Lieutenant Olivia Benson

Played by Mariska Hargitay

Actor Bio

Emmy Award winner Mariska Hargitay stars as Olivia Benson, a dedicated and emotionally driven detective and acting lieutenant of the SVU squad on Wolf Films/Universal Television's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," now in its 17th season.

In 2011, Hargitay garnered her eighth Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and won the 2006 Emmy for that category. Also in 2011, she received her sixth SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Detective Benson. In 2009, Hargitay earned her second Golden Globe nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the role, winning the award in 2005. She's also received two Gracie Allen Awards for American Women in Radio and Television.

"It's gratifying to play such a complex character. Olivia is not only an accomplished, street-smart cop, she's also an empathetic woman who can respond emotionally to victims of terrible crimes without compromising her professionalism," says Hargitay.

Committed to ending violence and abuse and caring for those who have survived it, Hargitay spends as much time off screen dealing with these crimes as she does on set as Lieutenant Olivia Benson. Inspired by her role on "SVU," Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. Since its inception in 2004, Joyful Heart has directly served over 13,500 individuals through its unique Healing & Wellness programs; connected over 1.5 million individuals through its website, blogs and social media efforts to resources and life-saving help; secured more than 1 billion impressions in digital and print media about the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse; and effected policy changes in jurisdictions from New York to California. "Joyful Heart is about the courage to heal, and our programming is dedicated to honoring that brave decision," explains Hargitay.

Through Joyful Heart, Hargitay has used her voice to bring attention, funding and new legislation to critical issues facing sexual and family violence survivors, working with the medical community, the criminal justice system and law enforcement. She testified before Congress urging lawmakers to address the backlog of untested rape kits in the U.S. and launched, the first website dedicated to addressing this issue. Hargitay recently made her directorial debut with a groundbreaking celebrity-driven PSA campaign for NO MORE (, the nation's first unifying symbol to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Hargitay has also lent her time and voice to other organizations such as Lee National Denim Day, Autism Speaks, The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, The Santa Monica Rape Crisis Center, Project ALS, The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness (JRI), Safe Horizon and the Venice Family Clinic. She has also appeared in national campaigns for NBC's "The More You Know" and Got Milk.

Prior to "SVU," Hargitay starred on NBC's "ER" as Dr. Greene's (Anthony Edwards) girlfriend Cynthia Hooper. She gained notice as a cast regular on the sitcom "Can't Hurry Love" with Nancy McKeon and starred on the NBC drama, "Prince Street." Other television credits include "Seinfeld," "Ellen," "Thirtysomething" and David Lynch's "Hotel Room." Hargitay also appeared in the telefilms "The Advocate's Devil" and "Night Sins," as well as the Lifetime movie "Plain Truth." Her film credits include appearances in the critically acclaimed "Leaving Las Vegas" and in Mike Myers' "The Love Guru."

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hargitay is the youngest daughter of screen legend Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay. She lives in New York with her husband, actor Peter Hermann, and their three children. Follow her on Twitter at and Instagram at