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AFTER playing the beloved Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU for a whopping 16 seasons, Mariska Hargitay seems so familiar, that you want to hug her. According to Hargitay (who is very generous with her hugs), this happens a lot.

“I get so many people coming up to me on the street just wanting to connect, or I get letters from women saying, ‘I wish you were my SVU detective, I wish you were my mother, I wish you were my father, I wish you were my friend,’” smiles the actress, when we meet on the show’s famous New York set. (“Let’s sit at Benson’s old desk,” she says, sitting down, and gesturing to a desk opposite. “That’s where Stabler used to sit.”)

“I think people are drawn to Olivia because she’s built to protect, and she makes us feel safe. She’ll take care of you emotionally, she’ll take care of you physically, and then she’ll go and pop the guy who did the injustice. She’s just a total badass.”

For her part, Hargitay says she feels privileged to be part of a show that has long brought difficult subjects into our living rooms. (As a result of her experience with real-life stories of fans, Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004, which helps women who have suffered domestic violence and sexual assault.)

“This show has been shedding light, truly shedding light, on darkness for a long time,” she says.

“And people feel vindicated, and feel like justice is served when we get the bad guy. But what’s brilliant about the show is that justice is not always served — life is grey, which is where the truth lies so many times.”

“The show wouldn’t exist without her,” adds SVU showrunner, Warren Leight. “I can say that plain and simple. The show survived Chris [Meloni] leaving, but it wouldn’t survive her leaving.”

Still, when Meloni announced his departure at the end of season 12, Hargitay thought it might be time for her to pull the pin, too. “I really did think I was done. When Chris left, I didn’t know how I could continue. I mean, how many times can she be kidnapped?”

Hargitay says that the addition of Leight post-Meloni’s departure changed everything.

“It was one of the greatest lessons for me personally that truly one door closes, and another door opens. Warren breathed new life into the show, which gave me a new hunger, a new challenge, and a new vitality.”

Sixteen seasons in, Hargitay is not ready to say how much longer she’ll pin on Benson’s badge. “Who knows? I mean, when my kids look at me, and say, ‘Mommy, are you going to work again?’ That makes it hard — we work long hours, but I still love what I do. I just make them give me a few longer breaks these days.”

Indeed, when we speak, Hargitay had just returned from a holiday to Italy with husband, actor Peter Herman, and their three kids, August, Andrew, and Amaya.

“I had an Australian nanny come with us, and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t have a lot of Australian friends, but this chick was awesome,” enthuses Hargitay. “I’m now in love with all Australians. You guys rock.”

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On screen, Olivia Benson has been pulling double duty all season long on Law & Order: SVU, juggling her duties as a new sergeant and a new mom. Off screen, actress and producer Mariska Hargitay can sympathize. Wednesday’s episode (9/8c, NBC) marks Hargitay’s second time in the director’s chair, this time for an episode introducing the estranged father of Det. Nick Amaro (Danny Pino). “It’s an invigorating process for me,” the Emmy winner tells TVGuide.com of her time behind the camera. Hargitay also spoke with TVGuide.com about Benson’s “challenges,” Season 16’s new directions and her SVU future:

You already have a packed schedule on SVU, so what made you want to add to that and direct again? Mariska Hargitay: You know, I loved it. I feel like I’ve been here so long and have found certain rhythms that I find help people stay in the moment. It’s a love of telling stories, of telling the story my way and being able to shape the story. But also my love for actors and my appreciation and respect for the process, but I also love helping to create an environment where I can get an actor’s best work. Just loving the creative process and finding the unexpected.

This episode is a big one for Danny Pino because we get to meet his character’s father [Armand Assante]. What kind of conversations do you have before filming?
Hargitay:
It was so beautiful and so great and exciting to work with both Danny and [Assante]. Both of them were so willing to take risks and try different colors. For Danny, it was very exciting because it was this chance to explore a different side of his character. Armand, it was just a great moment-by-moment surprise. Danny and I talked about opposites and trying things differently and finding the humor and the lighter moments, or the unexpected response, or never knowing what was going to happen next. Finding light in dark or dark in light, trying to switch up the moment and how full a moment it can be.

