HomeEntertainment‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Opens Up About Her Mom’s Death

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Opens Up About Her Mom’s Death

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)

Mariska Hargitay said she was locked in the “frozen place” for years after her mother’s tragic death. The Law & Order: SVU star was only 3 when her mom, singer and actress Jayne Mansfield, died in a car wreck. Mansfield was only 32.

Hargitay told Glamour that she still struggles sometimes to make sense of it all. But, she added, that the early trauma help her develop a “superpower.”

“I think I learned about crisis very young, and I learned very young that s— happens and there’s no guarantees, and we keep going. And then we transform it,” she told the magazine. “That’s been kind of my superpower, and the gift of having trauma early in life. I’ve spent the last 50 — how old am I? —57. So 54 years sort of trying to figure out what happened and why, and what am I supposed to do with it?”

Glamour named her one of the magazine’s “Women of the Year 2021.” Activists Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang, who fought against anti-Asian hate, poet Amanda Gorman, hip-hop star Megan Thee Stallion, and biochemist Dr. Katalin Karikó share the annual honor with her.

Her father, former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay, gave her a normal childhood. But early trauma leaves deep roots, Mariska Hargitay said. And she’d often find herself locked in the “frozen place.”

“I clearly was in that frozen place for a lot of my childhood — of trying to survive, actually trying to survive,” she said. “My life has been a process of unpeeling the layers and trust and trusting again.”

She didn’t realize how common this feeling was until the first Law & Order: SVU aired in 1999 and the deluge of letters from sexual assault victims arrived.

Mariska Hargitay Talks About Friendship With Christopher Meloni

Mariska Hargitay said fans started to look at her character, Olivia Benson, as a mother figure. “(Benson) is the mom who is all heart and emotion and a lioness who’ll defend you,” Hargitay said.

That makes her partner on the show, Det. Elliot Stabler — played by Christopher Meloni — their no-nonsense dad.

“He was the angry father that will fix it at all costs,” she told the magazine.

That was their dynamic for 12 seasons before Meloni left the show. They remained friends, and their online repartee is the new obsession of the internet.

Meloni returned to SVU earlier this year in a crossover episode for his new series Law & Order: Organized Crime. Hargitay said she’s nothing like Olivia Benson because Hargitay “loves to laugh,” but there are parts of Christopher Meloni that are like his Law & Order counterpart.

They’re both tough as nails and compassionate men. But Stabler isn’t the “superhero” that Meloni is in real life. He’s becoming more so as he gets older, she said.

“He’s a bull, he’s intellectual, he’s clear, he’s focused, he’s funny, (and) he’s a ballbuster,” she says of Meloni. “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.”