Why Danny Pino Left Law & Order: SVU

Season 13 of Law & Order: SVU saw Danny Pino brought in as Detective Nick Amaro, the new partner of Olivia Benson. The actor had huge shoes to fill, as he was replacing fan-favorite Christopher Meloni, who had left his role of Elliot Stabler (until he returned in Law & Order: Organized Crime, which now has Stabler busting dirty cops). Pino was no stranger to crime dramas, having played Det. Scotty Valens on Cold Case for several years and having guest-starred on The Shield.

Amaro was charismatic, but like Stabler and Hank Voight on Chicago P.D., he had underlying anger issues that often got him into trouble with his superiors. It took him a while to settle into the unit, and Olivia had to rein him in on occasion, but the charming detective soon won the hearts of the fans. His personal life never settled down -- including a crumbling marriage and a Justice League-esque implied affair with colleague Amanda Rollins -- before in Season 16, Amaro was wounded and Pino left the series. What led to his exit?

Who Was Nick Amaro on Law & Order: SVU?

Nick Amaro joined the Special Victims Unit in Season 13. His wife Maria was serving in the Army and deployed overseas, and he had a tumultuous childhood raised in an atmosphere of domestic violence, No doubt this contributed to his temper issues, which often got the best of him, but he also had an innate charm which he used to put people at ease. He was especially sympathetic to children and mentally ill victims, which meant he often had issues with the nature of SVU's work, and was involved in several different incidents that got him into trouble with the department, including assaulting Dean Winters' character Brian Cassidy.

Amaro his wife separated after she took a job in Washington D.C.; they eventually divorced, with Maria moving to California with their daughter Zara. In Season 14, Episode 17, "Undercover Blue," Amaro discovered he had a son from a short-lived affair he had while undercover for narcotics. He reconnected with the child and his mother, and then there was the probable fling that Amaro had with Rollins. Whatever happened between them, they remained close as Rollins updated the team on Amaro's status after he left the NYPD.

In Season 16, Episode 23, "Surrendering Noah," Amaro not only learned that he would never be promoted due to his reputation in the department but was shot by suspect Johnny D. Though Amaro killed Johnny, he realized that his injuries might be the last straw needed to force him into early retirement, and elected to resign with the intent of moving to California to be closer to his family.

Why Did Danny Pino Leave Law & Order: SVU?

Danny Pino's departure was a combination of the actor wanting to try new things and producers feeling like Nick Amaro had run his course. In an Entertainment Weekly interview after Pino's final episode as a series regular, SVU executive producer Warren Leight stated that the actor wanted to "spread his wings a little," and the producers also felt it was the right place to finish Amaro's story because of the numerous problems he'd run into over the years. "Amaro's character is at a real dead-end with the NYPD," Leight said.

However, he was already planning the character's return, as in the same interview, Leight revealed that "If we're lucky, we'll get to see Danny again next year." Pino did return for an appearance in SVU's 500th episode. Fans got a reunion between him and his old partner Olivia while receiving a glimpse of a more stable and happy Nick, who was content in a new career and new relationship. Since he was still in the business of crime-solving -- he returned to reopen an old case -- it's possible that Amaro might make more appearances in the future. Pino has since starred in Seasons 1-3 of Mayans M.C. and guest-starred on One Day at a Time and The Good Fight.

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