Mariska turns 55 today.

By Christopher Luu
Updated Jan 23, 2019 @ 7:00 am

Olivia Benson may have things all figured out on Law and Order: SVU, but everyone's favorite detective wasn't a pro right away. It took time — 20 years, to be exact — of constant evolution for Benson to become what she is today. And that's one thing that actor Mariska Hargitay can take from her role.

  • The actress, who turns 55 today, has said that leaning into tragedy and "dark edges" are the things that shaped her. One of the darkest edges is the death of her mother, Jayne Mansfield, who died in a gruesome car crash when Hargitay was just 3 years old.
  • "I've learned to lean into the sharp edges," she told Closer last June at an event at L.A.'s Paley Center. "There has been a lot of darkness. But on the other side, things can be so bright."
Credit: NBC/Getty Images

Though she doesn't remember much about Mansfield, Hargitay focuses on the things that most people don't know about her bombshell mom. She told People that her mother was more than just a blonde sex symbol — she had an IQ of 160, she loved to play the violin, and she had five kids. Most people only remember Mansfield for her curves and her sizzling on-screen appeal.

Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

"She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her," Hargitay said. "Someone once said about [remembering] my mother: ‘All you have to do is look in the mirror.' She's with me still."

She's also not just looking backward. As she celebrates another birthday and more time with the SVU crew, she explained to Closer that she's bringing some of Olivia Benson to her own life. She and her husband, Peter Hermann, share three kids, sons August, 11, and Andrew, 6, and daughter Amaya, 7.

"[My character, Olivia], really prepared me for motherhood, because as a cop, you are in charge of any emergency and you need to stay calm, take control," she said. "It's the same thing with being a parent."