Law & Order

This Iconic SVU Benson-Stabler Moment Was Improvised & Surprised Mariska Hargitay

Certain on-screen friendships stand the test of time. Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler’s relationship on Law & Order: SVU is at the top of that list.

The first hug between Benson and Stabler on SVU was not in the script

In a recent interview with Variety Fair (watch below), SVU star Mariska Hargitay turned back the clock and watched some of her character’s most pivotal moments throughout the show’s history — and she was moved while replaying a scene from Season 9, Episode 9 (“Paternity”). Hargitay couldn’t help but be emotional when watching this unforgettable moment between two of the most loved characters in television history.

The scene contains the first on-screen hug between Hargitay’s Benson and Christopher Meloni’s Stabler, and interestingly enough, Hargitay revealed that the embrace was entirely improvised due to some quick thinking by her co-star.

Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) appear Law & Order SVU

“If I’m correct, I think that’s the first time we ever hugged on the show,” she correctly surmised. “And he surprised me with it, and it was so right. And in that scene, I think it’s somewhere where you can really feel everything unspoken, almost more than the spoken word.”

Hargitay isn’t wrong — longtime SVU fans can feel every ounce of emotion running through the characters in that moment. It’s beyond powerful.

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“Chris and I were very careful and very judicious [about] the way we interacted physically [on screen],” she confessed. Which, of course, makes this rare hug all the more resonant.

Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni’s bond is based on trust

Hargitay and Meloni have spent decades building something truly special on-screen — a fact not lost on her.

“I think Chris and I, Benson and Stabler, at the end of the day, it’s all the same,” she explained. “In the relationship, whether it was acting or being partners, there was a level of trust. If I had, like, six dots and this was him and this was me, and then you connect the dots, they connected in so many ways: acting partners, friends, comedians, people that hold each other accountable. We almost had our own language. I mean, here we were for these 12 years, and we spent more time with each other than our spouses. All day we were making this thing together, all day long that we built together, that we created together.”


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