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Mariska Hartigay, who plays a detective on NBC’s popular drama about sexual crimes, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, also works on issues of sexual assault when she’s not in front of the camera. She’s currently part of a campaign that’s working to challenge Americans’ preconceived notions about rape, gender, and victim-blaming. Her nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, partnered with NO MORE — a group that leverages nonprofits, corporate leaders, athletes, and advocates to draw widespread attention to the work of sexual assault prevention groups — to spearhead a public awareness campaign around the reality of sexual violence.
The celebrity PSAs (which also feature Hartigay’s Law & Order co-stars) challenge traditional assumptions about victimization, like the ideas that rape victims must have done something to “ask for it,” men are never victims of assault, and it’s easy for women to leave abusive relationships.
The NO MORE campaign launched last year, and was updated this week to include additional ads that are more inclusive to male victims of sexual assault.
“Being part of NO MORE from the beginning has been a great privilege,” Hargitay explained in a statement released on Friday. “Society continues to misplace shame and blame on survivors — both women and men. That has to end. By confronting the myths and excuses we rely on to avoid ending domestic violence and sexual assault, NO MORE fills me with confidence and renewed determination that we will put an end to the violence.”
The messages in NO MORE’s ad campaign echo much of the recent activism surrounding sexual assault prevention. This week, after an op-ed published in TIME Magazine argued that rape culture is a myth, feminists pushed back with a Twitter campaign that reaffirmed the realities of survivors’ experiences. “Rape culture is when you go to friends for support and they ask you what you were wearing,” Zerlina Maxwell, a feminist activist and writer, tweeted to kick off the #RapeCultureIsWhen hashtag — which spread rapidly and ended up flooded with similar stories about the impact of victim-blaming.
This is hardly the only work that Hartigay has done in this space. Ten years ago, she founded her nonprofit specifically to advocate for policies to address domestic violence and sexual assault. Much of that activism has focused on ending the nation’s rape kit backlog. She recently partnered with law enforcement officials in Detroit to process over 1,000 previously untested rape kits, an effort that helped identify 100 serial rapists.
It’s worth noting that while Hartigay’s real-life activism around the issue of sexual assault is attempting to make a real positive impact, the television show she works for doesn’t always have the same end result. Law & Order: SVU has been accused of furthering some damaging rape myths of its own — namely, the notions that perpetrators of sexual assault are usually strangers who jump out of the bushes, and that rape victims always bear physical markers like cuts and bruises. The show also depicts disproportionately high numbers of false rape cases and rape convictions, compared to a reality where only about two to eight percent of rape reports are fabricated and just three percent of rapists see the inside of a jail cell.
“The way Law & Order: SVU portrays the nature of sexual assault and the occurrence of false reporting feeds the lifeblood of rape culture by making rape out to be something rare and something that victims lie about it in the first place,” activist Sara Alcid wrote in Everyday Feminism last fall.
It’s certainly great to tell survivors’ stories through print ads, but unfortunately, they shouldn’t necessarily expect the same reflection of their experiences on the small screen.
04/09/2014 (09:00PM – 10:01PM) (Wednesday) : SERGEANT BENSON’S (MARISKA HARGITAY) NIGHTMARE CONTINUES WHEN WILLIAM LEWIS (GUEST STAR PABLO SCHREIBER) ESCAPES FROM PRISON
The sadistic William Lewis (Schreiber) escapes from prison, arbitrarily killing as he goes. Concerned for Benson’s safety, a security detail is assigned to her 24/7, but it doesn’t take long for Lewis to get her back where he left off. With time running out, Benson must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save the life of a child. Also starring Ice-T (Detective Odafin Tutuola), Danny Pino (Detective Nick Amaro) and Kelli Giddish (Detective Amanda Rollins). Also guest starring Natalie Racoosin (Lauren Cole), Nikki Estridge (Detective Delano), Curt Bouril (Detective Carlson) and Lily Pilblad (Amelia Cole).
Food Bank For New York City’s Can Do Awards Dinner Gala will take place on Wednesday, April 9, and it looks set to be a star-studded affair.
