“When Auditioning for ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ Mariska Hargitay Told Dick Wolf to Send Her Competition Home”

“When Auditioning for ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ Mariska Hargitay Told Dick Wolf to Send Her Competition Home”

Mariska Hargitay’s Unstoppable Journey to Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU

Mariska Hargitay’s portrayal of Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is iconic, but her journey to securing the role was as intense and determined as the character she plays. After auditioning for Dick Wolf’s spin-off show, Hargitay didn’t just hope for the role—she demanded it.

Mariska Hargitay’s Bold Move to Secure Her Role

Hargitay’s relentless pursuit of her acting career finally paid off when she was cast as Olivia Benson, despite the role being different from her previous work. SVU tackled heavy, disturbing subject matter that her team initially doubted she would enjoy.

“I was like, ‘This is it,’” Hargitay recalled in an interview with Parade. “My manager was worried because it was very dark and not up my alley since I liked comedy. But I felt it was perfect for me. Never in my life had something felt more right.”

After several auditions, Hargitay confronted Wolf about the other actresses competing for the role. With confidence, she told him they were wasting their time.

“When I saw other actresses in the room, I walked into Dick Wolf’s office and said, ‘You gotta be kidding! What’s with the other women? This is my part, sweetheart. Tell them to go home,’” she told the LA Times.

Although Wolf didn’t send the other actresses home, Hargitay’s determination impressed him. She even asked Wolf for feedback during her audition.

“I said to him, ‘Tweak me.’ He said, ‘You want to be tweaked?’ I said, ‘I didn’t drive all this way not to be tweaked.’ He gave me a note, which was genius. I did what he suggested and told him, ‘That was good.’ He laughed, and I left. Two-and-a-half weeks later, he called and said, ‘You’re flying to New York to test for the role,’” she recounted.

Injecting Herself into Olivia Benson

After landing the role, Wolf listened to Hargitay’s insights and adapted the character of Olivia Benson to better fit her.

“I’m more impulsive and instinctual than she is,” Hargitay noted. “She’s more calculating, although sometimes she lets it out. Other times, she has to squelch what she’s feeling. My challenge as an actress is in maintaining the balance and finding the boundaries between her and me. One profound difference is that Olivia doesn’t want to get married or have kids. I can’t imagine that. My goals in life have always been to act and have a family. I have three godchildren whom I adore.”

Despite their differences, Hargitay admired Olivia Benson’s independence and unwavering sense of justice. She believed there wasn’t anything like Olivia Benson on TV at the time.

“Olivia is completely empathetic and feels things deeply,” she said. “I think she may be an unprecedented woman detective on TV. She’s allowed to be female and gentle in a man’s world.”

A Rebirth Through Olivia Benson

Hargitay experienced Olivia Benson’s tremendous growth firsthand. Audiences watched Benson evolve from a detective to a captain, and Hargitay led the show even after Chris Meloni left. The character’s evolution brought Hargitay closer to Benson.

“I was the second detective alongside Elliot Stabler. He was the male lead and a little more experienced, and I was trying to catch up. As I became more comfortable with the character, you saw this powerful woman emerge. In a way, it was a rebirth, and that was powerful and exciting and beautifully uncomfortable to reckon with one’s own power,” she said in an interview with People.

Mariska Hargitay’s journey to becoming Olivia Benson showcases her determination, talent, and deep connection to a character that has resonated with audiences for decades. Her story is a testament to the power of persistence and the impact of bringing one’s authentic self to their work.


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