Thursday, November 30, 2017

Law & Order: SVU - Benson Uncovers the Dark Truth (Episode Highlight)

SVU's Mariska Hargitay on Reopening Benson's Old Wounds & Emerging a "True Heroine"


It may not look like it on screen, what with the seemingly endless emotional blows, but Mariska Hargitay said she is "having the time of my life" on Law & Order: SVU, 19 seasons on the job.
Hargitay's Lt. Olivia Benson has been put through the wringer on numerous occasions, most recently in the Wednesday, Nov. 29 episode, "Something Happened." The episode, a departure from SVU's traditional episode structure, saw Hargitay flexing her Emmy-winning acting muscles in new ways. The episode was essentially a two-person play.
In "Something Happened," Benson dug deep inside herself to address issues she's long repressed about her father, as well as the traumatic abuse William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) inflicted. Viewers will recall Benson is the product of rape, and she never knew her father. Her mother struggled with alcoholism during Benson's upbringing and it ultimately played a factor in her death. Clearly, Hargitay is no stranger to her character's emotional struggles, but when confronted by Laurel (Melora Walters) and her harrowing story of familial abuse, Benson and Hargitay were forced to go to an even deeper space than ever before.
"I loved any sort of the intellectual aspects of it, and not knowing how I'm going to get in," Harigtay told E! News. "The story is obviously an emotional story to tell…I remember [showrunner] Michael Chernuchin kept saying—you might not want to write this because it's a little graphic—but he kept saying, ‘Benson has to pull off her scabs,' right? Rip off her scabs. I felt that's exactly what it was. I had to go into areas that I have never gone into to get this story, to really find out what happened that night."

To get to the bottom of what happened with Laurel's attacker and family—Laurel killed a man, triggered by the memory of her father and the abuse he inflicted, not on her, but her sister—Benson had to really acknowledge feelings she repressed. Working on the episode, Hargitay said she and Walters had no idea where they were going to go. They would rehearse for hours before doing a scene, like actors would before a play. It was "uncharted territory" for Hargitay and the show.
"Nobody knew what was going to happen and it was the most exciting, thrilling thing ever," she said.
Hargitay credited her connection with Walters as a reason why she was able to go as deep as she did in the episode.

"For me…because I produce the show and sometimes I direct the show, sometimes I get out of it and get into either directing or producing mode a little bit, and it was just so fun to be inside the new dynamic, to be utterly and totally swept away and taken away by it," she said. "I was sort of scared every day to climb this mountain. I really was, because the stakes were so high, the material was unlike anything we had ever done. It just took me a lot of time to wrap my head around it, and I think we all just worked that much harder and, again, approached the material in such a different way that was…deeply surprising for everybody."

"We just haven't done anything like this, we just haven't. With Olivia, I keep getting asked this, 'Where can we go after 19 years?' and this was utterly new. It just was utterly new and…painful in a different way. We learned the toll her past has taken on her in a different way," Hargitay continued, her voice cracking with emotion. "And now how she's living it now. This woman's story resonates with Olivia in a way that digs up such old, profound wounds that are dictating, in every moment, who she is and how she lives her life, how she's a parent and all of that. It was deeply exciting and I'm so proud of it. Again it was a gift and nothing but an honor to work with Melora. I just cannot say enough about her as a person, as an artist, and it was a real gift."
The episode required a heady space Hargitay never went to with Benson before. "I hated him," the character said of her father. "I was just collateral damage." There's a clear emotional toll this case took on the character.

"I think in some way it dredged up all this old pain, and in some ways it was utterly healing and cathartic to even address it, to even bring it from the unconscious to the conscious, right? She spent so much of her time fleeing, sort of pushing that stuff down, rising above, focusing outward, focusing on victims, focusing on her child," Hargitay said. "She spent so much time proving to everybody that she's OK and she can handle the things that happened to her, but in this way, one of the things at the end is she's so broken and so victorious. Because despite these pains, despite what she's been through, she's still victorious…she's even succeeded in this painful job, she's still in the middle of fighting for her child, she's still doing it…She keeps showing herself how strong she…she's brave enough to go inward.
"So many people spend their life running from the demons inside, that's what they do, and I think in that way she's a true heroine, to again, feel it, build a tolerance for it and get up the next day and do it again," she continued.
It's on her face with the last shot of the episode: Benson, alone at the interrogation room table, full of emotion. "Yeah, it's like she's ready to go again. She's like a boxer, she's ready and will not fall. ‘I will not fall,'" Hargitay said.

