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This Amazing Merv Griffin Show Clip of 2-Year-Old Mariska Hargitay Predicted Her Future

The SVU star was just a toddler when she appeared on the talk show with her brothers and mom, Jayne Mansfield.

By Elizabeth Logan

Mariska Hargitay quite literally grew up on television, and yes, she's always been this charming.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 26 premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Thursday, October 3 at 9/8c on NBC.

Before she was Olivia Benson on the long-running Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Hargitay was the toddler daughter of actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay and starlet Jayne Mansfield. She even accompanied her mother to talk show appearances, where little "Maria" obviously stole the show.

Check out the precious clip from the 1960s, here.

Merv Griffin accidentally predicted Mariska Hargitay's career on TV

In the video from July 1966, the future Emmy winner is about 2.5 years old. After a brief introduction from host Merv Griffin on The Merv Griffin Show (which aired from 1962 to 1986), Mansfield brings out Mariska, her brothers Mickey Jr. and Zoltan, and her little half-brother, Tony. They're also carrying their tiny family dogs.

Griffin asks the kids their names, and Mariska responds with a giggle, twice.

"Well why did she name you that?" asks Griffin, before her mother prompts her to answer: "Maria." She looks absolutely adorable in her strapped-on hat and little shoes. She's seated next to English actor Arthur Treacher, and the two can be seen chatting amiably throughout the clip. 

As her mom sings "Diamond's Are A Girl's Best Friend," the toddler climbs into Mansfield's empty seat closest to the host desk, a preview of things to come.

Mariska Hargitay with her family as a little girl celebrating her mother Jayne Mansfield's birthday

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When Griffin asks the boys their names, little Mariska volunteers to answer for her brother "Zolie," prompting Griffin to quip, "Listen, get your own show kid, will you?"

33 years later, she did exactly that. Law & Order: SVU premiered in September 1999, and has been on the air ever since.

Mariska's relationship with her late mother Jayne Mansfield

Sadly, Hargitay didn't get too much time to learn the Hollywood ropes from her mom. Jayne Mansfield died in a car crash about a year after this talk show appearance. Though Mariska and her two older brothers were in the back seat of the car, all three survived with only minor injuries.

Jayne Mansfield

In a 2021 interview with Glamour, Hargitay opened up about how that loss informed her sense of survival. “I think I learned about crisis very young, and I learned very young that shit happens and there’s no guarantees, and we keep going. And then we transform it,” she said. “That’s been kind of my superpower, and the gift of having trauma early in life. I’ve spent the last 50—how old am I?—57, so 54 years sort of trying to figure out what happened and why, and what am I supposed to do with it?”

“I clearly was in that frozen place for a lot of my childhood—of trying to survive, actually trying to survive,” she added. “My life has been a process of un-peeling the layers and trust and trusting again.”

RELATED: Mariska Hargitay Remembers Her Late Mother With a Moving Birthday Post