The Evolution of Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay, the daughter of a former Playboy Playmate, has been a member of an elite squad known as “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” for 20 years. This is her story.

Mariska’s mother was the gorgeous actress and Playboy Playmate Jayne Mansfield. Her father was the 1955 Mr. Universe Miklós "Mickey" Hargitay who frequently co-starred in films with Jayne. On a June night in 1967, Jayne was killed in a tragic car accident. Mariska and her two older brothers were sleeping in the backseat but survived the crash. Raised by her father and stepmother, Mariska inherited her parents’ passion for the stage and attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.

When she was 20 years old, Mariska was cast as the love interest in the music video for Ronnie Milsap’s ‘She Loves My Car,’ which got her the exposure to land her first film, “Ghoulies.”

In 1999, Mariska stepped out of her comfort zone for a life changing role in “Law and Order.” Writer and producer Dick Wolf’s crime drama series had already been dominating NBC for the past decade when he announced a spin-off focused on sex-related crimes: “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Mariska was accepted to play lieutenant Olivia Benson.

Within her first few years on “SVU,” Mariska started to receive letters from viewers that were very different from any fan mail she’d received before. Survivors of sexual abuse were reaching out to tell her their stories and to connect with the fictional character they’d grown to trust.

In 2001, actor Peter Hermann took on a recurring role as Defense Attorney Trevor Langan. Mariska and Peter fell in love off-camera and were married in 2004.

Mariska Hargitay’s pursuit of justice—both fictionally and in reality—has made her the driving force of “SVU’s” success. She somehow manages to balance a no-nonsense attitude with palpable empathy that makes her character unlike anyone else on TV.

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