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Mariska Hargitay Bio
Mariska Hargitay (born January 23, 1964) is an American actress best known for her role as NYPD Special Victims Unit Detective/Sergeant/Lieutenant Olivia Benson on the NBC drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she has earned multiple awards and nominations, including an Emmy and Golden Globe.
The daughter of bodybuilder and actor Mickey Hargitay and actress Jayne Mansfield, Hargitay made her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film Ghoulies and her major television debut in the 1986 adventure drama series Downtown. She appeared in numerous roles in film and television shows throughout the late 1980s and 1990s before being cast as Olivia Benson, a role that led to her founding the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides support to women who have been sexually abused.
In 1982, after Hargitay was crowned Miss Beverly Hills USA, she then competed in the Miss California USA pageant the following year, placing fourth runner-up to Julie Hayek, who was later crowned Miss USA. In 1984, she appeared in Ronnie Milsap‘s music video for “She Loves My Car“. A year later she had a small role in the horror film, Ghoulies.
Hargitay said in 1986 that she never thought about doing television until a role for the one-hour adventure drama series Downtown was offered. In 1988, she had a recurring role as Carly Fixx in the soap opera Falcon Crest. She portrayed police officer Angela Garcia in the 1992 series Tequila and Bonetti, and appeared in an episode of the fourth season of Seinfeld. Two years later, Hargitay portrayed Didi Edelstein, the sexy next-door neighbor, in the 1995 sitcom Can’t Hurry Love, which starred Nancy McKeon. In 1997, Hargitay played detective Nina Echeverria on the drama series Prince Street, and had a recurring role as Cynthia Hooper during the fourth season of ER. Hargitay has appeared on numerous other television programs, including: Freddy’s Nightmares; Ellen; All-American Girl; Baywatch; Cracker; Gabriel’s Fire; In the Heat of the Night; The Single Guy; Wiseguy, and thirtysomething. Her voice is featured on the 2005 video game True Crime: New York City.
Hargitay also had a minor role in the 1995 film Leaving Las Vegas, and briefly replaced Gabrielle Fitzpatrick as Dulcea, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, although her scenes were cut from the film and was let go when Fitzpatrick recovered from her surgery and returned to the film.
In January 2007 she and her son, August, appeared in a Got Milk? advertisement.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Casting for the lead characters of NBC police procedural television drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit occurred in the spring of 1999. Dick Wolf, along with officials from NBC and Studios USA, were at the final auditions for the two leads at Rockefeller Center. The last round had been narrowed down to six finalists. For the female lead – Detective Olivia Benson – Samantha Mathis, Reiko Aylesworth, and Hargitay were being considered. For the male role – Detective Elliot Stabler – the finalists were Tim Matheson, John Slattery, and Christopher Meloni. Meloni and Hargitay had auditioned in the final round together and after the actors left, there was a moment of dead silence, after which Wolf blurted out, “Oh well. There’s no doubt who we should choose – Hargitay and Meloni.” The duo, who Wolf believed had the perfect chemistry from the first time he saw them together, were his first choice. Garth Ancier, then head of NBC Entertainment, agreed, and the rest of the panel assembled voiced their assent. Hargitay trained as a rape crisis advocate to prepare for the role of Benson.
During the last months of her pregnancy in 2006, she took maternity leave from SVU, and was temporarily replaced by Connie Nielsen.
In May 2009, after the show’s tenth season, Hargitay and Meloni’s contracts expired when they were reportedly making $375,000–$385,000 per episode. During negotiations in April for a new contract, the duo attempted to receive a percentage of the show’s profits as other high-profile Law and Order actors had done in the past. It was rumored that NBC threatened to replace Hargitay and Meloni if they persisted in their demands. However, two months later it was officially reported that both their contracts had been renewed for two more years. When the thirteenth season was about to air, initial reports indicated that Hargitay would appear in only the first 13 episodes. However, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt later clarified that she would be in every episode of the season.
As of August 2012, Hargitay was earning approximately $400,000–$500,000 per episode
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