Showrunner Warren Leight caught fans by surprise when he announced he was stepping away from “Law & Order: SVU” on Tuesday. A day later, series regular Octavio Pisano told TheWrap the cast and crew were unaware that Leight planned to leave.
“I saw him yesterday on set, but it was a surprise to us all,” Pisano said Wednesday. “I expressed my gratitude to him yesterday, and I wish I would have known [he was leaving]. I would have gone a little bit deeper.”
“The final day of shooting is always bittersweet,” Leight wrote on Twitter. “Today was a little more than that. As some of you have already figured out, I am stepping down at the end of #SVU23. The last two years of show running during a pandemic have been arduous, and I’ve decided to take a break.”
Earlier this year, he lamented the difficulty of casting actors for guest spots, only to learn they were not in compliance with COVID protocols and vaccination requirements.
Pisano, who joined the long-running series as new SVU member Joe Velasco at the start of Season 23, added, “Obviously, I’m sad to see him go, but I’m also super grateful and honored I got to work with him at least this season.”
He went on to praise Leight’s writing and approachability: “He’s really an actor’s writer. He really likes to think about things that are not in the script, whether it be backstory or motivation. For me as an actor, I was able to talk to him whenever I had a question. You could just open up a conversation with him. He put me in contact with certain detectives in the NYPD so I was able to dig deeper into that world, that was such a joy.”
Leight was showrunner for Seasons 13 to 17 and returned in Season 21, helping “SVU” hit the milestone of being TV’s longest-running live-action series. He thanked his crew, cast, writers, creator Dick Wolf, producer Peter Jankowski, and the show’s fans in his farewell Twitter thread.
NBC had no comment on Leight’s departure, his future involvement with the series, or who might be stepping in as the new showrunner.
“SVU” was renewed through Season 24 in 2020.