The Can Do Awards Dinner is the premiere Food Bank For New York City event that helps support the nearly 1.5 million New Yorkers who rely on our programs and services to put food on the table. Highlights of the evening include a cocktail reception beginning at 6 p.m. followed by dinner, live and silent auction, awards presentation, and a special musical performance. The evening will be presented by Bank of America.
The evening will be hosted by Cat Greenleaf and will feature appearances by Honorary Chairs Mario Batali & Susan Cahn; Event Chairs Jodisue Rosen Feldman & Scott R. Feldman; Food Bank CEO Margarette Purvis and Honoree Dorothea Bongiovi.
Other guests expected to attend include: Jon Bon Jovi, Mariska Hargitay, Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Lori Silverbush, Ted Allen, Lauren Bush Lauren, Sandra Lee, Jill Hennessy, David Chang, Katie Lee, Marisa May, Kelly Bensimon, Mary Giuliani, Phillip Baltz, Susan Ungaro, and Rene & Susie Lopez.
The event will take place at Cipriani Wall Street in NYC. Find out more here.
Big congrats to Mariska for her directorial debut. She has certainly went above and beyond in her role as a director and tonight’s episode proved that. We are so proud of you! SVU will return with all new episodes starting April 2nd. It’s hard to believe we’re two months away from the finale! Anyway, captures are in the gallery.
Alec Baldwin may have had his struggles with paparazzi, but he’ll be playing a member of the press on Wednesday’s episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
The former “30 Rock” star plays a New York Ledger columnist who appears to have the inside track on a hate crime, but declares it all to be a hoax. Baldwin started filming the day he said goodbye to public life in a New York Magazine essay, but producer Peter Blauner, who wrote the episode’s teleplay, told TODAY that the actor’s public life never crossed with his work on the set.
“I certainly never talked to him about the article,” said Blauner, a journalist-turned-novelist who once wrote for New York Magazine. “On that first day, he delivered a monologue you’ll see in the show, and the key line is, ‘I said my piece.’ I can’t speak for Alec, but he seemed to say that with no lack of conviction.”
Blauner also said that Baldwin’s character was written with the actor in mind since they were “aware” that he was open to appearing on the crime drama.
“We were thinking that the character of the columnist had to be a larger than life … to have big enough shoes to be worth Alec’s while to fill,” Blauner said. “We had to think about giving his use of language some muscularity. We had to think about giving him some history and stature knowing that we were writing a character that was larger than life for an actor who was larger than life.”
With Wednesday’s episode, Baldwin becomes a rare bird in the long-running franchise’s history: He’s the only person to have contributed to a script for the original “Law & Order” (1998′s “Tabloid”) that reflected some elements of his own life (in that case, his run-ins with the press), and later appear as a guest star.
But Baldwin isn’t the only unique thing about Wednesday’s episode, titled “Criminal Stories” — Katie Couric will be appearing as herself, and it’s the first time star Mariska Hargitay is stepping behind the camera as director.
“Everybody felt confident from the beginning that Mariska would know what she was doing as a director of actors,” said Blauner. “What I don’t think we necessarily expected was that she would be completely competent and completely prepared in every technical aspect of directing as well. Obviously, she’s been very observant over these last 15 years.”
While Hargitay will almost certainly direct again, will the show see Baldwin return? “I would hope so,” said Blauner. “I would work with that guy again in a heartbeat. If the flesh is willing, the words will be, too.”
“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
Wednesday’s (March 19) “Law & Order: SVU” episode marks two debuts: Alec Baldwin as a guest star and Mariska Hargitay as a director, and showrunner Warren Leight says he was surprised by Baldwin.
“We have an Islamic Indian woman raped, and it’s a hate crime, and it’s on Central Park South so it is a high-profile crime,” Leight says of the episoded, titled “Criminal Stories.”
Baldwin plays a tough tabloid columnist, who accuses the woman of being a fake, and “our squad is caught in the middle,” Leight says. “Meanwhile, he is so discrediting the victim, it is going to be hard to prove.”
