Mariska Hargitay has been playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for 20 years.
She’s starred in over 400 episodes, and she won an Emmy Award and Golden Globe for her work.
The show was renewed earlier this year for a 21st season, making it the longest-running prime-time drama of all time.
“I’m still truly processing it, because it’s a lot to download and to process,” Mariska told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.
She attributes the show’s success in large part to Dick Wolf, its creator.
Back in 1999 before the show started, Mariska wasn’t Olivia just yet.
She had to audition with Dick Wolf along with many other women, and she says she “didn’t understand fully” what a big shot he was at the time.
But she loved the script, and she always knew in her heart that the role of Olivia should be hers. She wasn’t afraid to boldly demand the role from Dick, either.
At this point, Mariska Hargitay basically IS Detective Olivia Benson. It’s impossible to look at her face and not picture the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit character.
It’s hard to picture anyone else ever playing Olivia, but Mariska did have to audition for the role back in the day. She told Stephen Colbert the surprising story behind her audition during a recent appearance on The Late Show.
Before she even got to the audition, Mariska knew that she really wanted the role.
“I read the script and I knew in my gut that I had to do this role,” she said.
“I read it and just, chills, and knew that I had to do it.”
Her agent, however, wasn’t so sure at first.
“My agent called me, and he said, ‘You know, Mariska, it’s very dark subject matter, I don’t know if it’s your thing,'” she recalled.
But she was positive, so off to the audition she went.
“The first time I met Dick, I was so excited and so sure,” she said.
She says she didn’t really understand what an important person Dick Wolf was at the time, so her confidence took him off-guard a little.
She got a callback, but to her dismay, there was another girl there, too.
“That was a problem,” she laughed.
She wasn’t about to let that stop her, though. She marched up to Dick and explained to him that the part was HERS.
“I walked in and I go, ‘Listen, you’re confused. Here’s the deal. I’m pretty sure this is me,'” she said.
“‘This is my part, I’m serious. We’re past this; let’s not even waste your time.'”
Mariska did get the role, of course, but she had an awkward run-in with her competitor later.
“I found out the other girl was for another role, and she was in the pilot too!” she laughed.
The two have since become friends.
That was 20 years ago. Law & Order: SVU was recently renewed for a 21st season, making it the longest-running prime-time drama of all time.
Mariska has earned Emmy nomination after Emmy nomination for her work in the series, with one Emmy Award and one Golden Globe Award. Aside from her maternity leave and a brief surgery, she’s never taken a break from the series.
Since 2014, she has also served as a producer on the series and has directed several episodes.
After the series’s renewal, Mariska tweeted: “20 years ago, we started a conversation. We’re not finished. I’m profoundly proud of how far we’ve come.”
The premiere date for season 21 has yet to be announced, but you can count on Olivia Benson being there back in action — all thanks to her determination at the audition.