Mariska Hagitay and Dick Wolf talk Law & Order: SVU at Paley Center

On Monday, June 4, 2018, The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills presented Creating Great Characters: Dick Wolf & Mariska Hargitay.

Two-time Emmy-winning and Grammy-winning producer, Dick Wolf, creator & executive producer of the Law & Order franchise, and Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress, Mariska Hargitay, sat down for a special conversation with NBC Entertainment Chairman, Bob Greenblatt, to discuss Hargitay’s defining work on season nineteen of the NBC series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Photo Courtesy: Brian To | The Paley Center for Media

Photo Courtesy: Brian To | The Paley Center for Media

During the Q&A discussion, Bob Greenblatt asked Dick Wolf to go back to 1999, how SVU came to be.
Wolf said, following the success of Law & Order, he pitched the idea of doing a similar show about sex crimes to Barry Diller who liked the idea but knew the word “sex” could not be in the title. Wolf knew that wouldn’t be an issue and went with the real name for the real unit: Special Victims. After showing Warren Littlefield the pilot, SVU premiered in a 10pm Friday time slot. Wolf woke up Saturday morning to a second season renewal.

He also touched upon Mariska’s audition, and chemistry, with Chris Meloni who played Det. Elliot Stabler for 12 seasons. Mariska, sharing her own memories of meeting Meloni, revealed that she first mistook him for John Slattery and was then being paired with him for their audition. Wolf said that after seeing them together, he knew they were his Elliot and Olivia.

Both Wolf and Mariska mentioned the impact of SVU, not just as a groundbreaking series, but as a series that paved the way for the #MeToo movement. From the very beginning of the series, Mariska dove into her research, says she “studied to be a rape counselor just to prepare for the show.” She added that through the years, many people stop her on the street to tell her their story.

Wolf added that as the show began to air, cops around the US informed him that their reports of sexual assault increased, the show allowed victims to speak up and come forward. Mariska praised SVU writers for educating themselves on related issues as they craft episodes, making sure the stories are authentic, the detectives were compassionate and continuing to provide a positive message.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will return for season 20 on NBC this fall.

— Yael Tygiel