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When you act on a show for years, your fellow actors transcend the role of coworkers and can turn into a kind of family. For network television shows like Law & Order and its subsequent spin-offs, actors may spend decades together, like in the case of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Since its inception in 1999, the longtime procedural police drama has had countless guest stars (like Adam Driver, Robin Williams, and Hilary Duff), but for the most part has kept a solid regular cast at the center of the show. Originally starring Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Richard Belzer, Dean Winters, and Dann Florek, the show follows the New York City Special Victims Unit, focusing on sexual crimes. Despite the morbid nature of the show, it’s a mainstay for NBC.

The show is currently in its 24th season, with Mariska Hargitay no longer simply playing a detective, but now the captain of the entire division. Other regulars on the show include Ice-T (who joined the show in Season 2), and Tamara Tunie (who joined as the medical examiner in Season 2). The show no doubt has a close cast.

On February 19, 2023, Richard Belzer, who played detective John Munch from 1999 to 2016 on Special Victims Unit, passed away at the age of 78. Although he no longer appeared on the show, his passing still highlighted the actor and comedian’s indelible mark on the famed program. Once the news of his passing reached social media, Hargitay posted a somber post on Instagram about the death of her friend.

richard belzer svu

Richard Belzer and Mariska Hargitay on Law and Order: SVU.

NBC Universal

“How lucky the angels are to have you,” Hargitay said in a brief post. “I can hear them laughing already.”

In addition to his appearance on Special Victims Unit, Belzer also played his character John Munch on ten other shows, including The Wire, The X-Files, Arrested Development, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Earlier in his career, Belzer served as a warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live and appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with Jim Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, and others. Belzer was known for his deadpan humor in addition to his more dramatic acting role as Munch.

Headshot of Milan Polk

Milan Polk is an Editorial Assistant for Men’s Health who specializes in entertainment and lifestyle reporting, and has worked for New York Magazine’s Vulture and Chicago Tribune.

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