What new sides do you think viewers will see to Danny’s character in this episode?
Hargitay:
The episode is obviously about fathers and sons and wounds and denial and covering up and our commitment to cover things up to protect those vulnerable areas within us, which we will try at all costs to protect. Amaro’s a cop and he’s a protector and he’s had a lot of rage and anger, and this story line is about finding out what’s under that and why? What is he protecting and how far will he go to protect it?

The squad has undergone lots of changes this season: Rollins just took a break and Carisi joined the team, and Nick started out the season as a traffic cop. Why is it important to shake up the team?
Hargitay:
A) It’s interesting and B) different chemistries bring out different things. But also, that’s life, right? People go through their personal journeys and they bring their personalities and journeys to work, and I think it’s more compelling to tell the story of someone trying to do their job with all the baggage from their past. I think it just enriches it so much to know, why is Rollins so guarded? Why is she defensive? Now we know and now we feel for her so deeply. … We all see Amaro’s anger, so we try to rally around him. We all saw that Rollins was hiding something. Just getting to know these characters that we love.

This season has seen Benson become a mom while still being in charge of the squad. What have you enjoyed about this latest chapter for her? How do you think being a mom has changed her so far? Hargitay: That’s what’s been fun for me to play this season, growing that aspect of her personality. Playing Mama Bear to her squad, Mama Bear to the victims, Mama Bear to Noah, she’s in charge of all these people and still figuring out how to do it. Her job is totally new. Part of her job is to keep herself alive now in a new kind of way for Noah. Where before she’d be so singularly focused on getting it done and being fearless and now it’s like, wait a minute, I got to get it done, but at the end of the day, my most important job description is caring for this child. It’s been fun to evolve the character in that way. Everything is different now. Everything.

Last season was a big one for the show with the “Save Benson” trilogy. How do you think SVU has kept up that momentum and continued to keep things fresh this season?
Hargitay:
It feels like these writers are a bottomless well of ideas. Because I have to say that there was concern after last year and the depth that we went to of how they were going to sustain it. But I think the show this year has been so compelling and so interesting and has gone off into such interesting directions. It’s fun to see our other characters get fleshed out, like the Rollins episode or the Amaro episode. I want to see a Carisi episode and I think everybody else does too. And that’s been really exciting to watch. I have to say every week I’m pleasantly surprised at how these shows come together and how they are still so compelling. We get really amazing guest stars. I think we have a first-rate cast and really strong writing that absolutely keeps me glued to the show. I think that the writing has been pretty darn incredible and I’m still in.

Why do you think the show still has more stories to tell?
Hargitay:
I look at the news everyday and see the issues and crimes we deal with continually making headlines and being debated as legal issues pushing new and renewed legislation — such as the Violence Against Women Act — and as social issues affecting women and society as a whole. SVU is able to start conversations and humanize these problems. We are able to show all sides of an issue, as we did with our Domestic Violence episode this fall, in an episode that portrayed of institutionalized racism (and was nominated for an NAACP Award), the episodes where we both educated and explored the rise in rapes on college campuses — and even in the episode that explored the problem of the rape kit backlog. I feel very fortunate that our show is in a position where we can start a conversation on national TV about these issues in a way that people can empathize with and see the human element involved. We tell stories that matter, stories that can change the lives of individual viewers — and stories that can change the tenor of the conversation and viewpoints of our entire audience.

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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Don’t expect affable actor Peter Gallagher to soften his role as NYPD Deputy Chief William Dobbs, the intimidating boss who constantly gets under the skin of Sergeant Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) on the NBC drama “Law & Order: SVU.”

