Law and Order: SVU Will Run as Long as Mariska Hargitay Wants to Play Benson

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Law & Order: SVU will never leave you…at least as long as Mariska Hargitay is involved.

At a Paley Center event, NBC’s Robert Greenblatt said the long-running drama starring Hargitay as Lt. Olivia Benson, which is entering season 20 this fall, will continue as long as Hargitay wants to do the show. Hargitay has been with the series since its launch in 1999 and won an Emmy for her portrayal of Benson.

With the upcoming season 20, Law & Order: SVU ties Gunsmoke and the original Law & Order as the longest-running scripted live-action American drama series.

“I’m still processing it because it’s a lifetime of processing. I’m just so full of gratitude and so excited that I get to do what I love to do everyday,” Hargitay told E! News about SVU‘s historical new season.

But, Hargitay said there are moments when she steps outside of the bubble SVU filming exists in, like the Paley Center event, that “it’s such a marker and it’s so beautiful to celebrate.”

“When you’re just in it, it’s hard to fully take it in,” she said. “So I’m just grateful for this role, for this part, for [Dick Wolf‘s] vision and that I’ve gotten to mine a character for so long that is still deeply challenging to me and inspiring to me and necessary and timely, and I think truly changing the culture.”

It doesn’t seem like Hargitay is hanging up her TV badge and gun soon.

“It’s deeply in me. I was just saying the other day, I don’t know any more where Mariska ends and Olivia starts. They’re just becoming so enmeshed and entwined, and I think that’s a good thing,” Hargitay told E! News on set of SVU ahead of the season 19 premiere. “You know what? Nineteen years later and I’m finding myself deeply inspired and committed and finding new places to go and challenged. I want to be challenged. As long as that’s happening, I’m very happy and very fulfilled.”

As for what’s next for Benson, she did tease she’s going to do something with the character she has yet to do in the last 19 seasons, but she won’t reveal what that is.

Law & Order: SVU returns with new episodes this fall on a new night, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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