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It was 8 a.m. and approximately 2 degrees when, standing on a Manhattan street corner, I broke a long-standing personal taboo of participating in “gotcha” journalism.

The doors of a Lincoln Town Car opened, and a small, tense woman jumped out of the car, parting the sea of cameras and cell phones belonging to myself and other, lesser, reporters. Behind her emerged the famous redhead … you’d recognize her anywhere.

I took a deep breath. “Charmaine!” I screeched with all the desperate self-righteousness of an Inside Access correspondent. “CHARMAINE! WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR HUSBAND’S SPERM?”

At that exact moment, I realized three things:

1) I was holding my microphone upside down.

2) The top half of the mic had fallen off.

3) Law & Order: SVU cameos are not as easy or glamorous as they appear on TV.

Well, perhaps no one will ever be as glamorous as the Maleficent-cheekboned Marcia Cross, who played the sperm-stealing bandit with a Not-So-Desperate Housewives poise. In last week’s episode, “December Solstice,” in which my belligerent and elaborately-coiffed Reporter #2 debuted, she played a woman scheming to have an heir for her aging husband’s fortune. So desirous indeed that (spoiler alert!) she used an “electro-probe anal erectile procedure” on the corpse of guest star Robert Vaughn to harvest his Man-From-U.N.C.L.E. sperm.

It was Ms. Cross’ allegedly murderous character, Charmaine Briggs, that motivated mine (“Reporter #2) to stand outside in the freezing cold, jostling with a large scrum of tabloid types to get a quote. If you watch the episode, you can clearly see the moment I, among the lessers, accost the ostensibly grieving widow: “Why did you keep Walt from the kids?”

“Jackals!” Ms. Cross’ character cried at us all. “You just want raw meat!” For the moment, I am diligently trying to get the one story of my career; in the next you can see the intensity leave my eyes as I waddle-wander out of frame like a miserable, freezing penguin woken too early. But I’m not gone yet: Two seconds later, you hear my disembodied voice interrupting Charmaine’s lawyer (played by Susie Essman). “CHARMAINE!” I’m yelling questions through a TV inside the TV, as the Sex Crimes Unit watches the melee from their squad room. “WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR HUSBAND’S SPERM?” “Hey, they are not bad questions,” shrugs Detective Rollins (Kelli Giddish). With a shrug, someone mutes the TV report. And me.

Since then, “#GiveReporter2HerOwnShow!” has become a nationally trending hashtag and I am an overnight celebrity. (One Observer colleague who attended my editor’s viewing party noted that she had been watching me play a reporter for years.)

But, here, some backstory may be helpful.

I first met Warren Leight a year after my first real TV trend story, called “Sickos on the Sofa,” where I linked SVU’s tenacious success—outlasting the rest of the franchise, it’s the only Law & Order (stateside) that hasn’t been canceled—to the counterintuitive demo the show attracts: Young adult women. In 2012, I wrote, “Since the show launched 13 years ago, females age 18 to 34 have been its most consistent viewers.” (And it’s most consistent victims.)

“Two-thirds of our audience are women,” Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and SVU showrunner Mr. Leight had said at the time. (This gender breakdown is pretty much unheard of for police procedural shows.) “I honestly don’t understand why, completely. I don’t get it when parents say they watch the show with their kids, either.”

To give credit where it’s due, the show serves as perhaps the best PSA on issues of consent, and the difficulty of getting sex crimes cases to court. But how can I LOVE a show that’s about rape and child molestation? Every week? How is THIS what I crave, along with chicken soup and ginger ale, when I’m sick at home? It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone in binging on hunk-with-anger-issues Elliot Stabler (the early years!) and gorgeous, moral, tragically lonely Olivia Benson’s disgust over the depravity of New York’s most heinous sex crimes. But the fate of SVU, in recent years, has been handed down notoriously late in the television season, a clear sign that NBC, like an SVU judge, was only going to allow the show to continue … for now.

