With “SVU” reaching its 20th season on air, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” creator Dick Wolf and star Mariska Hargitay stated that the show not only has its own place within the #MeToo movement, but that it helped start it.
“We’ve been talking about sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse for 20 years, and I am so deeply incredibly proud of that,” Hargitay said at the Paley Center for Media on Monday. “This show has been a true maverick, a true pioneer. That’s why I keep saying that we’re in this beautiful cultural change. It’s like all the stars have lined up, and we’ve been telling these stories for years.”
In a panel later in the evening with show creator Dick Wolf, he said Hargitay and “SVU” have both helped to make the dialogue accessible to audiences and help survivors share their stories.
“I think it’s opened the door to a multitude of conversations over the years,” Wolf said. “If you look at the #MeToo movement, it’s like she founded [it] a long time ago. If you go back to the first season, it’s still incredibly on point to what’s happening in this country.”
Hargitay said one of her goals while working on “SVU” was to be able to get audiences to metabolize the stories told on the show and hopefully impact change in the real world.
“We started the conversation. If we can talk about this at the water cooler the next day like, ‘Did you see ‘SVU?’ I wish Olivia Benson was my detective,’ all of a sudden these conversations start opening up everywhere,” Hargitay said. “I was so blown away by the different type of fan I was encountering, not just a fan that was like, ‘I love you, can I get an autograph?’ but a woman, whether it be a letter or on the street or breaking into tears saying you changed my life.”
Hargitay said she hopes to continue the conversation into the show’s 20th season and continue to change the culture as she intended when she first took on the show in 1999.
“I knew very early it wasn’t just a TV show, I knew very early this was the beginning of a cultural shift,” Hargitay said.
Despite Harvey Weinstein pleading not guilty to rape charges, Hargitay said she believes the victims of the disgraced movie producer will see justice this time around.
“I think it’s going to play out the way it should play out. I think that there’s strength in numbers and the truth eventually comes out,” Hargitay told Variety on the red carpet. “I think people are starting to see the light and the truth. This is something that has been historically swept under the carpet and that’s just not happening anymore.”