Mariska Hargitay was born Mariska Magdolna Hargitay on January 23, 1964 in Santa Monica, California. Since her mother's death in a car accident back in 1967, she and her brothers were raised by their father and stepmother. Majoring in theater at UCLA, she made her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film "Ghoulies", that saw her delivering a memorable performance as Donna. She continued tackling minor parts in various short-lived television shows afterwards while also appeared a few times on the nighttime soap "Falcon Crest". She, moreover, also acted in the hit film "Leaving Las Vegas".
Hargitay's major TV debut was in the 1986 adventure drama series "Downtown" as Jesse Smith. This was followed by several guest starring roles on some other features until late 1900s, like "Baywatch", "Falcon Crest", "Thirtysomething", "Seinfeld", and "The Single Guy". Beginning from 1997 to 1998, she was billed to star as Cynthia Hooper on the top-rated show "ER". Starring on the series for a total of 13 episodes, in fact, was enough to give her a career boost and pave her way smoother in acting. In fact, she next landed a part as New York City sex crimes Detective Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit". The character, in addition to earn her multiple nominations, also won her a Golden Globe Award for the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama also an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy Award.
Personally, Hargitay was influenced a lot by her character of Olivia Benson as many fans of the show who were abused, would write to her. This then prompted her to establish a non-profit organization called "Joyful Heart Foundation" which was meant to help "survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse." She and actor husband Peter Hermann have been married since August 28, 2004. They have a son, August Miklos Friedrich Hermann (b. 2006) and two adopted children; Amaya Josephine and Andrew Nicolas Hargitay Hermann.