My relationship with SVU, New York’s most New York-y show, has always been colored by my (tempered) fandom. Usually I avoid press junkets, but when they invited me to the anniversary of the show’s 16th season in September, I showed up with my iPhone camera already flipped into selfie mode. Come on, there’s Mariska Hargitay photo-bombing Ice-T and me. If I had violated some ethical code of conduct about getting too close to my sources and had been fired the next day … it would have been worth it. There is no better feeling than watching the collective freak-out of all the Cool Kids from high school when you post a photo with the cast of SVU on Facebook.

This year, NBC renewed SVU earlier than usual, a sign that the network has clued in that they have the rare double-jackpot: A basic cable hit with the cultural cache of a “prestige” program that one finds on network TV (FX), premium cable (HBO) or streaming outlets (Netflix). (Other “basics” that are getting it right: The Good Wife, ABC’s Shondaland block, The Simpsons and Hannibal.) I can’t claim my cameo had anything to do with the renewal.

So, does Reporter #2 get her own spin-off storyline next season, the show’s 17th? Perhaps not. As it turns out, I hate acting and am very bad at it. You don’t think someone can ruin a take if they only have two lines? I think the increasingly worried assistant director correcting me—“it’s SPERM, not CUM”—would beg to differ. I also didn’t realize that despite all the permits, filming SVU has a distinctly guerilla feel; you don’t get any notes on what to do … you just get in front of the camera and keep doing it until they let you stop.

One time, Ms. Essman pushed me out of the way—as her character would do—and I spent an hour having to convince myself she wasn’t being aggressive because she was mad about me flubbing a line. ACTING! Also, JOURNALISM!

We had to reshoot the scene about seven times. Though the crowd was large, only myself and Reporter 1 (played by E! Online editor Chris Harnick) had any lines. Yet during the hour or two spent shooting the scene, no one besides myself seemed visibly distracted by, OR IN CRIPPLING PAIN from, the brutal cold. The crew did have one person assigned specifically to find different places on my body to put hand and feet warmers, draping a large coat over my shoulders between takes and ushering E! Online and I inside the brownstone doubling as the day’s interiors whenever we had more than four seconds of down time.

Finally, “O.K., last take! Last take! We’ll get it!” beamed a guy nearby, after the microphone fail.

“In your dreams,” I hissed—but only in my head, because I was worried he might be an unrelated insane person ironically blending into a crowd scene of a cop procedural. Who else would seem that jazzed about just standing around, being very, very cold, having to remind the extras, “SPERM. Not cum. SPERM.”

Eventually, the shoot did end, which meant that my actual job was starting. “So,” I asked Ms. Essman once I had turned my (real) recorder on, “what did you do with YOUR husband’s sperm?”

“Swallowed it,” Ms. Essman barked, not missing a beat. “Next question.”

We talked about her recent appearance on Broad City, as Ilana Glazer’s mother, and how she “wouldn’t be surprised” to see that character make a return appearance. I told her it was pretty remarkable that the Comedy Central series had managed, in the course of her one episode, to instantly render every Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey reference obsolete when Abbi Jacobson ends up “pegging” on a first date.

“I’m sorry,” said Ms. Cross, who had been sitting nearby (and mentioned she’s looking for a new series; Hollywood take note, we’d watch it). “What is pegging?”

The look on my face was probably incredible. “I can always look it up on Google…” she feinted for her phone.

I finally sputtered, “It’s a sex thing where a woman wears a strap-on dildo for anal intercourse with a man … for sex, like … in his butt…”

“Oh my,” said Ms. Cross, mildly.

“You know, it’s like … an Internet thing?” I said with a shrug, like I knew what the hell I was talking about. “Millennials these days…” I sighed.

And then, it gripped me. I had actually educated an actress on SVU—America’s textbook on depravity—who was, mere moments ago, fielding questions about rectal probes used on the dead, about an alternative sexual practice.

Forget Reporter #2. I think I deserve a bigger role in the inevitable “pegging” episode.


