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Mariska Hargitay: Backstage at 'Law & Order: SVU' is like a 'day care center'

Watch out if you start working for "Law & Order: SVU": You might end up with children before you know it.

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The cast of "Law & Order: SVU" take on serious topics, but there's a lot of laughs when the cameras go off. Pictured (l.-r.): Kelli Giddish, Raul Esparza, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Peter Scanavino

"You can't be a cast member on this show and not have like a baby a year," joked Mariska Hargitay (Lt. Olivia Benson), who spoke with TODAY on the "SVU" set Thursday ahead of the series' 18th season.

"I have three kids, Ice-T [Det. Odafin Tutuola] and Kelli [Giddish, Det Amanda Rollins] [have one baby each], Peter [Scanavino, Det. Dominick Carisi Jr.] has two, and there are days when the kids are here and you're like, 'Is this a day care center?'" she added.

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It's true, though; the baby boom behind the scenes at "SVU" has been making headlines for almost a year.

Scanavino says he's brought his children (who are 4 and 8 months) to the set for special photo ops.

"You bring them in here, put them in jail, take photos," he laughed. "Of course! And all our kids know each other."

#MyFavoriteKindOfSetVisit #OneOfMyFaveCastMembers #AndHisMother 😜 #LudoInTheHouse #PinchiestCheeksThisSideOfTheHudsonRiver

A post shared by Mariska Hargitay (@therealmariskahargitay) on

"It's like 'Romper Room' back there," noted Raúl Esparza (ADA Rafael Barba). "You'll get pelted by a giant ball in the hallways on your way to the west wing, where the writers are."

"Ludo [Giddish's 9-month-old] and Chanel [Ice T's 10-month old] are like girlfriend/boyfriend situation," grinned Ice T. "We got good kids. This show is like a sitcom behind the set."

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He then made sure to pull up a melt-worthy image of Chanel holding Ludo's hand during a recent photo shoot on his cell. We found it on Instagram and are now puddles on the floor:

Cast members agree having kids around is a good thing.

"You go home and you look into your children's eyes and it changes everything," says Hargitay. "It's like, everything's OK because you're right here in front of me and now I see life and newness and hope and beauty and all those things we see.

"Our kids can take the day off us ... It's a love chain here. We are in it together," she says.

Including the next generation!

"Law & Order: SVU" returns to NBC on Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. ET.

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