UPDATED: Richard Belzer was a cornerstone of Law & Order: SVU when the L&O spinoff launched in 1999; he was a main cast member, playing a character fans already knew and loved, cynical detective John Munch who had originated on Homicide: Life on the Street. Following the news of Belzer’s death at age 78, his SVU co-costars and producers took to social media to remember him.
“Goodbye my dear, dear friend,” series star and executive producer Mariska Hargitay said. “I will miss you, your unique light and your singular take on this strange world. I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years.”
Hargitay also referenced comedian Belzer’s famous sense of humor. “How lucky the angels are to have you. I can hear them laughing already.”
Fellow original SVU cast member Chris Meloni also mourned Balzer, posting two candid shots with him and Hargitay and writing, “Good bye mon ami. I love you.”
Ice-T, whose character, Det. Fin Tutuola, was partnered with Belzer’s Munch, posted a note next to a photo of them from the show.
“After one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I wake up to the news I lost my friend today. Belz is gone.. Damn it!,” wrote Ice-T, who two days ago received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at a ceremony attended by Hargitay. “I’ll miss you Homie.”
In a statement, Law & Order creator and franchise steward Dick Wolf shared the story of how Belzer’s Munch ended up on SVU to extend the characters’s run to 22 seasons, 7 on Homicide and 15 on the Law & Order offshoot.
“Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters. I first worked with Richard on the Law & Order/Homicide crossover and loved the character so much, I told [executive producer] Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on SVU. The rest is history,” Wolf said. “Richard brought humor and joy into all our lives, was the consummate professional and we will all miss him very much.”
Longtime SVU showrunner Warren Leight also remembered working with Belzer and writing for him.
Richard Belzer was the first actor to welcome me when I started at SVU,” he said. “Open, warm, acerbic, whip smart, surprisingly kind. I loved writing for Munch, and I loved being with Belz.”
The official Law & Order Twitter account also posted a tribute. “Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own,” it said.
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