Mariska Hargitay

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Actress Mariska Hargitay (at the Golden Globe Awards 2005)

Mariska Magdolina Hargitay (pronounced "mah-RISH-kah") is an American actress best known for her role as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Born on January 23, 1964, she is the fourth of Jayne Mansfield's five children. Mansfield had divorced Hungarian-born former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay (and would again in 1964), yet they were living together when Mariska was born. While actor Nelson Sardelli claims to have fathered her (her dark features in contrast to those of the sons Mansfield and Hargitay had would seem to support this), Hargitay, apparently, never questioned the child's paternity and raised her as his own.

On the night of June 29, 1967, Mariska and two of her brothers were asleep in the back seat of the car their mother and her boyfriend, lawyer Sam Brody, were riding in when it smashed into the back of a tractor-trailer. Mansfield, Brody, and their driver were killed instantly. Had the children not been lying down, they, too, would have been killed. But, miraculously, they escaped with minor bruises. Mariska, who has no memory of the accident, was left with a zig-zag scar down the side of her head.

Hargitay majored in theatre at UCLA and began her acting career by appearing on the television series, Falcon Crest in 1987. She learned her father's native language, Hungarian, but also speaks fluent French, English, and Italian.

In April 2004, she announced her engagement to Special Victims Unit actor Peter Hermann. They were married on August 28, 2004 in California.

Mariska won a Golden Globe in 2005 in the category of Best Actress in a Drama Series. Her father and husband both attended the ceremony. She dedicated the award to her mother.

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