"Law & Order: SVU" returns for its thirteenth season next Wednesday, and without Christopher Meloni -- who played Detective Elliott Stabler -- things have been turned upside down for Mariska Hargitay's character, Det. Olivia Benson.
"It's a completely different Olivia," Mariska said at a press conference on Thursday about what's to come for her beloved TV heroine. "[There are] completely different dynamics, [it's] coming from a completely different place. With Elliott's departure, Olivia's been turned really upside down and [is] missing an arm, so I think she sees everything through a new prism and is quite lost in a place where she wasn't lost at all."
The new season brings the introduction of two additions to the cast - "Cold Case's" Danny Pino, who plays Det. Nick Amaro, and former "Chase" star Kelli Giddish, who joins as Det. Amanda Rollins.
And with the change in her character, and the new blood, there is no indication this will be Mariska's last.
"I am going into this with a completely open mind," she said when asked if she's thought this could be her last season. "What I've learned is you don't know what the future brings and everything is new and everything is fresh and it's exciting to have different eyes on something."
"There is an excitement," Dan Florek, who plays Capt. Donald Cragen, chimed in.
Kelli said joining the show has been a thrill.
"It's been great coming in as the new kid on the block," she said. "We've been having a lot of fun on set... These guys are a classy group. They can also get down and dirty too."
She added that the absence of Christopher, who left following contract negotiations at the end of last season, will be marked.
"[The fans] are gonna miss Meloni, but we're coming in and we're having to earn our keep," she said. "I think the writers have been really respectful of that."
"Law & Order: SVU" returns at 10/9 C on September 21 on NBC.
Copyright 2011 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.