Law & Order: SVU's Olivia Benson Was Named After Dick Wolf's Family Member

When "Law & Order" first hit the small screen in 1990, Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy emerged as the heart and soul of the series, not to mention one of the most enduring characters in primetime. A few years later, the nascent franchise struck gold again with another beloved protagonist: Detective Olivia Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay. Hargitay has become synonymous with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and Benson is officially the longest-running live-action television character in history.

Dick Wolf couldn't have predicted the character's longevity when he created the series ahead of its 1999 premiere, but he surely knew there was something special about her. When it came time to name Benson, he looked to another special person for inspiration: his daughter, Olivia Wolf. He also named the fiery Detective Stabler (Christopher Meloni) after his son, Elliot.

Wolf divorced the mother of his children, Christine Marburg, in 2005 and went on to have two more kids with his third wife, Noelle Lippman. Still, only two of his five kids had TV characters named after them.

Benson and Stabler's namesakes could be part of the reason why the will-they-won't-they partners never got together; their sibling connection certainly adds an ick factor, even if Wolf insists that it came down to storytelling. "I don't anticipate them running off and living together as much as the audience would like that," Wolf told Entertainment Tonight. "Anticipation is the most exciting part of most relationships ...The chase is always better."

Law & Order is a family affair

Naming Detectives Benson and Stabler after his kids was the sort of fatherly gesture that only a TV titan like Dick Wolf could pull off. For the famed producer, also known for his "One Chicago" franchise, family is central to the entire Wolf Entertainment enterprise.

"Our whole group really approaches everything with a very loyal, family mentality," Anastasia Puglisi told Variety. In seven years, she worked her way up from assistant to senior vice president and supervising producer for Wolf's empire. "Most everyone here has been part of the company for a long time, and newer people coming in recognize that right away. We treat everyone with respect. There is truly collaboration across the board."

Elliot Wolf's connection to the "Law & Order" franchise extends beyond the honor of acting as a character's namesake. He joined Wolf Entertainment as the head of digital in 2018 and has since worked to expand the company's social media presence and create an online community for fans of his father's work. He also co-created the half-hour series "On Call."

For the elder Wolf, family and business are inextricably linked. "I've got five kids," he said in the same piece for Variety. "The thing that I have most strenuously tried to push into their skulls is what I live by — don't ever, ever, ever give up. And 'Law & Order' is the perfect example."