Mariska Hargitay Reflects on Playing Olivia Benson on SVU at Gotham TV Awards: ‘An Unstoppable Lioness’

The actress was given the Anniversary Tribute at the first-ever Gotham TV Awards ceremony in New York City on June 4

Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay holds the Anniversary Tribute at the 2024 Gotham TV Awards for her work as Olivia Benson on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”. PHOTO: JOHN NACION/VARIETY VIA GETTY

Mariska Hargitay is a New York City staple — and she’s being honored as such.

On Tuesday, June 4, the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star was recognized with the Anniversary Tribute at the first-ever Gotham TV Awards, held at Cipriani Broadway in New York City. Hargitay, 60, arrived in a silver Tom Ford column dress accompanied by her husband, Peter Hermann.

Hargitay was awarded for what Gotham’s Executive Director Jeffrey Sharp called “one of the most iconic performances in the history of TV” for her 25-year run as Olivia Benson.

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“Twenty-five years on a TV show,” Hargitay reflected as she took the stage to accept the award. “That is a high bar, people!”

“I cannot tell you how gratifying it is, how important it is, that Law & Order SVU — the longest-running scripted drama in television history — is a show that tells women’s stories,” she said. “It’s a show that tells survivors’ stories. It tells the stories of survivors all along the spectrum of gender identity.”

“This is a show about treating those who have been harmed with care and with dignity and with compassion and empathy and kindness after they’ve experienced some of the worst of what we’ve done to each other,” she added.

Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann

Mariska Hargitay and her husband Peter Hermann arrive at the inaugural Gotham TV Awards on June 24, 20024.JOHN NACION/VARIETY VIA GETTY

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Hargitay then reflected on what it’s meant to play Benson, whom she described as a “complex, dimensional, flawed, complete woman” for a quarter of a century.

“I love that she is equal parts outrage and compassion and strength and vulnerability, an unstoppable lioness and a mom who needs to know when to stop and go home to her son,” she said of her character.

However, the “biggest thing” for Hargitay to “take in right now is the fact that I get to go to work every day on a show that makes people feel less alone,” she said.

“That’s one of the most devastating effects of sexual assault [and] domestic violence: the isolation. Perpetrators depend on actual literal isolation to commit their crimes and to leave victims with the trauma of deep psychological isolation because it’s an assault of negation,” she continued.

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "Probability of Doom" Episode 25007 -- Pictured: Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson

Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’.SCOTT GRIES/NBC VIA GETTY

“‘The perpetrator says, ‘You don’t matter. Who you are? It doesn’t matter. What happens to you? It doesn’t matter. What matters right now does my power and my ability to enact control over you.'”

“And the show’s answer to the survivors is the exact opposite: You matter. What happens to you matters. Your story matters. And we’re gonna tell it. And we’re proud to tell it — all of us, not just the actors and the writers, but all of us together. All of the people who work on this show together and it is our privilege to do it,” she concluded.

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“The only other character that has been on Law & Order: SVU as long as I have is New York City itself. And what a glorious acting partner, castmate and timeless superstar this city has been,” Hargitay said in a press release about receiving the award. “New York has so much to teach about resilience, belief in possibility—and surviving. I’m deeply honored to receive this award from The Gotham, and I dedicate it to the survivors everywhere who continue to inspire my work.”

The Crown creator Peter Morgan and Lulu Wang, who adapted Expats, were also recognized at the event, with Morgan receiving the Creator Tribute and Wang receiving the Spotlight Tribute.

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