Mariska Hargitay Faces Challenges On Screen and Off

American television’s pantheon of prime-time goddesses is, by some accounts, a modern construct. Women such as Tea Leoni’s Elizabeth McCord in Madam Secretary and Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, who are defined by strength of character more than simply gender.

But both those women, and their peers, have a forebear, a woman who was defining feminine strength long before the so-called present golden age of prime-time television. Her name is Olivia Benson and she’s played by Mariska Hargitay. For more than 350 hours of television she has been the star of the seemingly indestructible Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Though the male/female partnership concept is not new, what made creator Dick Wolf’s interpretation so distinct was that Benson and her then-partner, Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), were not shoehorned into the cliche of unresolved sexual tension. Rarely, and powerfully, they were presented as genuine equals. That partnership lasted 272 episodes.

“I know Dick cast me because I was strong and this was a very empathetic character, but I think that she has grown in to what she is now, I think I’ve grown her if you will, and that’s what’s interesting about it,” Hargitay explains to The Guide. “I wanted to make her tough but also empathetic and compassionate … I thought they were such important things.”

For Hargitay, what mattered was that Olivia Benson was a “very strong, a very three dimensional character. Take no prisoners but empathetic and flawed and complex. This is a person who thinks outside the box and so is Dick Wolf and so am I. It’s been a beautiful evolution.”

The peculiarly dark nature of Special Victims Unit – it focuses on violent sex crimes – makes it a tough platform for storytelling. In some 16 years, however, actress and character have fused in an unusual way. Hargitay has, in her own life, become an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, creating a foundation named Joyful Heart.

It began, she explains, when she was researching the role. “I was trying to figure out how to best serve and play this role and how to best inform myself and how to best deal with these crimes,” she says. “By educating myself and learning the statistics I was just so horrified, I was so in shock. I just remember my jaw dropping.”

After shock, she says, came anger. “I was so enraged that this was something that was going on in our society and in our culture and in our world and that people just weren’t talking about it,” she says. “The show was a platform for me to effect change. And with people disclosing to me their stories of abuse, I realised there was indeed an epidemic.”

One of the many empowering aspects of Hargitay’s performance is in some respects the least overtly stated. At the age of 50, she is in an age bracket when, historically, actresses struggle to own high-profile real estate in the television schedule.

“It’s been liberating for women because I think late forties and early fifties is when women are really connected to their fearlessness and look at life differently, [we] have all this beautiful wisdom to draw from, to make even better decisions,” Hargitay says.

“It’s been beautiful for me to have this evolution on television,” she adds. “It’s been beautiful to grow this woman up and to be this character that we’ve all watched earn her place, right? And it’s been a very exciting journey and I hope an inspirational one for people.”

Hargitay was born in 1964 into the most of Hollywood of showbusiness dynasties. Her father was the Hungarian-born bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. Her mother the iconic sex symbol Jayne Mansfield. The subject is a sensitive one for Hargitay and despite the passage of time her mother remains a powerful figure in her personal life.

“I think she has influenced me in more ways than I know,” Hargitay says. “She was such a pioneer, she was a woman before her time, and she was doing things that nobody else was doing. Being a movie star and having five kids, and sort of living out loud and being fearless and breaking all the rules.

“She was somebody that beat to her own drum and was such a free spirit and I really admire that,” Hargitay adds. “Not to say that it was easy, but she was ambitious and wanted so much of life, and had a huge appetite for it. I think I’m like that a lot. And I think obviously she gave me the idea to be an actor which is a career that I have fallen madly in love with.

“She had a love for family and a love for children,” Hargitay says. “She was a compassionate woman, an empathetic woman, but again somebody who did it the way she wanted to and by her own design, especially at the beginning. She was somebody who had big dreams and followed them. That’s pretty inspiring to me.”

In the 16 or so years that Hargitay has starred in Law & Order, the cast has shifted dynamically around her. Her longtime collaborator, Christopher Meloni, departed the series in 2011. The show’s other senior detective is now Odafin Tutuola, played by Ice-T. In that time, however, there has been one unchanging constant: the show’s creator Dick Wolf.

