USA confirms 'L&O: CI' departure

Vincent D'Onofrio leaving at the start of upcoming season

USA Network on Friday confirmed that "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" star Vincent D'Onofrio will leave the series at the beginning of the show's upcoming ninth season.

D'Onofrio has been on "CI" since the show's beginning as a series on NBC, portraying Detective Robert Goren.

"(D'Onofrio) has decided to transition out of the idiosyncratic role he created to explore new acting challenges in film and television," the network said Friday.

According to "Law & Order" creator/executive producer Dick Wolf, D'Onofrio will appear in a two-part opener of season nine that will serve as his hand-off to Jeff Goldblum.

"Vincent is one of the main reasons 'Criminal Intent' has been so successful for eight seasons. He turned Robert Goren into one of the great detectives in the history of television," Wolf said.

D'Onofrio addressed the timing of his departure.

"After eight seasons, and with the addition of Jeff Goldblum, now is the perfect time for me to explore other acting opportunities and I leave the show knowing it is in great hands with Jeff," he said.

But he left the door open to returning on the show for guest starring stints.

"For all my loyal 'CI' fans, I wouldn't be surprised if Goren pops up from time to time."

D'Onofrio's departure is part of a major casting overhaul on "CI" next season.

He is one of four regulars on the show, along with Kathryn Erbe, Eric Bogosian and Julianne Nicholson, leaving. New mom Nicholson is being replaced by Saffron Burrows.