Mariska Hargitay is beloved by millions of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit viewers as Sgt. Olivia Benson, but it took the actress many years of auditions to get to the top of the primetime ranks as one of TV’s favorite female characters.
In an interview with Inside the Actors Studio‘s James Lipton on Bravo, Hargitay, 50, revealed that she was once overlooked for a role on E.R. in the late ’90s because of the same take-charge attitude she demonstrates on SVU. Confident she nailed her audition for NBC execs (“Now we would say, ‘Hashtag ‘Killed it,’ she jokes) Hargitay was crushed to learn she was passed over. Never one to take no for an answer, the actress demanded to meet with E.R.‘s casting director to find out why.
To Hargitay’s surprise, the response wasn’t a negative one. “He said, ‘I have a vision for this part and I like to cast closer to type. The character was a very weak, fragile, fragmented, nervous girl. You’re very strong. You’re not exactly the type,'” she said of the conversation. “I said, ‘You’re telling me I acted it better than anybody and I’m not getting it because I’m not that way in real life? And by the time I got home, they had called and offered me the role.”
Hargitay was cast on E.R. in 1997 as Cynthia Hooper, the County General desk nurse who dated Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) for 13 episodes during season 4. One year after her E.R. arc wrapped in 1998, she debuted as Det. Olivia Benson on SVU.
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