Mariska Hargitay

Highest Rated: 100% I Am Evidence (2017)

Lowest Rated: 11% Perfume (2001)

Birthday: Jan 23, 1964

Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA

American actress Mariska Hargitay came from Hollywood royalty but ultimately made herself a household name thanks to her portrayal of the compassionate but tough NYPD sex crimes detective Olivia Benson on the smash hit procedural series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 1999-). Born on January 23, 1964 in Santa Monica, CA, Hargitay was the first daughter born to Hungarian-born former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay and the actress Jayne Mansfield, a 1950s era sex symbol. Hargitay’s parents had divorced in Mexico back in May of 1963, but a judge later found the divorce to be legally invalid. The couple reconciled a few months before Hargitay’s birth, but were legally divorced when she was only eight months old. A few weeks after the divorce was finalized, Mansfield married director Matt Cimber, and Mickey Hargitay married actress Ellen Siano. On June 29, 1967, Mansfield was killed in a horrific car accident, along with her lover, Sam Brody, and their driver. Hargitay, then three years old, was in the backseat with her two older brothers when the crash occurred, but they all escaped without major injuries, save for a zigzag scar on the side of Hargitay’s head. For the rest of her childhood, Hargitay was raised by her father and Siano. She attended Marymount High School, a private Catholic institution, where she was active in cheerleading, student government, athletics, and the theater program. After graduating high school in 1982, Hargitay decided to study acting at UCLA. She also competed in a few pageants, earning the crown of Miss Beverly Hills USA her freshman year of college. Soon, Hargitay began booking real acting jobs, and dropped out of school. She was first seen in the music video for Ronnie Milsap’s “She Loves My Car,” before making her film debut with a role in the horror comedy “Ghoulies” (1985). The next year, Hargitay was cast in a lead role on the one-hour adventure series “Downtown” (CBS, 1986-1987). Even though the series proved to be short-lived, it showed Hargitay that acting in television was a viable career option. She next enjoyed a 15-episode arc on the primetime soap opera “Falcon Crest” (CBS, 1981-1990) towards the end of its nine season run, playing the amazingly named Carly Fixx. She then became a series regular on the short-lived police procedural “Tequila and Bonetti” (CBS, 1992), and had a cameo on the season four finale of “Seinfeld” (NBC, 1989-1998). Following an appearance in the Oscar-winning drama “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995), Hargitay co-starred on the sitcom “Can’t Hurry Love” (CBS, 1995-96). During the fourth season of the popular medical drama “ER” (NBC, 1994-2009), Hargitay played Cynthia Hooper. However, the following year, Hargitay was cast in the role that would come to define her career, beating out Samantha Mathis and Reiko Aylesworth to play Olivia Benson, a tough but compassionate detective with a personal vendetta working in the sex crimes unit of the NYPD, on Dick Wolf’s spinoff series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC, 1999-). Though it was slow going, the show eventually became a cultural touchstone, and Hargitay was nominated for the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series eight consecutive years in a row, from 2004 to 2011, winning once, in 2006. To this day, “SVU” has outlived all of its other franchise counterparts, including the original “Law & Order” (NBC, 1990-2010) itself. Though Hargitay has appeared in other shows and films over the years, usually making a cameo as herself, there is no doubt that she will be best remembered as Olivia Benson.

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