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Mariska Hargitay in Law & Order Season 21

Mariska Hargitay has now played Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU for over 20 years. With that in mind, you might think the NBC series would be at least somewhat close to wrapping up its run, but if you ask its lead, she’s happier than ever playing the TV detective.

In fact, Law & Order: SVU was still a Top 50 show when it aired during primetime last year. It has also opened the door for Mariska Hargitay to take on a slew of opportunities outside of her TV role. Many of these opportunities, like her charity the Joyful Heart Foundation, directly relate to the work Detective Benson does on TV each week. According to Mariska Hargitay, all of this means she is more invested than ever in the NBC show. Or, as she put it:

I am more engaged now than ever, and I was pretty engaged when I started this. It turned me from sort of actor to activist.

It’s interesting how art can sometimes inform life and vice versa, but Mariska Hargitay’s most famous role has also turned her not only into a well-known TV personality, but also someone who advocates in a related field.

Also in the profile for the NY Times, longtime producer Dick Wolf also confirmed that playing Detective Benson has been a big boon for Mariska Hargitay, also noting she seems to be happy where she’s at.

She has clearly been affected by playing her role as Detective Benson, and she has turned that into a mission to make a difference.

There was a point in time when ratings were still the one major force behind cancellations and renewals and there was seemingly a question of whether or not Law & Order: SVU would go on. Yet, it endured, and Oliva Benson stayed on as the main character in the series. Over time, the show has continued to push through in its late-primetime slot, and has maintained relevance in the ratings. In fact, it has also been a proven winner for repeats on networks like USA.

In addition, Law & Order: SVU has also been a winner on streaming. Over at Hulu, the show actually skews more toward younger viewers, which is surprising in some ways, although I’d guess the audience for streaming skews younger in general.

All of this good news last season led Law & Order: SVU to land a Season 21 renewal, a season that will kick off this week on NBC.

While it will likely be some time before we learn whether or not Season 22 is in the cards, Mariska Hargitay seems to be in a good place with the character and her career – and not just from the acting component. In fact the actress has previously said there was a time she wanted to quit, but is now “so grateful” for the gift of her NBC job.

She also mentioned she’d be happy to stay 25 years. So, provided the show still maintains relevance in its timeslot, we may still see new episodes for a few years to come.

Law & Order: SVU will return to the schedule Thursday, September 26 at 10 p.m. ET. To take a look at the other network favorites returning over the next few weeks, be sure to check out our full premiere schedule.

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