Mariska Hargitay is looking back on a record-breaking TV legacy and toward the future of her beloved Law & Order character, Olivia Benson.
Hargitay, 59, attended the special 25th anniversary celebration of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in New York City on Tuesday evening, where she spoke with ET’s Rachel Smith about the legacy she hopes to leave behind for her beloved police detective — a character she’s played since the show’s premiere in 1999.
“I hope that her legacy is that she helped a lot of people heal,” Hargitay shares as she begins tearing up. “It’s too early to cry, people! It’s way too early.”
Hargitay’s tenure as Benson has set the record for the longest-running portrayal of a character in a drama show, and she’s spoken before about how proud she is that her character and performance has helped people who have dealt with trauma find hope and closure.
Earlier this month, Hargitay penned a candid editorial for People, in which she opened up about a trauma she faced in her life years ago, when she was sexually attacked by a friend in her 30s.
Speaking with ET, Hargitay opened up about her decision to share her story. “I think it was time, you know? And I was shored up enough and felt safe and ready, so I was excited, really excited,” she shares, “and it’s been a beautiful moment.”
Hargitay explained that she’s “been wanting to do it for a long time” but was just “waiting for the right moment that felt right.”
In the wake of the editorial, Hargitay said she’s been inundated with love and support — from her fans, her husband — Peter Hermann — and her Law & Order: SVU co-stars.
“There’s a lot of love in the people that created this show and a lot of intimacy and an incredible amount of respect and trust and honor,” Hargitay says. “So I think that we all honor and respect each other.”
“It’s been a privilege for me to work with them and to have such an incredibly intimate relationship with all of them,” she added. “So this feels like family tonight.”
Season 25 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit premieres Jan. 18 on NBC.