Richard Belzer originally asked Dick Wolf if Munch could join Law & Order (1990) as Lennie Briscoe's new partner. But Jesse L. Martin had already been cast. Belzer later heard about this new series and asked to join on the condition that Dean Winters be cast as his partner. Winters was still under contract with Oz (1997) and had to leave the show after the first thirteen episodes. Winters returned as a recurring cast member in the 14th season.
Christopher Meloni was starring on Oz (1997) simultaneously with this series. He eventually left "Oz" because he felt that he could no longer do both shows at the same time. But Meloni missed "Oz" and decided to return the next season. He decided that being able to work on two great shows simultaneously was worth the physical and emotional toll.
The series was originally proposed under the title Sex Crimes, and unrelated to the Law & Order (1990) brand. NBC thought the title was too harsh, and after discussions between network executives and Dick Wolf (creator of Law & Order (1990)) it became part of the Law & Order brand, debuting as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999).
Peter Scanavino made his SVU debut as a janitor named Johnny Dubcek in Season 14 "Monster's Legacy" before he joined the SVU team by the name of Dominick 'Sonny' Carisi, Jr., at the start of Season 16.
Until the fourth episode of Season 12, the precinct scenes were filmed in North Bergen, New Jersey. After this episode, the show moved it's studio space to the Chelsea Piers section of Manhattan that was previously occupied by the original Law & Order.
The photo in the opening credits for Dann Florek (from the beginning of the show) and Ice-T (starting with the second episode of season 2) did not change until Season 9 when the entire cast received updated photos (coinciding with the debut of Adam Beach). The photo for Mariska Hargitay has changed seven times (Season 1 has one photo, seasons 2-4 and the first four episodes of season 5 have a second, the rest of season 5 has a third, seasons 6-8 have a fourth, Seasons 9 & 10 have a fifth, Seasons 11-14 have a sixth and Season 15-Present have a seventh). Christopher Meloni, Richard Belzer and BD Wong got new photos starting with the fifth episode of season 5 (coinciding with the debut of Diane Neal as ADA Casey Novak) before they all received new photos in season 9. Diane Neal had one photo for season five, a second for seasons 6 and 7, a third for season 8 and a fourth for season 9. Tamara Tunie, who first appeared in the opening credits in season 7, received a second photo for season 8 and a third photo for seasons 9-12 before she was removed from the credits in season 13.
Like its sister series Law & Order (1990), SVU episodes are often advertised as being "ripped from the headlines". Many people mistake this to mean that they are based on real events. In reality, the slogan is referring to the show's practice of coming up with stories that are partially inspired by recent headlines. However, only a fairly small portion of the episode will resemble the real incident or incidents that it is inspired by. There might be a few scenes that resemble a well known headline while the majority of the episode goes in a different direction or there could be one character that is based on a famous individual but the circumstances the person encounters are largely made up.
The following statement appears at the beginning of each and every episode: "In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories."
Although viewers had long wondered if the character George Huang was gay (as is the actor who plays him, B. D. Wong), his homosexuality was not verified until the Season 11 episode Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Hardwired (2009). Even for a show and a franchise that is notoriously parsimonious with personal information about its characters, that is an extraordinarily long time for basic personal information to be withheld about a regular character on a TV series (by contrast, both Detectives Stabler and Benson were established as heterosexual during the show's first season through dialogue and subplots about Stabler's marriage and Benson's dating habits).
Many members of the main cast members in the Law & Order universe usually have a guest spot on one of the shows before they a regular cast member. Peter Scanavino (Sonny Carisi) is the only member of the Law & Order cast to have had a guest starring role on four of the five Law & Order series before landing his role.
In season 15, it appears Mariska Hargitay (Det. Benson) now has a larger, 14k, rectangular necklace charm of the same earlier design. She received it from her psychiatrist after her kidnapping and torture, where it had been taken and or lost.(correction, original necklace was still being held as evidence at the time shrink gave her new necklace)
Many actors from The Wire (2002) have also appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999): -Kevin Jiggetts, who played Frommers in season 2 of "The Wire" had a recurring role on SVU (during seasons 5 & 6) as Officer Green; -Callie Thorne, who played Elena McNulty on "The Wire" had a recurring role as defense attorney Nikki Staines on season 5 of SVU; -Peter Gerety had a recurring role as Judge Daniel Phelan in "The Wire" and also had a recurring role as Judge Harrison in season 5 of SVU; -Frankie Faison, who played Comissioner Ervin Burrell in "The Wire" had a recurring role as FBI Agent Tom Nickerson in seasons 8 & 9 of SVU; -Ernest Waddell, who played Dante in seasons 2 & 3 of "The Wire", played Terrell in the SVU episode " Risk" (season 4) as well as a recurring role as Ken Randall (Det. Tutuola's soon) during seasons 6-8 on SVU; -Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played corrupt senator Clay Davis on "The Wire", played Robbery Division Captain on the "Limitations" SVU episode (season 1); Toddy Smythe on the "Paranoia" SVU episode (season 2); & NTCC Rep. on the "Parts" SVU episode (season 6); -Michael Kenneth Williams, who played Omar Little on "The Wire", played Double-D Gamble on the "Escape" episode of SVU (season 5), as well as Victor Bodine on the "Underbelly" SVU episode (season 8); -Lance Reddick, who played ascendant police commissioner Cedric Daniels on "The Wire", had a recurring role as Dr. Taylor during seasons 1-3 of SVU; -Jamie Hector, who played Marlo Stanfield on "The Wire", played Doc on the SVU episode "Justice" (season 3); -Andre Royo, who played Bubbles on "The Wire", played Felix Santos on the SVU episode "Loss" (season 5); -Pablo Schreiber who played Nick Sobotka on "The Wire", played Dan Kozlowski on the SVU episode " Haystack" (season 8), as well as William Lewis (Det. Benson's "nightmare") during seasons 14 & 15; -Method Man, who played Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff on "The Wire", played Dennis King on the SVU episode " Snitch" (season 9).
Season 13 marked the first time that SVU was broadcast without any other Law & Order branded shows on the air. The original Law & Order ended in 2010 while Law & Order: Los Angeles and Law & Order: Criminal Intent both ended in early 2011, months before season 13 premiered
Several of the main characters have served in the United States Military in some capacity. Dr. Warner was in the Air Force, Detective Stabler was in the Marines, Captain Cragen was in the Green Berets (as revealed on the original Law &Order) and Detective Tutuola was an Army Ranger.