Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC

By Lanford Beard
Updated September 21, 2016 10:00 PM
Credit: Giovanni Ruffino/NBC

Mariska Hargitay has had to portray a lot of terrifying, disturbing scenarios in 17 seasons on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but the actress and mother of three was especially impacted by one shocking scene in the season 18 premiere.

Spoiler warning: If you haven’t watched SVU‘s season 18 premiere, “Terrorized,” plot details will be revealed.

“I don’t even [have] words,” said Hargitay, 52, about this season’s unsettling opening scene, in which a young boy points a loaded gun at Det. Olivia Benson and her son Noah.

“Nothing with children is comparable to anything in the past,” Hargitay continued during a recent press event for the show. “Your brain can’t even download it. I mean, when I read it I was like [gasp] and then doing it was the same. It was insane.”

This season marks charter cast member Hargitay’s 400th episode with SVU, and the actress was quick to acknowledge, “I feel like the luckiest person on the planet, I really do. Quite frankly, we all know that I am. I mean really, talk about hitting the jackpot goldmine. I can’t believe it.”

That said, the actress did set her sights on this particular brass ring even before she knew it might be within reach.

“When I was at ER I thought all I wanted to do was be on ER,” she recalled of her 18-episode stint on the hit medical series opposite Anthony Edwards (who, coincidentally, will be guest-starring on SVU in season 18).

After her contract ended, Hargitay remembered, “I called my agent I was like, ‘What are we going do? I’ve been on the No. 1 show, this is the best show in the world, now what am I going to do?’ And I said – this is a true story – I said, ‘I guess I should be on Law & Order because that [show creator] Dick Wolf likes brunettes!’ ”

The kicker? “And I’m not kidding you, within like two months I got the audition for SVU. That was crazy. But who knew [it would last this long]? I mean we didn’t know, I didn’t know. I knew when I read it was the greatest show I’d ever read for and I got goose bumps and all of that, but I didn’t know.”

And Edwards is just one of several impressive guest stars this season, two of whom will join Hargitay next week in the ripped-from-the-headlines riff on Making a Murderer called “Making a Rapist.”

Henry Thomas plays the Steven Avery-inspired suspect of the episode’s title, and Vice President Joe Biden will cameo as himself.

Hargitay, who has worked frequently with Biden to raise awareness around issues of rape and domestic violence through her Joyful Heart Foundation, calls the VP’s appearance “a dream come true. Joe Biden is one of the greatest people on the planet. He’s the real deal, I have so much admiration, respect, love. I don’t usually throw out the word ‘hero,’ I don’t, but he’s probably mine. It was amazing, and he is just grace incarnate in so many ways. He puts everyone at ease. Talk about a heart and a mind being in the right place.”

She adds, “It’s such a beautiful scene, it’s what he does. It was fantastic.”

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC.