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Mariska Hargitay, best known for playing Olivia Benson on the popular crime drama Law & Order: SVU, has been the star of the show since it premiered in the 1990s. Although plenty of cast members have come and gone, including Benson’s right-hand-man, Elliot Stabler (played by Christopher Meloni), Hargitay has been the face of the show for its entirety. How much is the actress worth, and what is her salary for the show?

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay on the set of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ | Bauzen/GC Images

Hargitay knew the role was for her when she first read the script

When Hargitay’s agent called her about the show, he told her he didn’t think it was a fit for her. She recalled during an interview with Stephen Colbert that her agent thought the dark subject matter wouldn’t suit her, but she wanted to read the script anyway. “I read it and just, you know, chills. And I knew I had to do it,” Hargitay said during the interview. She got a call back, and she spoke with the show’s creator, Dick Wolf, about how she knew she was supposed to have the role. It worked out, and two decades later, she’s still the face of the show.

As of 2014, Hargitay was earning $450,000 per episode

Since SVU premiered, it’s been one of television’s most successful dramas. Hargitay became a star in her own right, and according to Forbes, she was the second-highest paid television actress in 2014. She warned an estimated $450,000 per episode that year, and that has likely only increased over the past five years. With 23 episodes per season, that means Hargitay is raking in at least $10.3 million per season. Plus, Forbes reported that she also makes a profit from the various licensing agreements the show has.  

Today, she’s worth an estimated $45 million

Over the past 20 years, Hargitay has become one of the top earners in television. Today, she’s worth an estimated $45 million, and that’s largely due to her role on SVU. But Hargitay has given back with all of her money; she started a nonprofit called Joyful Heart directly in response to her television role. Hargitay saw the struggles sexual assault and abuse victims went through, plus saw how many people were affected by the assault and abuse, and created the nonprofit to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives. The nonprofit was launched in 2004 and has helped survivors find the joy in their lives after dealing with so much trauma.  


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She’s worth more than any of the cast members

Hargitay definitely has the highest-paying role on the show, and she’s worth more than any of her co-stars. The second-richest star on the show is Ice-T (Detective Tutuola), whose net worth is around $40 million. He had a successful hip hop career prior to joining the show, which has helped him accumulate such a high net worth. Other stars, such as Christopher Meloni (Elliot Stabler) and Richard Belcher (Detective Munch), are worth about $30 million and $16 million, respectively.

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