“Recently I was getting my hair cut for the show, and a lady in the sink next to me turns to me, all full of soap, and says, ‘When are you gonna start being a little nicer to Sergeant Benson?’ ” Gallagher tells The Post, laughing. “And she really meant it! I said, ‘It’s tough love; he wants to see her succeed.’ ”

But Gallagher’s no-nonsense and condescending Dobbs certainly changes the dynamics of a scene — and the show itself — when he steps into camera range.

“I kinda like the fact that he’s a d–k,” jokes Gallagher. “He’s not there to win a popularity contest. He’s there to get the job done.”

Even cast mate Danny Pino, who plays Det. Nick Amaro, appreciates the show’s extra heat.

“He adds a lot of tension,” Pino says of Dobbs. “To have that strong of a character makes it much more precarious.”

Pino gives Gallagher kudos for his portrayal, adding that he has been a fan of Gallagher back to the thick-browed actor’s 1992 performance in “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway.

“I went up to him and said, ‘Dude, my whole freshman year in college I was listening to you and Nathan Lane singing on that cast album,’ ” Pino says of first meeting Gallagher, who he calls a triple threat.

“He can sing. He can dance. He can act,” Pino says. “There’s not much that Peter Gallagher can’t do.”

Gallagher’s decades-long resume props that up.

His turn as beloved Sandy Cohen on the 2003-07 Fox drama “The O.C.” was recognized as one of the greatest TV dads of all time by TV Guide.

“That was awesome; I finally made a list!” says Gallagher, whose film work includes roles on “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Titanic” and “American Beauty.”

And in addition to “SVU,” he currently plays former spy boss Arthur Campbell on USA Network’s “Covert Affairs” and will do an arc on the upcoming HBO relationship comedy “Togetherness,” premiering Jan. 11.

A native New Yorker, Gallagher and his wife of 31 years, Paula Harwood, split time between homes in LA and Connecticut. But Gallagher says he’ll get a New York apartment for his upcoming run on the Broadway revival of “On the Twentieth Century,” which also stars Kristin Chenoweth and opens for previews in February.

Gallagher relishes the chance to juggle multiple projects at once.

“It’s just if you stick with it long enough, every once in a while you have fun periods of time like this,” he says. “I’d be very sad if I couldn’t do it all.”

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11/19/2014 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : SERGEANT BENSON (MARISKA HARGITAY) TRIES TO HELP A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM WHO STANDS BY HER MAN

Detective Tutuola (Ice-T) comes across leaked security footage of a violent domestic dispute in a parking garage, showing sportscaster A.J. Martin (guest star Chad Coleman) hit his girlfriend Paula (guest star Meagan Good). While Fin and Benson (Hargitay) investigate the couple’s lifestyle and history, Paula pushes back to keep her relationship and family intact. Benson turns to ADA Barba (Raúl Esparza) for help to convince Paula that her world doesn’t have to revolve around A.J. Meanwhile, the case has an interesting effect on Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Amaro’s (Danny Pino) relationship. Also guest starring Elizabeth Marvel (Counselor Rita Calhoun), Jefferson Mays (M.E. Rudnick), Leslie Odom Jr. (Reverend Curtis Scott), David Dinkins (Judge Chet Baker) and Hoda Kotb (as herself).




I just came across this interview from earlier this month at Paleyfest. You can watch the interview below.






SVU- Chicago Crossover
11/12/2014 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : THE CHICAGO P.D. JOINS FORCES WITH MANHATTAN SVU TO UNCOVER THE ROOTS OF A CHILD PORNOGRAPHY SITE. GUEST STARRING “CHICAGO P.D.” STARS JASON BEGHE, SOPHIA BUSH AND JESSE LEE SOFFER

Sergeant Hank Voight (Beghe) and Detectives Erin Lindsay (Bush) and Jay Halstead (Soffer) track a child pornography victim to his last-known whereabouts in New York City, where Sergeant Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and the SVU squad get a new lead – evidence of a livestreamed pornography “club” that caters to its subscriber’s shocking requests. When Lindsay discovers someone from her past is involved, she hopes it will help lead them to the site’s ringleader, but tensions between Voight and Benson could threaten the case. Also starring Ice-T (Detective Odafin Tutuola), Danny Pino (Detective Nick Amaro) and Kelli Giddish (Detective Amanda Rollins). Also guest starring Lou Taylor Pucci (Teddy Courtney), Isabel Shill (Jocelyn Cerpaski), Mark H. Dold (Bob Clinton), Danny Mastrogiorgio (George Turner), Frank Deal (FBI Agent O’Connell) and Donnetta Lavinia Grays (Lina Bagley).

