"I was just so sad, because we started this thing and built it together," she says in a joint People magazine cover story with Meloni, who's returning to SVU and starring in the spinoff Organized Crime. "And we went through so many milestones and spent so much time together and understood so many things that nobody else could understand. I had to do so many mental gymnastics and sort of do a reinvention in my own mind, which of course turned out to be a gift, as any sort of growth is. But I was scared; I was sad," adds the actress, who has continued playing Benson on SVU — now the longest-running drama series in TV history." Meloni, however, has a different perspective on his exit that came after a pay dispute. "She was left in the familiarity of what we were. And I'm sure there were echoes, constant reminders, everywhere," he says. "But for me, it was about how things fell out—and the word I'll use is that it was inelegant. At the end of the day, how it was handled was, 'Okay, see you later.' So I went, 'That's fine. We're all big boys and girls here. See you later.' And I was off on new adventures and doing what I wanted to do. Telling the stories I wanted to tell."