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Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay Gained A Whole New Point Of View When She Began Directing

Sometimes, spin-offs of the original series can arguably be better received than the original. This was the case with  "NCIS," which actually started as a spin-off, and the same can be said about "Law & Order: SVU." After beginning in 1999, nine years after the premiere of "Law & Order," the show took off and became the longest-running primetime series in television history in 2019 with its 21st season (via The Hollywood Reporter). As far as what could have contributed to this record-breaking moment, many qualities make "Law & Order: SVU" popular amongst audiences (via Rotten Tomatoes). The series notably focuses on sexually-based crimes, with some that are a little more chilling than others. The gravity of the fictional episodes, sometimes being a plausible real-world scenario, has shocked fans. Still, a successful show must have a great lead, and many might say Mariska Hargitay does that as Detective Olivia Benson.

That's not to say the rest of the team doesn't contribute equally as much. Ice-T's Detective Odafin 'Fin' Tutuola, Christopher Meloni's Detective Elliot Stabler (who also has his spin-off with "Law & Order: Organized Crime"), Kelli Giddish's Detective Amanda Rollins, and more make the Special Victims Unit what it is. However, Hargitay's Benson has been a steady and reliable voice. Not to mention she has appeared in more episodes than any cast member, recently hitting the 500-episode mark (via People).

It is undoubtedly her most known role, and the show would even serve as her first opportunity to direct, which she says helped her gain a whole new perspective.

Mariska Hargitay says directing helped her become a better storyteller

Actors are very obviously a crucial link in the process of telling a story through film and television. They get the spotlight, but those who work behind the camera are just as essential to the final product, if not arguably more important. While speaking with USA Network in 2019 about having opportunities to direct episodes of "Law & Order: SVU," Mariska Hargitay explained that it gave her a new outlook on the process of making the show. "Directing has been profound," she said. "It helped me understand all of the moving pieces. As an actor, you're sort of focused on your role and what you need to do, and directing obviously is a huge zoom-out," Hargitay continued. She would go on to explain that it has helped her tell the story in each episode more effectively. "It's just made me a better storyteller in every way," she said.

Hargitay has directed seven "Law & Order: SVU" episodes since 2014 (via IMDb), and it remains the only show thus far that she has sat in the director's chair. She's also been an executive producer on the series since 2016, with about 130 episodes under her belt.

She still helms "Law & Order: SVU" as Benson for Season 24, with new episodes every Thursday at 9/8c on NBC.