Mariska Hargitay on ‘Gnarly’ Negotiations With ‘Law and Order’ Honcho Dick Wolf

THE IMPRESARIO BEHIND the Law & Order franchise, Dick Wolf, once threatened to fire SVU star Mariska Hargitay when she cut her hair, according to Variety. He also told her there’s no crying in TV. But after 25 seasons of SVU, Hargitay told the trade mag, “He makes me stronger,” while acknowledging their working relationship has been “ugly at times.”

Hargitay told Variety that she and Wolf now have a “beautiful, mutual respect” and that in spite of “gnarly” negotiations, he has become something of a paternal figure to her, who employs tough love as a motivator. “I can do hard things now,” she said. “I don’t know that I was always like that. I think in the beginning of the show, I had to fake a lot of it. I was still learning it. Now I fit into these shoes. It’s been a magnificent journey. I have learned to advocate for myself, ironically, from Dick.”

Variety on X: "Mariska Hargitay on her relationship with #LawAndOrderSVU creator Dick Wolf: “He and I have had some gnarly negotiations. And I don't think he's had that with anyone else. He's

The actress said it’s also her goal on the show to portray a strong woman full of nuance. “I’ve always known my vulnerability is my superpower; it’s not something that makes me weak,” she said. “I always try to share that with women. I think so many women are confused. They’re like, ‘Don’t cry in front of a man.’ I’m like, ‘Fuck that!’ I’ll cry in front of them, but I’ll also go kicking and screaming.’”

One SVU star who wasn’t so lucky in contract negotiations was Christopher Meloni, who left the show after Season 12. She also wasn’t able to help keep her friend, Kelli Giddish, on the show when Wolf wrote off her character. “It’s a sore subject,” Hargitay said. “I have a lot of say on the show, but I didn’t have enough there.”

Meloni finally returned to the show in 2021 with one notable change, his character’s wife was killed off. Now Margitay says she and Meloni are navigating plot lines that suggest romance between their characters. In one episode, they got close enough to kiss but ultimately did not. “To be honest with you, Chris and I thought it should go one way and the powers that be didn’t, so it got changed at the last minute, that near kiss,” Margitay told Variety. “Obviously Dick gets final say. It’s his show and he didn’t want that.” on X: "Why Dick Wolf Tried to Fire Mariska Hargitay From #LawAndOrderSVU" / XHargitay also discussed the advocacy work she does for women who are survivors of sexual violence, the theme of the show. Earlier this year, she wrote a People essay explaining that she recently realized that she was a survivor herself. “Now I’m able to see clearly what was done to me,” she wrote. “I understand the neurobiology of trauma. Trauma fractures our mind and our memory. The way a mirror fractures.” She added that survivors who confide in her that her SVU character, Olivia Benson, has inspired them to understand their trauma are a “source of strength” for her.

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