TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

Mariska Hargitay: ‘SVU’ is lighthearted behind the scenes

As she enters her 15th season on the often grim series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” actress Mariska Hargitay reveals that behind the scenes, the show’s vibe is quite different. She also talks about what she wants her next acting part to be.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when you hear this sound you know exactly what you're watching.

>> i love that.

>> law and order svu set to kick off it's 15th season. easily make it one of tv's longest running series ever.

>> and mariska hargitay is back as the no nonsense detective.

>> 15 years congratulations.

>> i can't believe it. i'm like wait, what, how? when?

>> did you ever think when you signed on that 15 years later you would still be olivia benson .

>> no but i have to tell you i'm happy being here.

>> you look gorgeous by the way.

>> thank you. so do you.

>> it's a different look when you start off and you have been kidnapped. how tough was it doing this role this time around?

>> it was without a doubt the most difficult episode i've ever shot in 15 years and it was unlike anything i've ever done and i have to tell you, after 15 years, to be nervous and scared and excited to go to work --

>> that's good.

>> it's a pretty great thing.

>> we don't want to give too much away but we have a clip of what you're talking about so people can understand why it was so difficult for you.

>> oh, come on, don't be shy. we're past that. you were so sweet when you were knocked out. another drink? why don't i take off that tape so you can say yes. one thing, you scream again i'll shove your own gun right down your throat.

>> shoot me.

>> is that hard for you to watch.

>> yeah. sure it is. it was -- it's hard to shoot when you're acting your body doesn't know the difference, right, of acting or being in reality. you try to keep it real. so it was tough.

>> what do you go through in your brain for that?

>> i think you pretty much play the what if game, you know? it's about believing it. that's what you study your whole life to be focused and present and, for me, you know, with the work that i do with joyful heart, you know, i've had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with -- side by side with so many real life survivors and know their stories that it's an honor to -- and the -- the bar is set high to keep it real and have integrity about how scary that would be.

>> a lot of times, especially in a long running series actors have to make the decision do i stay, do i go? what is it that keeps you coming back year after year?

>> great writing. i have fallen deeply in love with this character. that's what i was saying about after 15 years people say i can't believe you're so invested in your character. i love this show and i love this character and now with the work with joyful heart that i do, this foundation has sort of found my life's work. my other life's work. this is the no more symbol and it's just -- it's our -- the easiest way to describe it is after, you know, 40 years, this is the first time in history that the sexual assault and domestic violence movements are coming together. it's like what the pink ribbon did for breast cancer or red ribbon did for hiv/aids. it launched on monday and we had 40 celebrities activities tors, athletes, people like yourselves come up and join the calvary and say no more.

>> do you think about what role you want to play next or are you happy with olivia benson right now.

>> i want to do comedy.

>> you are funny.

>> hilarious. but so we do that sort of begin takes on the show. people come over and they're going why is behind the scenes like a sitcom?

>> you hear that and serious mode hits.

>> do people say olivia and think they know you.

>> mariska hargitay always great catching up with you.

>> thank you.

>> good luck. by the way, you can catch the season 15 premiere of law and order special victim's unit tonight at 9:00, 8:00 central here on nbc.