‘Law & Order: SVU’: Mariska Hargitay Reveals if the Stories on the Show Are Real

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay has been playing the character Olivia Benson since 1999. Here’s what she revealed about the show.

Mariska Hargitay’s movies and TV shows

Mariska Hargitay | Michael Parmelee/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Mariska Hargitay | Michael Parmelee/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Hargitay made her acting debut in the 1984 movie Ghoulies, in which she played the character Donna. The following year, she became a series regular in the drama Downtown. She played the character Jesse Smith for 14 episodes from 1986 to 1987.

In 1988, Hargitay had a recurring role as Carly Fixx in the series Falcon Crest. Hargitay is also known for her roles in Prince Street, ER, and Can’t Hurry Love. She joined the cast of Law & Order: SVU in 1999.

Are the stories on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ real?

One question many viewers have is about the storylines on Law & Order: SVU. Are the stories real or are they made up for TV? During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Hargitay says the stories are real. However, sometimes episodes are a combination of real stories.

“It’s a combination,” said Hargitay. “I think that sometimes it’s ripped from the headlines. This year we sort of did stories before they came out in the press, which was kind of crazy. The show was truly clairvoyant in a scary way. And sometimes it’s a mixing of two stories.” 

Mariska Hargitay says survivors reach out to her

Hargitay told the hosts of The View that survivors of sexual violence often write her letters. They thank her for her work on the show and for telling their stories.

“When I started shooting the show, I started getting a different kind of fan mail,” said Hargitay. “Most fan mail says, ‘I love your show, can I get an autographed photo?’ And early into the show, as soon as it started airing, I started getting letters from survivors disclosing their abuse, many for the first time. [Many of the survivors] said, ‘I’ve never told this to anyone,’ and they shared their stories of assault.

Hargitay says she felt “privileged” to receive the letters, but also shocked by them. She didn’t know how to respond.

“I wasn’t an expert; I was simply an actor on a TV show that had just learned the statistics that were so prevalent — that 1 out of 3 women will be assaulted by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their life. One out of four women will be assaulted by their 18th birthday. One out of 6 men will be assaulted by their 18th birthday.”

Hargitay says she felt she had to respond to these letters from survivors. She says she started the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 so she could “help survivors reclaim their lives.”

What’s next for Mariska Hargitay

Hargitay is getting ready to reprise her role as Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU Season 22. She will also help kick off the latest spinoff in the series, Law & Order: Organized Crime.

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