|Roberts dumped him for Richard Gere in Runaway Bride. But don't cry for Chris Meloni - rejection has been good for him. Just as Bride was ending its run, Meloni, 38, was booking himself into a steadier partnership: as lead detective Elliot Stabler on NBC's hot new spinoff Law & Order: Special Victims |
I knew he'd get the part as soon as I saw him at audition," says his SVU costar Mariska Hargitay. "He's the perfect package. Smart, good-looking and so filled with fire. He was bound to finally explode. "
"Finally is right says the Washington, D.C.-born Meloni, who has waiting for that break since he graduated from the University of Colorado in 1983. "I thought I'd get to Hollywood and all these producers would be at the side of yelling, 'Chris! Where ya been? I've got a script here for you!" he admits sheepishly.
Instead, he spent nearly 15 years juggling TV commercials (including a few beer spots in which he had to impersonate a dog) and TV movies to pay the bills. Although he won critical acclaim for his ongoing work as conniving prisoner Chris Keller on HBO's Oz, mostly "I had to go through a lot of dreck," he says. "I was like Tarzan. As one vine broke, the next one was there."
Now that he's swinging on a sturdier tree, Meloni, who is married to a production designer and splits his time between L.A. and New York City, isn't going to complain about his 16-hour workdays.
"This job has put the kibosh on any kind of life, that's for sure," he says. "But after living through the opposite? This is awesome."