"Being sexy is just one part of being a woman and an actress. But if the part
calls for sexy…" Mariska Hargitay.
Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Mariska Hargitay is widely
recognized while playing Detective Olivia Benson in NBC's spin-off drama “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit” (a.k.a. “SVU”; 1999 - present). The daughter of the
'50s and '60s screen siren Jayne Mansfield and Hungarian bodybuilder Mickey
Hargitay has also appeared in a recurring role on "ER" and in the films Leaving
Las Vegas (1995) and Lake Placid (1999).
5' 7" tall, German/English & Hungarian descendant Hargitay, who has 36-24-36
measurements, won the Miss Beverly Hills pageant in 1982. She was named by
People magazine as one of their “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2005 and “World's
Most Beautiful People” in 2006. Before her marriage with actor Peter Hermann,
Hargitay was romantically linked to executive Lance Young in 1990.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest daughter of legendary actress and sexual icon of the '50s and '60s
Jayne Mansfield (a.k.a. Vera Jane Palmer; born on April 19, 1933; died in 1967
because of road accident) and Hungarian-born former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay
(was also a body builder and actor; born on January 6, 1926), Mariska Hargitay
was born on January 23, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. Italian-American
cabaret performer Nelson Sardelli, who was dating her mother at the time of her
conception, has claimed to be her biological father, which Mariska has never
acknowledged. Mariska has two older brothers: Zoltan Hargitay (born on August 1,
1960) and Mickey Hargitay (born on December 21, 1958). Her parents married on
January 13, 1958 but divorced on August 26, 1964. Her mother then married
director Matt Cimber (born in 1936) on September 24, 1964, and Mariska then have
a half younger brother, Antonio Raphael Ottaviano Cimber (born on October 18,
1965). She also has a half older sister, Jayne Marie Mansfield (actress; born on
November 8, 1950), from her mother's first marriage.
On June 29, 1967, 3-year-old Mariska and her two brothers, Zoltan and Mickey
Jr., were asleep in the back seat of a car when it crashed into the back of a
trailer truck instantly killing her mother, the driver and her mother’s
boyfriend, attorney Sam Brody. Miraculously, Mariska and her brothers escaped
with minor injuries. The accident left Mariska with a zigzag scar down the side
of her head.
During her high school years, Mariska was involved in cheerleading, student
government, athletics and theater. She then went off to study theater at UCLA
School of Theater Film and Television and graduated in 1987. Mariska, who speaks
English, Hungarian, French and Italian, is also an alumna of the Kappa Kappa
"It's my first marriage. I wanted to find out where I was going before I found
out who was going with me." Mariska Hargitay (on her marriage to Peter Hermann).
In April 2004, Mariska announced her engagement to “Special Victims Unit” actor
Peter Hermann (born on August 15, 1967). They were married on August 28, 2004,
at California's Unitarian Historical Chapel. The couple's wedding was in Santa
Barbara in front of 200 guests. On June 28, 2006, Mariska and Peter welcomed
their first child together, a son named August. They now divide their time
between New York and Los Angeles.
Mariska, a certified rape crisis counselor, is the founder of the Joyful Heart
Foundation, a non-profit organization which aids the victims of rape to swim
with wild dolphins in Hawaiian waters as therapy. She also has worked with the
Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention program, NBC's “The More
You Know” campaign, the Safe Horizons advocacy project, Santa Monica Rape Crisis
Treatment Center, Project ALS, Girl Scouts of the USA, and the James Redford
Institute for Transplant Awareness.
In The Show
"As an actress, there were so many months, years even, when I didn't get work,
when I wanted to quit." Mariska Hargitay (about starting out as an actress).
Inheriting the beauty of her screen icon mother, Mariska Hargitay won the title
of Miss Beverly Hills in 1982 and made her screen debut in the next year with a
small part in director Bob Fosse's biopic Star 80 (starring Mariel Hemingway),
based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice article "Death of a Playmate"
by Teresa Carpenter. After appearing in Luca Bercovici's Gremlins-like
horror-comedy film Ghoulies (1985), Hargitay had a solid role as one of a trio
of young women working for a wacky dude ranch for the summer, in Terry Carr's
sex comedy Welcome to 18 (1986; alongside Courtney Thorne-Smith).
