Mariska Hargitay says goodbye to Christopher Meloni

May 31, 2011 at 4:35 p.m. ET

It's the end of an era: Mariska Hargitay is saying goodbye to longtime Law & Order: SVU costar Christopher Meloni.

Mariska Hargitay Christopher MeloniChristopher Meloni will not return to Law & Order: SVU for a thirteenth season he recently announced, breaking the hearts of many fans -- including his costar Mariska Hargitay.

In a statement released late Friday, Hargitay expressed her sadness over Meloni's departure.

"For the past 12 years Chris Meloni has been my partner and friend, both on screen and off," she said. "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."

There are changes afoot for the actress as well: Hargitay will scale back her role on SVU next season to spend more time with her family. The pair have played police partners Detective Benson and Detective Stabler since the series began in 1999.

What's next for Chris Meloni? Look for him to play a raunchy producer in National Lampoon's Dirty Movie.

Image courtesy Nikki Nelson /