First off, I just want to say I am so sorry for taking so long to get this post up. But yes, Mariska’s birthday project has been delivered! The day I went she was feeling under the weather (poor thing), I didn’t have to wait long for her (unlike previous years where I was there all day), only 3-4 hours. It had been so cold, temperatures in the teens, but when I went thankfully it was in the 20s, so it was still cold but it could have been worse!

Anyway, onto the point. I took the train into the city with the travel book and the mason jar filled with hearts, and a few other things for Mariska’s birthday. I got to the location around 9am and just hung out on the street while they filmed. One of the crew members told me Mariska had a cold (and she sounded congested too), but she’s a pro and was smiling and laughing in between takes.

When they breaked for lunch I was standing by Mariska’s trailer and saw her walking down the street. I walked up to her and said hi. She smiled at me and said hi back and told me to walk with her. I explained the projects, and I also told her that we put something together every year for her birthday. Her smile was huge at this point and she said, “I remember you! Wow thank you so much. You put a lot of hard work into this and your dedication means so much to me. I appreciate this.” She was holding her heart at this point. She said that we made her birthday brighter 🙂 She thanked me again, grabbed my arm and then hugged me. By this point, I was having an outer body experience (lol). I told her I was about to cry- seriously every experience I have with her is like the first time. It will never get old! She said she couldn’t wait to get home so she could go through everything. She thanked me again for all the work I did, and told me to thank everyone involved. So thank YOU for making these projects what it became. None of this would have been possible without any of you. I’m so grateful to everyone who shared, tweeted, commented, reblogged, liked, promoted this project in anyway, shape or form. You guys are seriously the best! And I’m grateful for Mariska because let’s face it without her, I wouldn’t have this website and I wouldn’t do birthday projects for her every year. Can’t wait for next year!

I will add pictures this weekend so keep your eyes peeled 🙂

For Mariska Hargitay, separating herself from her role as sex crimes detective Olivia Benson can be a difficult task.

“Being around that subject matter every day seeps into my consciousness,” says the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star. “When I first did research for my role on SVU, I couldn’t believe the statistics of abuse – and the letters that came in from viewers disclosing their own stories.”

She adds, “I was proud to be on a show that was going into new territory, but I knew I wanted to do more to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives.”

So in 2004, roughly five years after her SVU debut, the 51-year-old founded the Joyful Heart Foundation – a national organization that has served more than 14,000 survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and the professionals who help them.

While the organization is taking big steps in advocating for justice (through the movement to test the hundreds of thousands of backlogged rape kits), Hargitay says that simply joining the conversation is a way that everyone can help raise awareness.

That is why she is so proud of Joyful Heart’s participation in the NO MORE initiative – which includes a PSA campaign that she directed involving more than 75 celebrities, athletes and public figures in an effort to “engage bystanders” and “break the social stigma” of abuse.

Most importantly, though, Hargitay – like her TV character – encourages listening to survivors with compassion.

“The experience of sexual assault and domestic violence can be extremely isolating,” she says. “So simply listen without judgement. I always have to remind myself that I don’t have to be an expert. I just have to care.”

For more of our interview with Mariska Hargitay, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday


Mariska & Raul were on location today and I’ve added a few pictures to the gallery.

On Location in NYC
March 4, 2015

Mariska visited Disneyland’s Frozen Fun today. Hopefully more pictures will be added soon 🙂

Disneyland’s Frozen Fun
February 28, 2015

I’m not sure if this PSA is new or not but I just found this one from the USA Network.

Mariska attended the Lela Rose Fashion Show and looked as gorgeous as ever!

Lela Rose Fashion Show
February 17, 2015

Mariska & Danny were on location today in the bittercold NYC. I added over 20 pictures to the gallery.

On Location in Downtown Manhattan
February 13, 2015

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.”


NBC has renewed five dramas for the 2015-16 TV season, including the newly relocated sophomore thriller The Blacklist, the plucky Friday genre series Grimm (currently in Season 4) and the third-year procedural poised to launch 1,000 spinoffs, Chicago Fire.

In fact, ChiFi‘s first offshoot, the freshman drama Chicago P.D., is among NBC’s other pick-ups, as is schedule stalwart Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which will be entering Season 17.


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