'Law and Order: SVU': How similar is Mariska Hargitay to her onscreen persona of Olivia Benson?
From adopting kids to marrying SVU actor Peter Herrman and acting as cop sometimes in real life, she has done it all
'Law and Order: SVU' is landing on November 12 with its unsettling gory crimes and immersive investigations — a winning formula for the top-rated crime drama. While there are many speculations as to what the show will be about in its 22nd season, one thing that’s sure is that the elite squad of NYPD detectives will be headed by strong-headed and lionhearted Olivia Benson played by Mariska Hargitay.
Hargitay who has given more than two decades of her life to this show shares many similarities with her on-screen character of a brave and empathetic detective. It seems like the show has seeped well in her influential personality where she can get “into cop mode” anytime! Here we shed some light on what resemblances she shares in her life when compared to her character of Olivia Benson.
Marrying Peter Hermann from SVU
Hargitay met the love of her life, Peter Hermann, on the sets of the show in 2002 and there blossomed an emotional love story. The two "instantly clicked" after they met and had a great tuning together. She mentioned how shortly after filming on 'SVU', the actor asked her on a date — to attend church with him. “We went to church together, and it was like getting hit with a lightning bolt,” she said of their instant connection. Overwhelmed with the love on their first date she reportedly said, “I just started sobbing. Peter thought I was crying because I was so moved by the service. No, it was because I was just overwhelmed, realizing he was the one.”
After years of dating, the couple got married in 2004 in Santa Barbara and are now parents to three children: 12-year-old August, eight-year-old Amaya, and seven-year-old Andrew. “I never knew I’d so often be reminded on this journey that I married the right one,” said Hargitay. “I waited and married the right one.” Now nearly 15 years later, both of them are still confident about one another as life partners.
Adoption of kids
In the series, Olivia Benson is portrayed as a strong woman who has sailed rough waters to reach up to the ranks from detective to captain. Lionized as the “good cop”, the role of Benson is a personification of justice. In her personal life, Olivia Benson is the mother of a boy named Noah. She fights all odds before getting the custody of Noah who was earlier sold to a couple that produced child pornography and even had his biological parents killed.
In the real world, Hargitay has also adopted two children Amaya Josephine and Andrew Nicolas. Amaya joined the family in April 2011 and is originally from the United States. "We talked a lot about mixed-race adoptions, and we are very excited that we are now a multi-racial family," Hargitay stated in 2011 about her adoption. In the same year, Peter Hermann and Hargitay adopted Andrew Nicolas too. “We never in a million years thought it would happen this quickly, but something inside of us knew that this was right, and we said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!'' said Hargitay.
Foundation inspired from the show for assault victims
And as much as Olivia Benson has inspired the rest of us, essaying the character of Olivia Benson has had a big impact on Hargitay herself. Inspired from the bone-chilling crimes against women, Hargitay thought to champion the causes of women’s rights to enable them get justice.
In 2004, Hargitay trained as a rape crisis counselor and started the nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation. The foundation is to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. With this, she was able to talk to these women, make them feel better, and let them know that they are not alone.
Her foundation’s 'End the Backlog' initiative has identified more than 225,000 untested rape kits that are key to determine the rapists. She told InStyle magazine, "It has been an incredible privilege to tackle these issues on and offscreen. It’s also been overwhelming at times, but whenever things get difficult and I feel like I can’t do something, I always hear my father asking me, 'Why not?' He’d always ask me that question when I was younger, and it really taught me that no one can ever tell me what I can or can’t do."
The ‘Cop Mode’ alter ego
Playing a determined character and a person in authority has shaped Mariska Hargitay's personality too. Be it protecting herself or others or handling crises in real-life situations, Hargitay says she has acted like a ‘cop’ several times.
"I can go totally into cop mode," recounting the time she rushed to the aid of a pregnant woman who had fainted on a New York City sidewalk. "I yelled, 'Call 911; get her water.' Then I started going through all of the questions with her that could answer what might be wrong with her. It was completely like an episode of the show."
Reports even suggest that Mariska Hargitay was called to help a sex crime victim in real life. The victim reportedly accused NYPD cops of groping her and trying to touch her inappropriately. In 2017 the 'SVU' actress testified before a bipartisan task force on sexual assault. She said that while progress has been made in fighting sexual violence and prosecuting perpetrators, more still needs to be done on the issue. Now as she again hits the streets of New York with her squad, fans are eager to see how she gives respite to victims of gruesome crimes.
'Law & Order: SVU' Season 22 will premiere on NBC on Thursday, November 12, at 9/8c.