• Christopher Meloni has been "Elliot Stabler" since SVU season 1
  • Several well-known actors auditioned for the role in 1999
  • This is who almost played "Stabler" instead

Law & Order: SVU could have been a very different show! The police series debuted back in 1999, and it quickly became known for its lead detectives "Benson" and "Stabler."

The now-legendary duo was portrayed by actors Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni. But a rather different actor nearly landed the part of "Elliot Stabler"...

SVU: "Elliot Stabler" almost wasn't Christopher Meloni

Let's go back to the beginning. It's the late 1990s, and Law & Order was a top series on NBC. They were planning a new spin-off, Law & Order: SVU, and needed a strong actor for the lead male detective.

In the running was Christopher Meloni, who had appeared on Oz and a range of other 1990s TV series. But a roster of talented and better-known actors were apparently in the mix until the very end.

Also interesting:

These names included John Slattery, who would be cast on Mad Men not long after. Tim Matheson, a veteran actor known from The West Wing and Bonanza, among others.

And Nick Chinlund, an actor who at the time had appeared around TV and film but was seeking his big break. He would later appear on SVU as a guest star.

But in the end, Christopher Meloni's powerful chemistry alongside Mariska Hargitay in the audition, won over the producers. Tough luck for those other actors!

Safe to say they made the right call! "Elliot Stabler" now leads his own series Law & Order: Organized Crime as well.