‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Worked ‘Odd Jobs’ Before the Hit Series: Here’s the List

by Jacklyn Krol

Mariska Hargitay had her share of odd jobs before fame and Law & Order: SVU.

Hargitay revealed her first jobs in a fan Q&A from the official Law & Order: SVU YouTube channel in 2013. Most of the work was done in her hometown of Santa Monica, California.

“They were all odd jobs. I worked so many places,” she divulged. “I worked at Book Soup for a long time, which is a book store in my hometown.”

She also worked at a restaurant called Bon Appetit in Westwood and later the Chart House. She was a hostess and later waitress at both of the establishments.

“I worked for some elderly people,” she added. “I would go over their house and make sure that they were okay [during] the night, and give them their medication. Which was really fulfilling and made some really cool relationships. [It was] sort of unexpected.”

She added that she “wrapped presents for a while” but didn’t clarify what job it was for. Her final job was as a cashier.

Prior to landing Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU, Hargitay struggled financially.

“I had a house and car I didn’t want to lose and I had a lot of credit card debt,” she told Good Housekeeping. Luckily, at the time, she had a boyfriend who helped with her bills.

“When we broke up, he said I owed him 60-grand,” Hargitay laughed. “I’m a payer-backer. So as soon as I could, I paid him off.”

Despite now being one of the highest paid actors in television, she has a level head when it comes to finances.

“But now I have learned to hang on to it. I have a nest egg, and I don’t buy above my means,” she added.

Before Mariska’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Big Break

Prior to landing the role of Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU, Hargitay had several roles in acting. After attending college at UCLA with a major in theater, she pursued her dream.

Her first acting job was in 1984 as Donna in Ghoulies. Two years later, she landed her first series role as Jesse Smith in Downtown.

Before Olivia Benson, Hargitay was a detective on the series Prince Street. She appeared as the character Nina Echeverria in six episodes over the span of three years.

In 1999, the role of a lifetime on Law & Order: SVU came along and the rest is history.

The character of Olivia Benson also appeared on two spin-offs, Law & Order: Trial By Jury and Law & Order: Organized Crime. Additionally, she appeared on Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.