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Chris Meloni: Viral butt photo was ‘Law & Order’ fans’ ‘warm welcoming of Stabler back’

His yearlong physical training program has "paid dividends."
/ Source: TODAY

When a picture of your posterior goes viral, it's not usually a good thing. It sounds like a wardrobe malfunction at best, or a sign that you need to hit the gym at the worst. But not if you're "Law & Order: Organized Crime" star Chris Meloni (Elliot Stabler).

In fact, as he tells Apple Fitness+'s "Time to Walk" podcast, after some initial indignant surprise, he ended up loving having a snap of his (clothed!) rear end go viral last year.

"My first reaction was, ‘What the hell?’" he said. "It really made me laugh, but I also felt as though (fans') response was almost their warm welcoming of Stabler back and me back in this role ... I was like, 'This is kind of a dream right now.'"

Being called a "zaddy" by fans who're warm for his form is partially attributed to his age, he says. "To come back in this particular profession and get another swing at the ball ... (in) kind of a physically demanding role, and an actiony type of role, I realize how unique the situation is that I’m in at age 60," he says.

Law & Order: Organized Crime - Season 2
Chris Melon as Elliot Stabler in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Meloni originated the character of Stabler in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in 1999; he played opposite Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson until 2011, when he left the series to pursue other projects. Hargitay and Benson are still in place at "SVU," and there have been crossovers between the shows.

But over at "Organized Crime," which launched in 2021, Stabler is the star of the show. And as he explains, he wanted return to the franchise in top form.

"I wanted to give that sense (that) he came back almost like chiseled in granite," says Meloni. "I wanted him to be the most physically fit, focused, physical presence that they’d ever seen. I was actually on a weight training, physical fitness program with my trainer for over a year to prepare for the role. That paid dividends."

It sure did, because Meloni's truly in fine form (whether or not on a random social media photo). And he's by no means upset by the focus on his ... "asset," as he calls it.

After all, it's not the first time fans, or Meloni, have singled out his backside for attention. Back in 2014, Meloni tweeted three pictures of himself while working, acknowledging that he was the owner of the #BestButtInPrimetime.

We certainly won't disagree.