Lieutenant Olivia Benson

Played by Mariska Hargitay

Actor Bio

Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Mariska Hargitay stars as Olivia Benson, a dedicated and emotionally-driven detective and commanding officer of New York City’s Special Victims Unit in Wolf Films/Universal Television’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” now in its 19th season.  She also serves as executive producer and director of the show. 


Hargitay has garnered eight Emmy nominations for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, winning the 2006 Emmy Award for that category.  She has also received two Golden Globe nominations for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, winning the award in 2005, in addition to six SAG nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.  In 2017, she received her fourth Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Lead in a Drama.  In 2013, Hargitay was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to the star of her mother, screen legend Jayne Mansfield.

“It’s gratifying to play such a complex character. Olivia is not only an accomplished, street-smart cop, she’s also an empathic woman who can respond emotionally to victims of terrible crimes without compromising her professionalism, all while serving her own deep, fierce sense of justice.  She’s a multi-faceted lioness,” says Hargitay.

Committed to ending violence and abuse and caring for those who have survived it, Hargitay spends as much time off screen engaged with these crimes as she does on screen.  Inspired by her role on “SVU,” Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 with the goal of helping survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives. Today, Joyful Heart is a national organization with a mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse; support survivors’ healing; and end this violence forever.  The current focus of her advocacy via Joyful Heart is ending the national untested rape kit backlog.  She testified on the topic before the U.S. Congress in 2010 and 2017.  More recently, she produced “I AM EVIDENCE,” an HBO documentary film on the topic that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017.

Hargitay has made public service announcements to prevent child abuse and neglect, engage men to end domestic violence and sexual assault, and to pass legislation to end the rape kit backlog.  She was one of more than 75 celebrities, athletes, musicians and public figures to star in Joyful Heart’s “NO MORE” public service announcement campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault.  Behind the camera, the “NO MORE” PSA campaign also marked her directorial debut.

She has also filmed PSAs with NBC’s “The More You Know” campaign and “Got Milk,” and has lent her time and voice to other victim assistance organizations to raise awareness and much-needed financial support for their programs. Her work off screen has earned her several honors, including the Good Sister Award for Advocacy from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Manhattan, the Empowerment Award from Los Angeles-based Peace Over Violence, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Special Ally Award, the Dr. Henry C. Lee Award from Jane Doe No More, Variety’s Power of Women Karma Award, and an award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at its 50th Anniversary Education for Justice gala.

Prior to “SVU,” Hargitay starred on NBC’s “ER” as Cynthia Hooper.  She gained notice as a cast regular in the sitcom “Can’t Hurry Love” with Nancy McKeon and starred in the NBC drama “Prince Street.”  Other television credits include “Seinfeld,” “Ellen,” “thirtysomething” and David Lynch’s “Hotel Room.”  In 2014, Hargitay was featured on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”  She 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,” as well as Mike Myers’ “The Love Guru.”

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

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