Why Mariska Hargitay Didn’t Mind Playing Olivia Benson For So Long

Why Mariska Hargitay Didn’t Mind Playing Olivia Benson For So Long



Mariska Hargitay shows no signs of slowing down after 25 years of playing the iconic Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. While the risk of being typecast is high after portraying a character for so long, Hargitay has embraced this role with open arms.

Embracing Olivia Benson

Hargitay never imagined she would portray SVU detective Olivia Benson for so many years. The character has profoundly impacted Hargitay’s life, giving her the fulfilling acting career she had long aspired to. Benson’s influence extended beyond the screen, inspiring Hargitay to found the Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps victims of sexual and domestic abuse. This work has allowed Hargitay to connect with and support real-life survivors.

“This character is to me heroic and something that our culture needed, somebody who fought for women and who elevated women’s voices and who bears witness to such pain and there is great healing in that,” she told E! News. “I feel very privileged and blessed to have grown in this character and get to affect as many people as I have been privileged to affect in my life.”

Leading Law & Order: SVU Through Change

When Christopher Meloni, who played Elliot Stabler, left SVU, Hargitay had to take the reins of the long-running show. Initially, she felt she was playing catch-up with Meloni, but this shift ultimately made her character stronger and more influential.

“As I became more comfortable with the character, you saw this powerful woman emerge,” she shared with People. “In a way, it was a rebirth, and that was powerful and exciting and beautifully uncomfortable to reckon with one’s own power.”

Hargitay admired Olivia Benson so much that she often looked to her character for guidance during difficult times. “There’s a thing, WWOBD, what would Olivia Benson do? The fans would always talk about it, and one day, it hit me,” she said. “If there’s a crisis, I just take over and lead like that. Being strong and fearless. It’s sort of this perfect feminist story.”

Lessons from Olivia Benson

One of the most significant lessons Olivia Benson has taught Hargitay is the importance of being present. Rather than worrying about the future, Hargitay focuses on each season of SVU, ensuring the show’s quality remains high.

“It’s a lesson in being present and to not be thinking ahead,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “If you asked me 20 years ago, I never thought I’d be here 20 years later, and I am fulfilled and I love my co-stars and it’s an incredible collaboration with the producers and the writers, so I’m really enjoying it.”

Hargitay enjoys her time on SVU so much that she doesn’t foresee the show ending anytime soon. “I can’t imagine the show ending, and can’t imagine not going on this journey with my cast, my crew. I have so much to look forward to. And I’m still growing. I like that you can be so many things at one time. It’s learning to give yourself permission to be all of yourself,” she said.

Mariska Hargitay’s dedication to Olivia Benson and Law & Order: SVU has not only shaped her career but also created a lasting legacy of strength, resilience, and advocacy.


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