In 1986, Hargitay landed on her first regular role in TV series on CBS’ cop
drama "Downtown." She then played a role in Steve Carver's tennis comedy Jocks
(1987) and joined her father in the Hungarian-made Mr. Universe (1988). She also
played a recurring role, as Carly Fixx, on the CBS primetime soap "Falcon
Crest." Meanwhile, Hargitay was spotted as guest in shows like the syndicated
late-night anthology series "Freddy's Nightmares," the popular lifeguard show
"Baywatch," the crime drama "Wiseguy," the ground-breaking and award-winning
drama "thirtysomething," a spin-off of 21 Jump Street "Booker" and ABC's
short-lived show "Gabriel's Fire."
On the wide screen, Hargitay could be seen in writer-director John Lee Hancock's
romantic comedy Hard Time Romance (with Leon Rippy and Tom Everett), Mark
DiSalle's kenpo vengeance saga The Perfect Weapon (starring Jeff Speakman) and
the Japanese-made Sutoroberi rodo (a.k.a. Strawberry Road; all three in 1991).
She also returned to TV series playing a police officer in the short-lived CBS’
1992 series “Tequila and Bonetti,” and guest starred on an episode of
"Grapevine," "Hotel Room," "Key West," NBC’s popular sitcom “Seinfeld,” playing
one of the actors auditioning for Jerry, and ABC’s sitcom "All American Girl."
After appearing in writer-director Nick Mead's comedy Bank Robber (1993; with
Patrick Dempsey and Lisa Bonet), Hargitay could be seen playing a hooker at a
bar who tangles with Nicolas Cage in Mike Figgis' adaptation of a
semiautobiographical novel by John O'Brien, Leaving Las Vegas (1995; also
starring Elisabeth Shue). That same year, Hargitay displayed her considerable
comedic chops as Nancy McKeon's sexy next-door neighbor Didi Edelstein in the
CBS short-lived sitcom “Can't Hurry Love.”
Hargitay continued to make guest star appearances in shows like "Ellen," "The
Single Guy," was a regular on the short-lived NBC drama "Prince Street" and
appeared in the pilot for the ABC series "Cracker." She later gained wide
recognition when she joined the cast members of the NBC popular medical drama
"ER," playing the recurring role of Cynthia Hooper (1997-1998), an erratic
single mother and desk clerk who falls for Anthony Edwards' Dr Mark Greene. She
also shared the screen with Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda in Steve Miner's 1999
comedy/horror film Lake Placid.
"As a woman, it's gratifying to play a part that's a multi-layered challenge.
Olivia is not only a competent, street-smart cop, she's an empathetic woman who
can respond emotionally to victims of terrible crimes without compromising her
professionalism." Mariska Hargitay (on her role as Detective Olivia Benson in
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit").
In 1999, Hargitay landed on her most prominent role to date, as the special
victims unit’s veteran Detective Olivia Benson, a policewoman specializing in
sex crimes, on the NBC drama spin-off "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
(a.k.a. “SVU”). Hargitay’s brilliant turn in the long-running series won her a
Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series -
Drama in 2005 and an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 2006,
becoming the first woman ever from the “Law & Order” franchise to receive award
nominations and wins.
In a part of her 2005 Golden Globe acceptance speech, Hargitay said: "50 years
ago, my mother stood on this stage accepting this award. She was fortunate
enough to have my Dad with her. 50 years later, I'm fortunate enough to have my
Dad with me. I love you Dad."
"SVU," the highest rated series of the "Law & Order" franchise, has been renewed
for an 8th season.
"Everything has combined to make my life in New York an amazing experience. I
told my manager a few years ago that I wanted to move here and try acting in the
Theatre. Then this show came up. Now I'm in this show that means something to me
and a lot of other people."
Emmy: Best Actress in a Drama Series, “Law & Order: Special Victims
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series -
Drama, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2005