Spoilers ahead for the Season 25 premiere of Law & Order: SVU!
As Law & Order: SVU enters its landmark 25th season, much of the cast have been looking back on their time in the franchise. Just recently, Mariska Hargitay recalled meeting Christopher Meloni during their audition, and the two, along with many others, celebrated 25 seasons of SVU. One notable absence was Richard Belzer, who passed away in February 2023 at 78. After originating the character of Detective John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street, Belzer moved to SVU and became a prominent character in the first 15 seasons. Now, the cast is opening up about missing their late co-star almost a year after his death.
Towards the beginning of the Season 25 premiere on January 18, Benson, Fin, Carisi, and Rollins gathered at a bar following the christening of Carisi and Rollins’ young son. Benson, Fin, and Carisi paid tribute to Munch and toasted him, which was both sweet and emotional. The tribute on the series is not the only tribute the cast has done recently. While speaking with E! News during the 25th Anniversary Celebration, Hargitay admits she still feels Belzer and knows he is forever with them:
Belzer's so deeply embedded and enmeshed in my heart. I think of him with such fondness. He has shored me up, and I have so many memories of him. We talk about him all the time. It's like he's still here.
Richard Belzer is among the Law & Order franchise actors who have appeared in the most episodes, and that achievement doesn’t even include his time on Homicide. Someone else who has also appeared in quite a lot of episodes going beyond SVU is Dann Florek, who portrayed Captain Don Cragen beginning with Law & Order. The actor looked back at his time with Belzer on the Law & Order spinoff and the everlasting bond they built:
Number one, I love the Belz. He was an irascible son-of-a-b. But a very, very talented man. And that has not escaped me down this line. I always thought he was Dracula. He was never going to die. So, bless you, Belz. He was a part of so many good things but such a big part of SVU. I love that dude.
Also included in the Season 25 premiere was the return of Kelli Giddish’s Amanda Rollins. Giddish left SVU in the middle of Season 24 after joining in Season 13. Although she only worked with Belzer for a few seasons, she is grateful to have worked with him and know him:
I'm just beyond grateful to know him. He was really instrumental in laying the footing for me when I got on the show. I deeply feel joy and pride by being part of this legacy.
ADA Rafael Barba himself, Raúl Esparza, only worked with Richard Belzer for a little bit, but he recalls how the late actor made him feel so welcome when he first stepped on set on his first day during Season 14:
The first day that I walked on set, Richard treated me like a star. I was just coming in as a guest star. And he's like, ‘I'm not going to be here for the next couple of weeks. Take my space.' He gave me a space, he's like, ‘You are welcome to everything I had.'
It’s clear that Belzer is still on his former co-stars' minds almost a year after he passed. Whether the series will go more in-depth about Munch or at least do another tribute is unknown, but seeing them gather together and toast in his name was a very sweet surprise to start Season 25. Fans can rewatch the special moment with a Peacock subscription now.