Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) joined the Special Victims Unit due to her own painful past. She has since proven herself to be a competent, street-smart cop, but can't help responding emotionally to victims of the terrible crimes she investigates. In fact, Benson often uses herself as bait when tracking dangerous criminals. She and her partner, Detective Stabler, have an amiable, professional relationship.
2004 Emmy Nominee for Lead Actress In a Drama Series, 2004 SAG Nominee for Lead Actress and 2005 Golden Globe Winner Mariska Hargitay headlines the crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as the unit's veteran "Detective Olivia Benson." In its freshman season, in 1999-2000, Hargitay earned nominations from the Viewers for Quality Television for Best Actress, from the TV Guide Awards for Favorite Actress in a New Series and from the International Press Academy for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Series.
Now in her sixth season as Detective Benson, Hargitay says, "As a woman, it's gratifying to play a part that's a multi-layered challenge. Olivia is not only a competent, street-smart cop, she's an empathetic woman who can respond emotionally to victims of terrible crimes without compromising her professionalism."
Hargitay gained recognition from her recurring role on ER as Dr. Greene's (Anthony Edwards) sometimes naíve and scattered girlfriend, desk clerk "Cynthia Hooper," in the 1997-98 season of the popular drama. Hargitay also earned notice as a cast regular in the sitcom Can't Hurry Love starring Nancy McKeon. She was also a regular on the popular series Falcon Crest and Prince Street.
Hargitay starred opposite Ken Olin in the television movie The Advocate's Devil and opposite Valerie Bertinelli and Harry Hamlin in the miniseries thriller Night Sins. Her additional television credits include guest-starring roles on Seinfeld, Ellen, thirtysomething, Wiseguy, and In the Heat of the Night.
Hargitay's feature film credits include Lake Placid (starring Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda), the critically acclaimed Leaving Las Vegas, David Lynch's Hotel Room, and Bob Fosse's Star '80. On the Los Angeles stage, she has co-starred in "Salad Days," "Women's Work" and "Porno."
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hargitay is the youngest daughter of screen legend Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay. She divides her time between New York and Los Angeles.