‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Describes Benson and Stabler’s Dynamic as the Parents of the Show

by Jacklyn Krol
Gotham, Getty Images

Mariska Hargitay knows just how to describe the Law & Order: SVU Benson and Stabler Dynamic.

In a new interview with Glamour, the actress sees the pair as “mother and father” of the series. Both actors began on the show since its inception on September 20, 1999. Christopher Meloni left the series in 2011 and returned to the franchise in 2020 for his own spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime. So it’s easy to see how they are parents of the show.

Hargitay is the “mom who is all heart and emotion and a lioness who’ll defend you.” Meanwhile, she described Meloni as, “He was the angry father that will fix it at all costs.”

Surprisingly, Hargitay doesn’t remember details from their first day on set over 20 years ago.

“Keeping it real, I don’t remember,” she admitted to TV Insider. “But I do have a million memories from the pilot, especially the immediate chemistry with Chris. We were filming in the Meatpacking District, and it was really hot and raining, so we all had to wear baseball caps. I was going, ‘How lucky is this California girl to be shooting a television series in New York with this fantastic actor and fantastic crew!'”

How the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Stars Met

When Mariska Hargitay met Christopher Meloni, she thought that he was someone else entirely. The pair met during auditions for Law & Order: SVU. At first, she believed that he was Mad Men actor John Slattery, who she previously met. She called out his name and Meloni just went with it but corrected her with an epic response.

“I said, ‘Slattery!’ He goes, ‘Meloni!’” she recalled to Glamour. After Meloni brushed it off, they began chatting like old friends. They quickly formed a friendship and Meloni began telling her a story. When they walked into the room with the NBC executives, he continued to tell the story without missing a beat. He even told the executives to hold on while he finished it.

“He’s a ballbuster,” Hargitay continued. “And to see him back stronger, faster—he’s like the bionic man. He’s like this 60-year-old superhero who is even more dedicated, more badass, more pure, stronger, more focused. He’s just more of everything that he was.”

In a previous interview, Hargitay revealed that they first spoke about Meloni’s ink.

“I was already standing up, and so we did this huge hug, and we’d never met,” Hargitay told Inside the Actors Studio. “He has a huge tattoo of Jesus on the cross, and so I said, ‘Oh my gosh, are you a Christian?’ And he’s like, ‘Um, no.” And I said, ‘Then why do you have that?’ He goes, ‘Just liked his commitment.’ That sort of sums up Meloni.”

NBC initially had Meloni and Hargitay individually audition. However, the Law & Order: SVU executives decided to have them audition together. Somehow they knew that it would be magic and work perfectly.

“I knew it was done then. It just happened, it was a pairing,” she added. “From the first second before we even [auditioned]. You can’t write it.”