It’s ironic that Baldwin is playing a reporter, considering his recent screed against journalists. But it turns out he and Hargitay are pals, and he had optioned a couple of books on Mike McAlary, the late columnist who in the 1980s bounced between the New York Post and the New York Daily News. (McAlary was the subject of the 2013 Broadway play “Lucky Guy,” which starred Tom Hanks.)
“What we have is a columnist who, at a certain point, may realize he has part of the story wrong,” Leight says. “But his ego won’t let him admit it. This is the stage at these guys’ lives where they become larger than their stories.”
Baldwin is a perfect match for one of those columnists, long on swagger and buster. And Leight, who did his time in community newspapers in Manhattan, knows the type. But what surprised Leight was rather than play Jimmy MacArthur as a brazen, king-of-the-city loudmouth, Baldwin’s take was different.
“Alec went the other way on it,” Leight says. “And he took the guy and went under, instead of over. It sets expectations a little bit upside down. I was impressed.”
As for Hargitay, the show’s star, going behind the camera for the first time?
“It was kind of great,” Leight says. “I wasn’t at all anxious about it. She knows the show better than anyone. Often on our show when an actor can’t get there, Mariska helps them get there. She has done these scenes enough and knows how to get there. If they see Mariska knows how to get something, they will let her go get it. And she prepared more than almost more than any director I have had in here.”
Hargitay was busy working on the final edits for the episode, which she also appears in. Baldwin declined an interview.
“Law & Order: SVU” airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday on NBC.
Although deep into the 15th season of the show, this week’s episode of “Law & Order: SVU’ presents an onscreen narrative that doesn’t let up on what seems to be this season’s unofficial theme, ‘when things can go wrong, they will go horribly wrong.’
The single sentence synopsis for the episode, entitled “Criminal Stories,” is, “A reporter jeopardizes a high profile case.”
Disclosing a bit more, Executive Producer Warren Leight reveals, “It’s really about these old school reporters and their level of involvement in whatever story they’re covering. We’re exploring what happens when they’re so sure of their story that they discredit what our squad is doing and poison the well, really screwing up the investigation.”
This particular ‘old school’ reporter, Jimmy MacArthur, will be portrayed by veteran actor Alec Baldwin.
Certainly ‘SVU’ has had its share of high profile guest stars, but Baldwin may be the most decorated thespian to appear on the show. He’s been nominated for an Oscar, taken home three Golden Globes, two Emmys and six individual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
His inclusion in this episode, given Baldwin’s clearly stated disdain for the media, might be considered controversially by some but was a non-issue for Leight and everyone else at ‘SVU.’ In fact, his casting in this role seems to have been fated to be as Leight explained how it transpired, saying, “What’s funny is his name has come up apparently every year and it could never be worked out for him to be on the show for whatever reason. I’d been toying with this idea based in part on these well-known big old Irish columnists in New York and his name came up again. So, I called him up and I got about twelve words into the description of the episode and the role and it turns out he had also been very interested in these columnists. At one point he’d actually optioned a book about one of them to try to produce as a movie with him playing a character from that world. So we were on common ground pretty quickly.”
Helping broker the deal with Baldwin was ‘SVU’ star Mariska Hargitay. “We knew he wanted to work with Mariska, and I just knew that if he was going to do an episode, this was the one he should really be in,” explains Leight. “So Mariska stepped in and kind of facilitated the negotiations a bit.”
Leight goes on to reveal that “It certainly helped that he and Mariska are close friends and that Mariska was directing this episode as well.”
Yes, Hargitay has stepped behind the camera to take on her first stint as an ‘SVU’ director.
I spoke with Leight just as Hargitay was wrapping up the on-set portion of this episode.
“She’s been great,” said Leight, clearly beaming at the work his leading lady was doing in her new role, was also quick to say, “No one here was surprised by that. As an actor, we’ve all watched her all this time and every day that she’s on set, she’s always doing a lot of work on individual scenes in every episode. She’s always had this amazing sense of how to nurture other actors and help them get to their best performance.”