“Dick surrounds himself with passionate people who are committed and who are artists, so he hires great people and then he trusts them, which is part of his success,” Hargitay says. “He’s a visionary obviously, he has this huge vision and huge appetite, and truly is a seer.

“It’s been interesting to get to know him,” she adds. “He’s a very interesting man. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I appreciate his vision and I feel grateful to be part of his world that he created.”


Debra Messing Wants the Mysteries of Laura/SVU Crossover

Q: How about a crossover from Mysteries of Laura with another show?

DM: Oh, yes—[Law & Order] SVU, please. Mariska Hargitay is my best friend in real life. I’ve been on her show as a guest star and that was just awesome. I think it would just be wonderful and hilarious to the audience if we were able to somehow interact with each other.

Q: With the girl power of Mariska on SVU and Sophia Bush on Chicago P.D. Do you get to hang out and give each other tips?

DM: Well, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to hang out with Sophia because she is in Chicago. We have done some press together. I just saw her at the up fronts and we had a big snuggle and giggle fest together. I think she is so wonderful. I can’t say enough about her.

Mariska and Sophia had definitely become close because of those crossovers. The cast of SVU flew out to Chicago and spent a lot of time together.


Taylor Swift Brings out Mariska Hargitay during “Style” at the 1989 World Tour in Philadelphia

Taylor Swift brought out Mariska during “Style” for both nights of her 1989 World Tour in Philadelphia. You can view pictures below and watch some videos. You can view a dozen more videos on YouTube these are just a few :)

Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour in Philadelphia- Night 1
Taylor performs “Style” with Mariska & Cara here here here

Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour in Philadelphia- Night 2

Taylor performs “Style” here Here

Pictures: Mariska Departing LAX Airport (June 8)

Mariska was seen departing LAX Airport yesterday. Pictures are below :)

Departing LAX Airport
June 8, 2015

Pictures: Mariska on Location (June 5)

Mariska was on location filming for season 17 yesterday and pictures are in the gallery :)

On Location
June 5, 2015

Mariska will Guest Star on the Jim Gaffigan Show

The show premieres July 15th at 10pm on TV Land. I’ll have more info on when Mariska’s episode will air when it’s available :)

In this episode [“Chicago Pizza”] there were a ton of guest stars, including Mariska Hargitay and maybe most surprisingly, Macaulay Culkin. How did that happen?

Jim: The Macaulay thing, it’s really interesting. I don’t want to give too much away —


Domestic Violence Coalition Hosting “A Conversation with Mariska Hargitay”

There have been fashion shows at Saks Fifth Avenue in the Short Hills Mall, private fundraising events in people’s homes and yearly women’s luncheons where guest speakers discuss relevant issues. In fact, Heller was thrilled to announce Rachel’s major 2015 fundraiser, to be held on October 18 of this year. In an event cosponsored by, and held at, Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, the Rachel Coalition will be hosting “A Conversation with Mariska Hargitay.” Best known for her portrayal of Detective Olivia Benson on NBC’s hit series “Law and Order: SVU,” Hargitay has merged her “reel” and “real” lives in her position as Founder and President of the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to eradicating domestic violence and sexual assault.

“A revolution always begins from within. This one begins when you decide how you will hold the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse within you, and how you live out that decision,” said Hargitay on the Foundation’s website.

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Video: Mariska’s Speech at John Jay’s Educating for Justice Gala

Someone recorded and uploaded Mariska’s acceptance speech at John Jay College yesterday. You can watch the video below.

Pictures: John Jay Educating for Justice Gala

Mariska was honored at John Jay’s Educating for Justice Gala this evening. More pictures will be added so keep checking back :)

John Jay Educating for Justice Gala
May 19, 2015

Julianne Hough Loves Mariska Hargitay & Wants to be on SVU

Who doesn’t wanna be on the show?! :)

20. I love Law & Order: SVU, and Mariska Hargitay is my queen. Get me on the show! #illbeadeadbody