‘Law & Order: SVU’: Mariska Hargitay Detailed the Devastating Experience That Prepped Her for Show

by Amy Myers

Would you believe us if we told you that Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU for 22 seasons, originally wanted to go into comedy? While Hargitay, no doubt, would have made an excellent comedy actress, we’re just thankful that she’s the face of the hit crime series. And so is she.

As much as Hargitay has given to Law & Order: SVU, the show has given just as much back to her. Besides her impressive salary of $450,000 per episode, the show gave Hargitay a newfound purpose in life and introduced her to her now-husband and father of her children. In 2004, just five seasons into the show, Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is dedicated to ending sexual assault and abuse all over the world. Four years later, while filming an episode, the star met Peter Hermann on set.

Hargitay also earned quite a few nominations and awards for her work on the series. With eight Emmy nominations and the 2006 title for leading actress, it’s safe to say that the actress and her character, Detective Olivia Benson, are the lifeblood of Law & Order: SVU.

However, when Hargitay’s journey with Dick Wolf’s spinoff series began, her agent didn’t think she would want the role. In fact, her agent told her flat-out that it might be too “dark” for her. But the future Law & Order: SVU star insisted she read it. And, much to her own surprise, she loved it.

“I remember feeling so passionately about it, and not scared of it, weirdly,” Hargitay shared with The Hollywood Reporter.

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Went On Her First Ride Along

Once Mariska Hargitay committed to the new series, her next step was prepping for her future role. And that included witnessing what real-life cops do every day.

“I came to New York, I started going on ride-alongs and met real SVU detectives. I hung out at precincts,” Hargitay recalled. But what really stuck with her was her experience at the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention program at Mt. Sinai. 

“That night is branded on my heart. I learned that one in four women will be assaulted by their 18th birthday, one in three women in their lifetime, one in six men in their lifetime,” Hargitay said. “I just couldn’t download those statistics.”

And she didn’t stop her education on sexual assault and violent crimes there. The new Law & Order: SVU star continued learning all she could about the field.

“I did a 40-hour training to become a rape crisis advocate. It was very eye-opening. I wanted to play this character in a different way, and not as a woman in a man’s world,” she said.

Ever dedicated to her role on the show and in real life, Mariska Hargitay has transformed from just another Hollywood actress to a passionate and fervent victim’s advocate.