Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson is the face of Law & Order: SVU. But there was a period of time where Hargitay missed multiple episodes of the hit show. Hargitay has been on Law & Order: SVU since season 1 episode one and has faithfully played Olivia Benson since 1999. The only exception to this was a gap of episodes she missed in season 8.
In the season premiere of season 8 called Informed, Benson and Stabler investigate the assault of a woman who isn’t telling the whole truth with them. By the end of the episode, it’s revealed that she’s working as a part of an FBI sting operation against an eco-terrorist group. This causes Benson to go undercover to help finish what she started.
But what was the real reason Benson was written off the show for a brief period of time?
Well, Mariska Hargitay took a much-needed break from the show to welcome her first child into the world. In June of 2006, Hargitay and her husband who she actually met on the show, Peter Hermann, welcomed their baby. This was incredible for them, but it meant that Hargitay needed to take some leave.
This also meant that while Hargitay was pregnant, production had to cover it up using classic object blocking and having lots of shots that hid her stomach.
Hargitay trusted the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Writers Room to Write Around Her Pregnancy
It can be hard to hide an actor’s pregnancy on the show, and the subsequent leave can also be hard to justify in the writing. But actress Mariska Hargitay had full faith that production would be able to handle her absence and pregnancy.
“I didn’t know what they were going to do. The show being what it is and the writing being what it is, I had utter trust that they would come up [with] an amazing sort of answer to it,” Hargitay said in an interview with Movie Web in 2007 “It was actually really fun and really challenging to cover it up, and I think they handled it really well and really creatively.”
On the show, Olivia Benson was replaced briefly by Dani Beck played by Connie Nielsen. In one episode, Beck and Stabler kissed. This was much to the chagrin of people who wanted to see Benson and Stabler together. So fans were plenty excited when Olivia Benson returned.
It’s incredibly impressive that over the course of over 500 episodes, Hargitay has barely missed any at all. Her work on Law & Order: SVU has broken records for its longevity. She’s arguably become the face of crime shows.
If you want to see Mariska Hargitay and the rest of the current Law & Order: SVU cast in action, tune in to NBC Thursday nights at 9/8 Central.