CHICAGO PD- They’ll Have to Go Through Me

11/12/2014 (10:00PM – 11:00PM) (Wednesday) : SVU DETECTIVES TRAVEL TO CHICAGO TO HELP INTELLIGENCE TAKE DOWN A PEDOPHILIA RING AT ITS SOURCE.

The final part of the crossover event finds our intelligence unit joined by detectives from New York’s special victims unit to help solve the pedophile ring case. Ruzek (Patrick Flueger) and Det. Amaro (guest star Danny Pino) along with Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) and Antonio (Jon Seda) continue to hunt for the link to foster care and child trafficking. Meanwhile Burgess (Marina Squerciati) and Roman (Brian Geraghty) try to find the shooter from the hospital after using surveillance footage to identify him. Platt (Amy Morton) shows her deep respect for police and the dangerous work they do by honoring their fallen brother. Jason Beghe, Sophia Bush, Elias Koteas and LaRoyce Hawkins also star. Guest starring Charlie Barnett, Kara Killmer, Kelli Giddish, Markie Post and Mariska Hargitay.









11/05/2014 (09:00PM – 10:00PM) (Wednesday) : A BABYSITTER’S GHOST STORIES BECOME REALITY WHEN THREE YOUNG GIRLS GO MISSING

Best friends Perry Gilbert (guest star Chloe Csengery) and Mia Harris (guest star Mina Sundwall) sneak into the woods with Mia’s young sister Zoe (guest star Oona Laurence) in tow. Their search for the mythical Glasgowman leads to a series of violent events, leaving Zoe gravely injured and the other girls missing. While Detectives Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Carisi (Peter Scanavino) work to locate the suspect, Sgt. Benson (Mariska Hargitay) digs through the stories to distinguish fantasy from reality. Also starring Danny Pino (Detective Nick Amaro). Also guest starring Will Harris (Charlie Dorsey), Griffin Matthews (Leslie Connolly), Jeanine Bartel (Barbara Gilbert), Tricia Paoluccio (Robin Thornhill) and Stephanie Kurtzuba (Joan Harris).




On his first day on the set of Law & Order: SVU, Peter Gallagher had one very important mission — and it had nothing to do with memorizing his lines or remembering his blocking.

“Mariska [Hargitay] and I did a selfie for Kathryn, my daughter,” Gallagher tells TVGuide.com, “and she texted back and said, ‘Dad, this is the coolest thing you’ve ever done.'”

Although the longtime actor is already considered “cool” in many circles for his work on Covert Affairs and, most memorably, as the beloved Sandy Cohen on The O.C., it’s his latest role that has won him some serious brownie points at home. “I’m like the only New York actor I know who has never done an SVU,” Gallagher says. “I was like, ‘We got to fix that!'”

Gallagher does just that on Wednesday’s episode (9/8c, NBC) when he debuts as Deputy Chief William Dodds, the tough, no-nonsense head of all of the special victims units in the NYPD. “He was somebody who came up through the ranks and you could see how he’s a character that could go one way but I really believe he wants to see all his units succeed. He wants to see Sgt. Benson succeed,” Gallagher says. “He just has a certain specific style of how things should be done.”

Indeed, Dodds and Benson get off to a rocky start when a bike messenger creates a video diary of his troubles with the opposite sex as he begins to commit violent acts against young women across the city. The case, which quickly becomes front-page news, couldn’t come at a worse time for Benson, whose son Noah was taken to the emergency room at the end of last week’s episode. “I think that he sees himself as a great coach and I think he sees that Sgt. Benson is a talented officer and investigator,” he says. “Part of his job is making sure that the activities of all those units contribute to the over-reaching interest of the police department and what needs to be done.”

