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Law & Order SVU often uses real-life situations to inspire their episodes. Mariska Hargitay also once hoped that the show could draw from her own personal experiences as a mother.

The ‘Law & Order SVU’ storyline that Mariska Hargitay pitched

Mariska Hargitay on the set of 'Law & Order organized Crime' as her character Olivia Benson.
Mariska Hargitay | Will Hart/Getty Images

Hargitay has been very open about her experiences with motherhood. The actor gave birth to one son with her husband Peter Hermann. She’d soon welcome two other children into her family through adoption.

“August wanted siblings, and Peter and I both envisioned this big family because we both come from that. Plus, we just had so much love to give,” she once said according to Good Housekeeping. “I was really letting the chips fall as they might, because I do think so much is up to God.”

Recently, Hargitay confided that she wanted her Law & Order character Olivia Benson to parallel her own journey to adoption.

“I thought it would make it so much more resonant and beautiful,” Hargitay told Entertainment Weekly. “Again, with knowing our real life story, what’s out there in the zeitgeist and in the culture, I think it sort of makes us even go deeper, knowing that that also happened in real life.”

But Hargitay asserted that the storyline was turned down in the show’s earlier seasons.

“I think that Dick [Wolf] and the powers that be were concerned, obviously, for me being a mother because they didn’t want anything to detract from my job,” she said. “And yet, this is life. People do both, and we have to figure it out. And I believe there was an earlier story [in season 9] where I wanted to adopt, but was turned down for that reason — it’s understandable that the job would be too dangerous.”

Later on in the series, however, Hargitay’s Benson would finally become a mother under the guidance of showrunner Warren Leight. To Hargitay, the wait might’ve made the story even more worth it.

“So, it was such a big payoff. I was so interested in making the character more complex in that beautiful way that women multitask and do so many jobs. It was important to show that — what women do — and the real work. Because being a parent, I think, is the most important thing that we do in our lives,” she said.

Mariska Hargitay was inspired to adopt children from her own childhood experiences


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Hargitay didn’t just decide to adopt children on a whim. She was informed from a very early age that strong familial connections could form without being blood related. Hargitay’s mother, Jayne Mansfield, died in a car accident when Hargitay was just 3-years-old. Afterwards, Hargitay went to live with her father. Her father’s wife, and her step-mom, became an important part of Hargitay’s life, raising her like her own daughter.

“I called her Mom. She really claimed us. She never had biological kids of her own, and to this day we are her kids. So we were blessed that she really embraced us and loved us so quickly. And I was very fortunate to have a maternal figure in my life after such a horrific accident,” Hargitay said.

Hargitay further reflected in the interview how traveling with her parents would also motivate her to adopt later on in life.

“I remember being in Thailand and India when I was 9 or 10 and seeing kids alone in the street and thinking, ‘Where are their moms?’ They were so amazingly resourceful and soulful and smart. And somewhere inside of me — even so young — I had that maternal instinct,” she said. “I remember thinking, I want to take them all home!”