Long running fictional character Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) is the November 2020 inductee for the Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame. Benson made her first appearance on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in 1999.
Olivia Margaret Benson, a NYPD police officer debuted on television on September 20, 1999. This was the first-ever episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, titled “Payback”. As of February 2020, the series has been renewed up until its 24th season, three years ahead of schedule. Benson is also the last remaining character from the original cast.
For the first twelve seasons of Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, Olivia Benson was partnered with fellow detective Elliot Staber, portrayed by Oz actor Christopher Meloni. Benson’s generally gentler, more empathetic approach with trauma victims and perpetrators alike contrasted with Stabler’s hot-headed attitude. Nonetheless, the duo worked well together with Benson and Stabler being a staple on television for over a decade.
Some of Benson’s other colleagues in the series have included characters from other television series. Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) originated from the mothership Law and Order while SVU detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) had previously been a leading presence on Baltimore-set Homicide: Life on The Street. Born and bred New Yorker Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola is an SVU character however he has worked with Benson for two decades, far longer than anyone else currently on the show.
Having been in such a dangerous job for an extended period of time, Benson is no stranger to getting in tough scrapes. She has been threatened, attacked, abducted or generally harmed on multiple occasions. Of course, seeing as Olivia Benson is still around in 2020, the ever-brave former Detective (now Captain) managed to fight through this.
It is important to note how much Benson relates to the victims of these cases. Benson’s mother was a rape victim, of which her daughter Olivia was a product. As a result, Hargitay’s character is able to offer different perspectives than her colleagues.
Furthermore, Benson’s work on the series has also impacted Mariska Hargitay in real life. In 2004, the actress founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, a charitable organization designed to support survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Hargitay was also once the President of Joyful Heart although she has since stepped down that role.
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