Ripped-from-the-headlines cases such as this one– which is based on the May 2014 Isla Vista killings that left six dead — is one of the reasons Gallagher was attracted to Law & Order: SVU. “The most fun I have acting is when the stories are contributing to the world we live in,” he says. “I like that SVU doesn’t shy away from that.”

While some might shy away from an aging series, SVU also appealed to Gallagher precisely because of it’s long run. “You have the luxury of being in a show that has quite a track record and such a loyal following. It reminds me of one of the first jobs I had in New York, in the original company of Grease and I played Danny Zuko and I did it for a year. I didn’t know at that point that it was unusual to do a show for a year until I did a bunch of flops after that that lasted 10 minutes,” he says. “There’s a good chance that there will be an audience there for your work, at the next performance or the next episode and it allows people to be busy with getting the job done instead of necessarily worrying every five seconds if somebody is going to pull the plug tomorrow.”

It’s this mentality that keeps Gallagher so busy. In addition to his recurring role on Law & Order: SVU, the Tony nominee is getting ready to return to the Broadway stage this spring opposite Kristin Chenoweth in a revival of the classical musical On the Twentieth Century. So when he’s not busting Benson’s chops or playing a dramatic hostage scene, he’s taking tap dance classes and working on his vocals. “I’m going to be on Broadway in a couple of months so I got to make as much money as I can,” he jokes of his current balancing act. “It is a great contrast. … It’s good for your soul.”

And that’s not all. In addition to SVU, Covert Affairs and his upcoming five-month stint on the Great White Way, Gallagher also recently worked on HBO’s upcoming comedy series Togetherness from writer-directors Mark and Jay Duplass (The Mindy Project). The gig is just his latest foray into comedy following How I Met Your Mother and a most surprising turn on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show earlier this year as Bobby Bottleservice’s gigolo mentor Sage. “What’s very nice is to have that balance of shows that are scripted, like Covert Affairs… and SVU. And then you have shows like the Kroll Show and Togetherness which are scripted but it’s a different style where you’re free and encouraged… to improvise,” he says. “What I really enjoy is that I’m not just doing one kind of thing, whether it’s TV or theater or film or comedy or drama. It keeps me interested.”

While some actors might want more downtime in between Covert Affairs‘ action-packed 16-episode seasons, the busier Gallagher stays the better. “Why would I not do it if someone’s interested enough to have me do it?” he says. “At some point, that phone will stop ringing and until then, I still love what I do and I want nothing more than to do that with people I admire and respect in a role that I feel I can maybe contribute something to.”

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC. Are you excited to see Gallagher on the series?

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Talk about an arresting duo: “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star Mariska Hargitay and Vice President Joe Biden, together at last!

No, the VP is not making a special guest appearance on the long-running NBC series. Instead, he and Hargitay have joined forces on several public service announcements that will air during an “SVU” marathon set to air on USA Network on Sunday, Oct. 19.

The 14-hour run of back-to-back “SVU” episodes, called “No More Excuses,” is an event for National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October, and is partnered with Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation and the NO MORE campaign.

Between episodes, Biden and Hargitay will appear in spots focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault, and offer viewers ways to get involved in stopping the all-too-common problem. The PSAs will also spotlight the White House’s 1is2Many initiative, which the vice president has championed.

“Despite the progress we as a nation have made in the movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault, much work remains,” Hargitay said in a statement. “Society continues to misplace blame and shame on survivors — both women and men. That has to end. I am so profoundly grateful to the vice president, who continues to use his voice — and office — to speak boldly about these issues and stand up for survivors.”

The Oct. 19 “No More Excuses” marathon begins at 9 a.m. ET and concludes at 10 p.m. on USA Network.

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