As one of the longest-running series on television, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is now in its 13th year on NBC; and as part of the recent NBC Universal Press Day that was held last week in Pasadena, we here at NiceGirlsTV had the opportunity to take part in an interview with series lead Mariska Hargitay.
What follows is an excerpt of what the actress had to share about here years on the series:
Question: Are you surprised at the level of quality that the show has been able to maintain for as long as it has been on (the air)?
Mariska: Yes and no. Yes (because) I think the norm when a show has been on for this many years (the thought goes through your mind) “been there, done that” (but) the reason that (our) show is so successful, and has done so well, is because of the level of commitment and investment. Everybody involved cares so deeply and is so invested, myself included. After 13 years I LOVE it, (Chris and I) cared so deeply about every scene. And…no because when Dick Wolf is on a TV show, you can rest assured that the quality is going to be (high); he set the bar (for) quality.
Question: Along those lines, since Chris has been off, has the dynamic changed?
Mariska: Well, of course, it’s a completely different chemistry. It’s a new show to me (at least) it feels that way. It’s very different…I was very nervous about going into this season because Chris and I had worked together (for so long) and we were extremely close; we had this amazing chemistry, which was a “get”. And then this new cast came along and we have a new showrunner and I was unbelievably surprised. I was so excited and happy and it was such a lesson to me…(it’s almost like) where one chapter ends, another one opens. For me, it’s awesome and different. We’ve gone into different areas this season and it’s exciting for me. I get to play different things. The chemistry I have with Danny is so unbelievable. It’s (also) completely different, having a woman on the show. (That change) has brought a completely different dynamic (to the show). It’s really exciting and refreshing.
Question: Can you reflect on how Olivia has changed (over the years)
Mariska: Thirteen years ago, Olivia was a different person; (her work) was all (so) new to her. She was more of a rookie cop with a lot of heart, passion and a need for justice; a need to fix her past. (Over the years she) has really developed in a lioness; into somebody who didn’t just want justice (but) needed it. Her life, uttering and sadly, has been out of balance because…all she has is her work. I think one of things that was most exciting about this year was with Stabler’s departure that was the only way for her to have a relationship. (But now) I think she has grown to see balance, (she) has a lot more wisdom (she) sees things from a different point of view but (she) is also looking more internally as opposed to just looking outward on how we should approach ourselves.
Question: And how Olivia has changed (you)?
Mariska: The show has made me very strong. New York is a tough city and it’s changed me. I feel I can handle anything now (because) the hours on the show are pretty relentless. I’m kind of a bad-ass now, but I think it’s made me a better mother, it’s made me tough, it’s made me deal with crisis, I sort of go into cop mode.
Question: Over the years of doing the show have you been able to hear from women who have gone through the sort of horrible crimes (as depicted on the show) and what the show has meant to them?
Mariska: Every day. That’s why I started the Joyful Heart Foundation. It’s a foundation for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Our mission is to heal, educate and (help) women to learn how to survive (in the aftermath). I started this foundation because (of the fan mail I received) from victims (who disclosed) their stories of abuse, some for the very first time. That was (obviously) pretty rough; and as I did research for the role, I learned about the statistics. (I) couldn’t believe that no one was talking about (these issues) and (my) foundation’s mission is to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
Question: Do the cases ever still shock you? (Have they changed) how you look at other people?
Mariska: Completely, completely, completely. (When) I read the pilot, I (told) my manager that “this is my show, I have to do (this) show”. I thought it was so powerful and unlike anything I had read. It was so brave to take on these issues so yes, (it changed me).
Question: Has there been an episode over the (past) 13 years that has stayed with you?
Mariska: There are a lot. One of the things this year that has really hit me (is the fact that) a lot of people say our show is “ripped from the headlines” – and that has been true in the past; (but) this year (it seems) that the headlines have actually been ripped from us. We did a story about teachers and coaches abusing their power, using young children’s trust and then two months later, the Penn State story broke. (We did another) episode…where (the story focused on) advertisements in the back of magazines about sex trafficking; and then a week later, a big story broke about (that) very thing. I think we are really trying to talk about these issues and getting people thinking about these issues (and that has) been very gratifying for me. To specifically answer your question, the child abuse stories are very powerful; the episode where Olivia is assaulted, that was very painful for me. And…I think (I) started the Joyful Heart Foundation (as a way of) dealing with the show. I am blessed that I have three children (and it makes my) house feel a little like heaven…so I am very lucky to have that kind of balance. I don’t think I would be able to handle (the stories) without having (this) other side.
With those thoughts in mind, viewers will want to tune in for another new episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit tonight on NBC at 10 PM.