If you find it hard to believe that NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" is the longest-running prime-time scripted drama on TV, brace yourself: It's been over 10 seasons since the power team of Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay were out solving crimes together.
But what's almost as amazing is that Hargitay, who still stars on the show as Olivia Benson, and Meloni (who departed from the role of Elliot Stabler between seasons 12 and 13) have an enduring friendship that they're always happy to talk about.
The characters' partnerships have "always been a huge part of our relationship and I think part of the success of the show," Meloni said during "The Paley Center Salutes Law & Order: SVU," a special marking the show's 21st season that aired on NBC Thursday night, E! News reported.
"She and I hit it off right from the get-go," he added.
Hargitay said their relationship was one of "instantaneous ease, chemistry, trust, comfort."
That echoes what they revealed in greater detail in 2009's "The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion." In that book, the pair explained sparks flew while waiting in the audition room with other hopefuls for the role.
"(H)e and I, from minute one were (doing) all this shtick, and laughing," Hargitay said in the book. "It was nonstop chitchat; couldn't stop talking. All of a sudden someone comes out and pairs us up: 'Mariska and Chris.' And I thought. 'I want to be with that guy!' Because we already had a thing."
"I'm like, 'Who's the chick with all the energy?'" Meloni recalled in the book. "I just knew that Mariska was going to be The One. "I was in the middle of telling her this story, this joke. So we got up on the stage and I'm like, 'Hold on just a second, I'm going to finish telling this story.' Not being disrespectful, but this is important too. This may change my life, but the story is that funny. And I think that put us at ease, and unconsciously there was a connection you could see: That she was now my partner."
"SVU" first began airing in 1999, as a spinoff from the then-long-running "Law & Order" "mothership," as it's been called. The original show ended in 2010, but "SVU" has continued to chug along. Hargitay has won a Golden Globe and received eight Emmy nominations for her portrayal.
Hargitay and Meloni, who's gone on to star on shows like "Happy!" and "The Handmaid's Tale," have remained close friends ever since, often posting Instagrams of themselves hanging out. In 2011, she told TODAY that his departure was "really devastating and a huge, huge, huge adjustment."
She didn't speak about his exit on the TV special, but did address having to see many other fellow co-stars come and go.
"It was really hard," she said in the show. "It's been really difficult over the years to see people leave, and painful, and scary. I didn't want them to go."
But, she added, "It's life. One door closes and another one opens. People come into our lives and then they leave their lives. You feel all of that and it's a lot to feel and you keep on going."