Mariska Hargitay and Dr. Neal Baer Tell All About 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'

Actress and Producer discuss where the show is headed, the relationship between Benson and Stabler, and much, much more...
Mariska Hargitay and Dr. Neal Baer Tell All About Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

Mariska Hargitay and Dr. Neal Baer discuss the inner workings of this gripping show


Inspired by real cases Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a hard hitting, gritty show that follows an elite group of detectives who investigate sexually based crimes. Nominated for numerous Emmy's and Golden Globes, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is showing no signs of letting up in it's Eighth Season on NBC.

We recently got to sit on an interview with Mariska Hargitay (Detective Olivia Benson) and executive producer Dr. Neal Baer as they discussed the direction of the show.

Mariska, was there ever any talk of them working your pregnancy into the series?

Mariska Hargitay: No. (Laughs) There wasn't. I didn't know what they were going to do. The show being what it is and the writing being what it is, I had utter trust that they would come up to an amazing sort of answer to it. It was great. It was actually really fun and really challenging to cover it up and I think they handled it really well and really creatively.

Neal Baer: While Mariska is ready... Olivia, we didn't feel was ready to be a mother, yet. We had a show "Scheherazade" with Brian Dennehy... we did a show at the beginning of January that had actually been shot last year and we had to hold it because we didn't have a slot for it this season. I remember in the dailies, Mariska was doing a scene where she was bent down... and she couldn't get up, right Mariska?

Mariska Hargitay: (Laughs) Neal you're sharing all the family secrets?

Do you find it tough to come up with new story lines for this show because you have already done so many?

Neal Baer: We aren't as ripped from the headlines as the other shows. Because we're so much more focused on Special Victims, meaning elderly, children, and sex crimes. We are often amazed at our shows, we say, "The headlines are ripped from us." For instance, there's a very famous story now about a guy who disguised himself as a 12 year old and went into schools. We're stunned because we had already written the script and it's about a young woman who did that.

We don't really look for headlines per se, but we look for more ethical and social issues. For instance, a show in March is on Teen Alcohol abuse. I read an article about, I'm a pediatrician as well, how there's been leaps in terms of research about the effects of alcohol on teenage brains. I'm really interested in that and that kids who drink alcohol, fairly regularly before they're 14 have a 48% chance... of becoming alcoholics. We tend to fold in more of that kind of work into our show.

Neal, how important do you think it was for the show to get Mariska and Christopher Meloni (Detective Elliot Stabler) signed for another year?

Neal Baer: Well, first of all I gotta say, and I'm not sure about the statistics, but I think I may be correct, for Mariska to have won the Emmy in the seventh year of the show, and for Chris to be nominated last year was truly phenomenal and spectacular for us. It's really hard to keep the buzz going. We understand that when you have all these new shows on, we've been on for awhile, so we certainly enjoy that we're comfort food. It's no surprise to us that Mariska and Chris are extremely popular because the show is doing well, and for that reason I think the cases are so focused through them and through Ice-T as well... we understand the cases through their consciousness. As I've said in the past, nobody knows if we'll be here tomorrow, all of us are replaceable, but aside from that I think it's important to have Chris and Mariska on the show because that's what the show is.

Where would you like to see the relationship between Benson and Stabler go?

Mariska Hargitay: It's been such an incredibly exciting ride. Our relationship is a very close one and a very complex one. Sometimes it's like brother/sister, sometimes there's all this chemistry. I think what makes Benson and Stabler so close is their passion and their love for the same job, and their respect and understanding. And the fact that they're in a job that is so difficult. They say that the average lifespan of an SVU detective is 4 years. People can't do it longer than that because it's so difficult. Here are two cops who have been in it so long and are basically very isolated in a way, because to the rest of the world nobody understands them.

In that you get such a deep closeness. They have so much sexually chemistry. Sometimes they get so close and that's frustrating, when they get free it feels like a betrayal. It's just loaded and layered. Now what's interesting is that we're back together and sort of stronger than ever. A lot of people ask me, "Will they ever get together?" I know people want that. Sometimes I think even Olivia wants that because she needs a man in her life, but I don't think that will ever happen. Neal what do you think?

Neal Baer: I think the last episode of sweeps in February and the first in May really illustrate a maturation in their relationship, where in the past, Benson has always had to stick up for Stabler. You'll see some real problems that Benson's having where Stabler now has to stick up for her, which we've really, truly never seen before. It's pretty intense and interesting. Who can say? You never can say never but it's still evolving and lots of things are happening to Benson this year, so Stabler takes on kind of a different role.

I understand that Adam Beach will be joining the cast. I wonder if you can talk about that at all?

Neal Baer: Mariska hasn't worked with Adam because the first show we did with him Chris wasn't with Adam it was Ice-T. Chris has in one scene. Adam is going to be in the last episode with Ludacris this year, and you'll see how... Adam fits in. He's a Special Victim's detective from Brooklyn. We're really excited. I've been a fan of his work. I believe, I could be wrong, he's one of the first American Indian lead actors on television. We've never seen one who's a cop. We talked with some law enforcement people who are American Indian and they were very excited because it's a group that doesn't get strong play on television. We thought, "Wow, we can bring in so many interesting things about this character."

I can tell you that he is a Special Victim, he will click with Benson... while she's not a Special Victim she's the product of a rape. Adam's character, his name is Chester Lake, he will be a detective who truly was a Special Victim. I won't say how or why, it'll come up. He has his own way of doing things that will cause problems... it' will be very interesting to see how it all comes out.

Mariska, how do you prepare for some of the more serious scenes on the show? Like seeing your partner getting shot?

Mariska Hargitay: Acting, for me, I like to call it the "What if?" game. I sort of had a Meisner Technique in that. Chris and I are so close that I don't really have to go anywhere else. It wasn't really that hard to act when you see somebody holding a gun to your partner. It's also believing the circumstances and I believed it. Elliot is everything that Olivia has. Emotionally, I'm talking about. He is her life. He is her stability. He is her family.

Will Olivia go searching for her biological father?

Neal Baer: I will say that Olivia does something next week that sets her on a journey, and this is all I can say, this is what's tying into all these shows... it sets her on a journey she never expected to go on.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c on NBC.

Dont't forget to also check out: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit


Sources: Evan Jacobs

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