Mariska Hargitay on Real-Life Olivia Benson Moment With Young Girl: ‘We Were Meant to Connect’ (Exclusive)

The ‘Law & Order: SVU’ star recalls helping a lost child while speaking with ET at Variety’s Power of Women event.

Mariska Hargitay says she feels like she was meant to help the lost child who seemingly mistook the actress for a real police officer while she was filming season 25 of her hit NBC series last month.

In photos captured by paparazzi, the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star was filming alongside her co-star, Ice-T, when she was approached by a little girl who had been separated from her mother and needed assistance finding her. The case of mistaken identity is understandable considering that Hargitay, 60, wears a police badge as part of Olivia Benson’s outfit.

“Mariska was filming with Ice-T and was interrupted by a little girl walking into the scene. She walked straight to Mariska,” an eyewitness told ET at the time. The eyewitness added that Hargitay paused filming after she was approached by the little girl and happily helped reunite her with her mother.

Mariska Hargitay is seen taking a break from filming Law and Order: SVU help a child at the Fort Tryon Playground on April 10, 2024 in New York City.
Mariska Hargitay pictured taking a break from filming ‘Law and Order: SVU’ to help a crying child – Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Speaking with ET’s Rachel Smith at Variety’s Power of Women Event Presented by Lifetime in New York on Thursday, Hargitay says she doesn’t know if her costume led the girl to believe she was an officer, but felt that she and the lost child “were meant to connect in the moment we did.”

“This little angel girl was in need and we connected and I could see that. So I did what any mother on this planet would do,” she tells ET.

While Hargitay hasn’t been in contact with the reunited mother-daughter duo since, she gushes that she’s pleased with how she left things. “I got to hug her mom and her, and it was beautiful.”
Mariska Hargitay pictured taking a break from filming 'Law and Order: SVU' to help a crying child
Mariska Hargitay pictured taking a break from filming ‘Law and Order: SVU’ to help a child find her mother – Jose Perez / SPLASH

The two-time Emmy winner was honored at the Power of Women event for her work as an advocate for sexual assault survivors. Hargitay was introduced by her close friend, Glenn Close, before taking the stage herself at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum where she gave a powerful speech about her dedication to continue listening to survivors and fighting back.

“I’m very emotional, it’s [a] really beautiful moment,” Hargitay tells ET about the day’s celebration. “You know, you think about these giants, what people have done in this business and what they’ve worked through and how hard they’ve worked to get where they are and just the megawatt talent in the room today — it’s exciting, inspirational and intimidating. It’s a lot.”

Mariska Hargitay and Glenn Close speak onstage during Variety Power Of Women
Mariska Hargitay and Glenn Close speak onstage during Variety’s Power Of Women Event on May 2 – Bryan Bedder/Variety via Getty Images
Hargitay has portrayed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s Olivia Benson since the show’s premiere in 1999 and been a fierce advocate for changing the narrative around sexual assault.

In 2004, the actress launched the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization whose mission is to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.”

The foundation has launched numerous programs, including the End the Backlog initiative which prioritizes eliminating the massive backlog of untested rape kits in police departments.

Hargitay explains that she will continue to fight for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse to have their stories told because “it keeps happening in the world.”
Mariska Hargitay at Variety's Power Of Women event
Mariska Hargitay at Variety’s Power Of Women Event – Dimitrios Kambouris/Variety via Getty Images

“Men are still perpetrating these crimes and sexual assault is still an epidemic in our country…it needs to stop and it has to end,” she asserts. “We have to end this construct that has been going on for thousands of years and we have to change how we talk about these issues; the actual words we use, the grammar we use to talk about sexual assault. This is the way we do it and this here today, in the presence of the power of women who can help enforce those changes, [is a] very exciting day.”

She adds, “I think male and patriarchal impunity has to end. It’s gonna take time, it’s gonna be messy, it’s gonna be unwieldy, but it isn’t impossible and we’re in the process of changing.”

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