Truth be told, I’ve been on the ‘SVU’ set several times when Hargitay had no idea I was there (so this was not ‘showing off for the reporter’), and I’ve been privileged to witness her work with day players first hand. I’ve seen many show leads who never take a moment to even introduce themselves to these actors, who are asked to come in and play an integral part of an episode, treating them as though they’re rather unimportant. Much to the contrary, on numerous occasions, I’ve seen Hargitay, whose very presence is enough to unnerve the most gifted actor because of her stature within the industry, cheerily introduce herself with an outstretched hand and then proceed to discuss with the actor how they should best work together to elevate the scene, a process which clearly yields excellent results.
While her work as an actor on the show certainly informed her sensibilities as a director, Leight explained that while the transition seemed natural for the cast and crew, Hargitay, even with all her experience, was, “probably more anxious about it than any of us were.”
Leight for his part as showrunner had a few issues to work out to make the actor-director hyphenate position work for Hargitay and still keep the show on track. “The process isn’t just as simple as she steps in and directs for the eight day shoot,” clarifies Leight. “There are several days of prep time prior to shooting the episode. Those days involve location scouting and casting and working out all of those details. Then you shoot the episode and then there’s editing and finishing it up and as a director she’s involved in all of that, so what’s really tough is that while she’s trying to do all of this, we still needed her on set as Sergeant Olivia Benson. As acting commander in the squad room, she really couldn’t just disappear for large portions of time. Given all of this, we had to really negotiate her time very carefully.”
Hargitay’s commitment to her position at the helm of this episode is evident as she wrangled Leight into letting her fly to Los Angeles to work with the editing team for a few days, one of which was a workday. “She also did a lot of stuff on the weekends as well, working with the writer of this episode (Peter Blauner) and the editors as well throughout the whole production process,” revealed Leight, adding, “This was really an all encompassing project for her and aside from all of the outside pressures, she made it that way for herself because she really wanted to put out the best product possible so that everyone involved would be proud of this episode and she felt that the only way to do that was to be completely immersed in process.”
That process probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the scenes of this episode that were shot on location where done so during a week of brutally cold weather. In fact, I ran into the crew one night as they were shooting on the edge of Central Park. It was late and getting colder by the minute and I mentioned to a crew member that I hoped they were going to be finished soon, to which he responded, with a huge grin, “Oh yeah, this episode is going great. I love our director, she’s moving fast and getting it done because, well, she doesn’t like the cold and she doesn’t want us out here any longer than we have to be. She’s always thinking about what’s best for everybody.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I reached out to Hargitay’s publicist but was unable to speak directly with her about this experience. Fortunately, I was able to ask Leight the one question that’s most intrigued me about Hargitay’s move to the director’s chair — what took so long? “Oh she was definitely ready to do this,” revealed Leight, “but it was about getting everyone on board.” And by everyone he means, the powers-that-be within the Dick Wolf organization. “She’s the first actor in the history of the ‘Law & Order’ franchise to direct an episode of ‘Law & Order’ while she’s still acting in the show,” explained Leight.”There’s been this edict, really since time began, that no one on a Dick Wolf show can direct a Dick Wolf show. But, the counter argument was that if anyone has earned it, she has. It was sort of corporate policy and it often takes a while for things to change. In this case, the change was clearly well-deserved and worth it.” At this point, Leight laughed a little and said, “My feeling is that any other actor who does a Dick Wolf show for 15 years should get the same shot.” (So there’s hope for you actors on “Chicago Fire!” – in 2027!)
Circling back to talk specifically about “Criminal Stories,” Leight added, “I didn’t really want Mariska to be in every scene while she was directing, but because of the story, she belonged in as many scenes as we can get her into. This was because I felt a sense of obligation to Alec and to Mariska to give them really meaty scenes. There are some very serious confrontations between Baldwin and Hargitay who are two very interesting actors to watch as they go at it. Our goal was to have a compelling storyline that they could take opposite sides of and both come out of that looking smart. We understand where both of them are coming from. I think we pulled it off.”
In the end, Leight summed it up with this simple statement, “He’s a big star, she’s directing her first episode, no one wanted to screw it up.”
With the obvious amount of intense work and passion from all parties involved, it truly seems there’s little chance of that.
Two hashtags this week! = #MariskaDirects and #BaldwinOnSVU