Actor Spotlight is a feature in which the career of a singular actor is analysed. We discuss their life, career and the impact they had on their projects.
SPOTLIGHT #14 – MARISKA HARGITAY (Law & order: special victims unit)
Mariska Hargitay is in a very fortunate career position, a rarity for those struggling in the acting profession. For the past 20 seasons of network television, Hargitay has played Olivia Benson on the acclaimed NBC drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit., a spin-off from the original Law & Order which also ran for 20 seasons on NBC.
In March 2019, with the 21st season renewal, SVU became the longest-running live-action series on television, surpassing both Law & Order as well as Gunsmoke which had 20 seasons apiece.
Hargitay is the last remaining original cast member to still be with the show, now heading into its 21st season. Over the years, since has co-starred with actors such as Christopher Meloni (Oz), Richard Belzer (Homicide – Life on the Street) and musician Ice-T who has appeared since the second season. She has been the one consistent on-screen presence across every season.
As someone who boarded the SVU train late, I have watched many episodes but not in any kind of coherent order. This means I could easily watch one episode where Olivia is a lowly Detective and the next she is in charge. Regardless of her rank, Hargitay conveys the same emotional compassion towards the victims that her more masculine colleagues such as Stabler (Meloni) or Fin (Ice-T) are not as proficient.
From season 1 to Season 17, Hargitay’s character Olivia Benson rose through the ranks, from Junior Detective to NYPD Lieutenant.
Outside of acting and SVU, Hargitay also founded the Joyful Heart Foundation which provides support to victims of abuse whether it is sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence.