Mariska Hargitay On Spending 25 Years On ‘Law & Order: SVU’: “I Get To Work Every Day On A Show That Makes People Feel Less Alone”

Mariska Hargitay, in accepting her Anniversary Tribute honor at Tuesday’s inaugural Gotham TV Awards, focused on the unique mission of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The star has appeared in 550 episodes over 25 seasons of the series (more than any other scripted TV actor), but she appeared to take nothing for granted onstage.

“The biggest thing for me to take in right now is that I get to work every day on a show that makes people feel less alone,” she said in a heartfelt speech at the gala held at New York’s Cipriani 25 Broadway. “That’s one of the most devastating effects on sexual assault and domestic violence is the isolation. Perpetrators depend on actual, literal isolation to commit their crimes and to leave victims with the trauma of deep, psychological isolation.”

Hargitay has appeared for 25 years as Olivia Benson on the show, for 550 episodes, a record for a scripted TV show. “That is a high bar, people!” she quipped. “After 20, you’re like, ‘Twenty years?! Who gives a s–t? Law & Order did that. Gunsmoke did that. Call us when you get to 25.’ Well, here I am, baby!”

While there were a few high-spirited asides, Hargitay mostly centered her comments on the core purpose of the Dick Wolf-produced drama. “I cannot tell you how gratifying it is, how important it is, that Law & Order: SVU, the longest-running scripted drama in television history, is a show that tells women’s stories,” she said. “It’s a show that tells survivors stories. It tells the stories of survivors all along the spectrum of gender identity.”

Of her character, Hargitay said, “I love that she’s equal parts outrage and compassion and strength and vulnerability.”

Returning to the topic of the survivors foregrounded by the show, Hargitay said its “answer to the survivors is the exact opposite” of isolation. “You matter. Your story matters. And we’re going to tell it.” the show’s aim is “moving these diff topics out of the darkness and into the light and into conversation and to place where we can make it a place where people can heal.”

NBC renewed SVU for a 26th season last March. Hargitay received a number of tributes after hitting the quarter-century mark, including having Rockefeller Plaza temporarily renamed Olivia Benson Plaza.

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