Mariska Hargitay is an American actress who rose to fame thanks to her role as Det. Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which investigates sex crimes in New York City.
Hargitay initially got into show business via beauty pageants. In 1982 she was crowned Miss Beverly Hills and was the fourth runner-up to be Miss California USA the following year. After that she appeared in a number of guest and recurring roles on television shows including “Falcon Crest,” “Seinfeld” and “ER.”
In 1999 she was cast on “Law & Order: SVU,” a spinoff of Dick Wolf’s popular “Law & Order” police procedural drama. The show proved wildly popular and Hargitay went on to win numerous awards including a Golden Globe and an Emmy. In 2012 Hargitay signed a deal with Universal Television to return for a 14th season, a gig that reportedly pays her between $400,000 and $500,000 per episode.
The daughter of 1950s sex symbol Jayne Mansfield and a former Mr. Universe, the Hungarian-born Mickey Hargitay, Mariska was born in 1964 in Santa Monica. When she was 3 years old her mother was killed in an automobile accident. Hargitay and her two brothers, Mikos and Zoltan, were also in the car. Hargitay escaped with a small zig-zag scar on her head—her brothers also survived. After that the children were raised by their father and his third wife.
Hargitay attended UCLA’s school of theater, film and television, but dropped out before getting her degree. She also attended the Groundlings theater company in L.A. where Kathy Griffin was her improv coach.
Hargitay speaks Italian, French, Spanish, Hungarian and English. She is married to Peter Hermann, who plays the recurring role of defense attorney Trevor Langan on “Law & Order: SVU.” They have two sons and one daughter.
Jessica Gelt for the Los Angeles Times