be Meloni who would be the last partner standing; though Hargitay is signed on for season 13, her contract runs up at the end of the year, and the show's producers have already discussed replacing her, perhaps with Jennifer Love Hewitt, both as detective and female lead.

For more, click over to TV Line.