Mariska Hargitay on 25 years of ‘telling survivors’ stories’ on ‘Law & Order: SVU’

Mariska Hargitay focused on the unique mission of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The star has appeared in 550 episodes over 25 seasons of the series (more than any other TV actor), but on stage she seemed to take nothing for granted.

“The most important thing for me right now is that I get to work every day on a show that makes people feel less lonely,” she said in a heartfelt speech at the gala at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York. “One of the most devastating consequences of sexual assault and domestic violence is isolation. Perpetrators rely on actual, literal isolation to commit their crimes and to leave victims with the trauma of deep, psychological isolation.”

Hargitay has been on the show as Olivia Benson for 25 years, for 550 episodes, a record for a scripted TV show. “That’s a high bar, folks!” she joked. “After twenty years you think: twenty years?! Who gives as-t? Law & authority did that. Gun smoke did that. Call us when you get to 25.” Well, here I am, baby!

While there were a few cheerful asides, Hargitay focused her comments on the core purpose of the Dick Wolf-produced drama. “I can’t tell you how satisfying it is, how important it is, that Law and 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 the stories of survivors. It tells the stories of survivors across the spectrum of gender identity.”

About her character, Hargitay said, “I love that she has both outrage and compassion, strength and vulnerability.”

Returning to the show’s foregrounded topic of survivors, Hargitay said the “response to survivors is the exact opposite” of isolation. “You Matter. Your story matters. And we are going to tell it.” The goal of the show is to “bring these different topics out of the darkness into the light and into conversation and create a place where we can make it a place where people can heal.”

NBC renewed SVU for a 26th season this past March. Hargitay received a number of honors after reaching the quarter-century milestone, including having Rockefeller Plaza temporarily renamed Olivia Benson Plaza.