The drama follows Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), a seasoned veteran of the unit who has seen it all, and his partner, Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), whose difficult past -- a product of rape -- is the reason she joined the unit.
In 2005, Hargitay (Detective Benson) garnered her first Golden Globe award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Detective Benson and her second Emmy Nomination; and in 2004, both an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild nomination in the same category. The series' popularity was recognized in its debut season September 21, 2004 by both the People's Choice Awards and the TV Guide Awards with nominations for Favorite New Series.
Captain Donald Cragen, (Dann Florek, reprising the role he played on the first three seasons of "Law & Order" 1990-93) oversees the unit with his tough but supportive approach to the team's complex cases, guiding the squad through the challenges they face every day. Detective John Munch, (Richard Belzer), a transfer from Baltimore's homicide unit, brings his acerbic wit, conspiracy theories and street-honed investigative skills to the team. And his partner, Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (Ice-T), adds his unique sense of humor and investigative experience, making him a formidable match for Munch.
Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak (Diane Neal) brings closure to the intense investigations with her legal expertise. The forensic psychiatrist, George Huang (B.D. Wong), whose insight into the minds of the accused, often provides significant clues that lead to the resolution of a case, while Medical Examiner Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie) lends her skills to uncover forensic evidence.