All is fair in the Dick Wolf universe! After getting his start as a writer on Hill Street Blues in 1980s, the producer shot to superstardom when he created Law & Order in 1990.
The TV giant has since helmed multiple Law & Order spinoffs, including the long-running series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which premiered in 1999, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Wolf then transported viewers from New York City to Chicago with the creation of Chicago Fire in 2012 and its spinoffs: Chicago P.D., Chicago Med and Chicago Justice.
Over the years, eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that Wolf has a few favorite actors who have turned up on his series time and again, including Christopher Meloni. (This is not including the full-show crossovers he does within the One Chicago universe and FBI realm.)
The Washington, D.C. native was an OG member of the Law & Order: SVU cast but departed in 2011. In a surprising turn of events, Meloni landed his own series, Law & Order: Organized Crime, in 2021, in which he plays his same SVU character, Detective Elliot Stabler.
“These two shows exist in the same universe, a fictional, very grounded universe. And we never forget that those other characters and those other stories exist,” Wolf told The Wrap in April 2021 after fans watched Meloni reunite with Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson on SVU. “And when we tell a story about Stabler in Benson’s world or Benson in Stabler’s world and things happen that affect their characters, we don’t just forget about it.”
The executive producer continued: “So it’s both challenging and tantalizing from the point of view of story writing to make sure that you keep those things alive while the shows have their own identity, each of them.”
Meloni, for his part, told Entertainment Weekly in March 2021 that Wolf made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, which led to him reprising the detective role and acting alongside Hargitay periodically on both shows.
“I was pleasantly surprised it played out as well as it did. Because, you know, that’s not how life shakes out, right?” he told the outlet. “You can have all the dreams you want, all the preconceived notions of how it’s going to be. But I must say, the intervening decade was everything I could have hoped for.”
Meloni isn’t the first actor to play the same role on multiple Wolf shows. Philip Winchester, for example, first popped up on Chicago P.D. as Peter Stone before making his way to Law & Order: SVU in 2018.
Actors such as Jeremy Sisto and Alana De La Garza made an impression on Law & Order in the early 2000s before joining forces on FBI more than a decade later. However, the two stars play completely different characters on the crime shows, and they aren’t alone in that category.
Scroll down to see which actors have taken their character from one franchise to another within the Wolf universe — and which stars have played more than on role for the showrunner: