Mariska Hargitay on the Power of Olivia Benson and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’

Mariska Hargitay executive produces and stars as Captain Olivia Benson in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The new season premieres on Thursday, September 22 on NBC and marks a historic crossover event, bringing all three of the brand’s casts together for a special night. To celebrate, I covered the Law & Order Season Premiere red carpet and spoke with Hargitay!

This hard-hitting and emotional series from NBC’s “Law & Order” brand chronicles the lives of the Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department, an elite squad of detectives who investigate crimes of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

LAW & ORDER: PREMIERE — “Gimme Shelter” — Pictured: Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson — (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)

Heading into its 24th season, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the longest-running primetime live-action series of all time, which makes her role the longest-running female character in a primetime live-action television series. So I had to ask the actress what playing such a strong and complex female on television means to her.

“It’s such a privilege,” she expressed to me. “It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to find your life’s work and find your higher meaning. I am so grateful to play whatever part, however big or small, in any survivor’s healing. So for me, if I walked away tomorrow, I would be happy because it’s just been beautiful to teach people how to deal with survivors, teach people about the neurobiology of trauma, teach people things that they didn’t understand, and also play a part in a victim’s healing, you know? To believe somebody, to promote empathy and compassion, and to know that’s the only way forward is love, the only way forward is those things and the show is truly a vehicle for good. So I’m just grateful.”

Of course, we also discussed the power of SVU as well as the fact that she and her portrayal of Olivia Benson have helped so many survivors. “It’s everything. I mean, it’s why I knew I was in the right place. It’s so important to know that the light you’ve been trying to shine in this darkness is actually making a difference,” Hargitay explained. “So it’s an honor that a survivor gives me by sharing that with me.”