Mariska Hargitay Previews Law & Order: SVU's "Thrilling" and "Painful" Departure From Traditional Structure

"Thrilling, invigorating, challenging, painful, exciting," those are the words Mariska Hargitay used to describe "Something Happened," the Wednesday, Nov. 29 episode of Law & Order: SVU.
This isn't a normal episode of NBC's long-running drama, now in season 19. The episode is a break from SVU's traditional structure of crime, investigation, and litigation, and is largely a two-hander between Hargitay and guest star Melora Walters. Hargitay's Olivia Benson bares all to Melora Walters' Laurel, a rape victim who struggles to recount the events of her assault, in an interview with more twists and turns than a typical SVU episode.

"Oh my gosh, I have got to tell you. I feel like it's for me—you know I've been doing this a long time—I think it's one of my Top 5, for sure, experiences on the show. It was such a joy, and so incredibly challenging and everything about it was unique and different," Hargitay said. "After doing a show for 19 years, it was like doing a play. And every day nothing about it was the same. Every day we would get to work and we would rehearse for an hour and a half, which we've never done. Just rehearse, like a play, because it was a whole act that we were doing for that day…The scenes were so long."

Hargitay said the episode was 35 minutes over. Traditionally episodes sometimes go five minutes long, or in the case of the 400th episode which she directed, 12 minutes, but 35 is virtually unheard of in broadcast television.
"Afterwards I said, ‘I don't know how I'm ever going to go back to regular shooting.' You know, going in, rehearse the scene, shoot the scene. This was like a play and it was one of the greatest not only acting experiences, but definitely one of the greatest SVU experiences of my career, for sure," she said.
She didn't do it alone. Walters, a veteran of Big Love, turns in a performance that had Hargitay believing everything the actress was saying as Laurel. It's a performance Harigtay dubbed as "brave."
"And this actress, Melora Walters, is just from another planet of awesome. I was so blown away. We, obviously, had this kind of beautiful connection and this sort of god-given trust. I still don't know totally where it came from, but it felt like we've been doing it for years, what we did," she said.

"Obviously the subject matter was so heart wrenching and difficult and painful, and it was excruciating…but I felt that she was an incredibly brave. That's all," Hargitay added later. "It's just simply that…It's just that word, that I think goes hand-in-hand with her performance and certainly the excruciating subject matter…It was rough."
Be sure to come back to E! News for more from Hargitay about "Something Happened" and what's next for Benson.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Leave It to Mariska Hargitay to Be the Voice of Reason For Parents in This Sh*tstorm Known as 2017

Let's be clear about one thing: in the wake of the news about Harvey Weinstein and company, young people need decent role models now more than ever before. And judging by Mariska Hargitay's incredible speech at American Girl's private Character Counts reception, she's your go-to woman for the job. The Law & Order: SVU star and mom explained how important having good character is — something many people seem to have forgotten this year. Cough cough.
"We're talking about character tonight," she started her speech. "I was going to say to the young people, but really to everyone, about what is character, what does it mean to have character. To me, character is pretty simple. It's doing the right thing. The first rule of being a person of character is to do the right thing. To do the brave thing. To do the strong thing."
And while Hargitay agrees that doing the right thing every second of every day is certainly challenging, standing up to adversity is what creates change in the first place. And if we can be frank, teaching your kiddos to do what's right even without anyone peering over their shoulders is more important now than before.
"Of course, the tricky thing about this is, that most of the time, it's not the easiest thing," she said. "You decide not to join in, and everyone's doing something they're not supposed to be doing, and you don't do it, and you don't tolerate it, even though they might call you names. That's really being a person of character. Someone that does the right thing, the strong thing, and the brave thing — especially when nobody's watching."
Hargitay also stressed that being true to yourself — even in moments of doubt — is something that children need to be reminded of more. She used some of the evening's young honorees as examples: "The second rule of character is being you — and you ladies have shown that in such a beautiful way tonight. The third rule is being together, because all of this is so much easier when the people in your life, the people who love you, the people who support you, and the people who know what's best for you — those people we call our friends — we do it together."

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