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Feb 27 2018

Mariska Hargitay Opens Up About Her Injury – Mariska Hargitay Interview

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Mariska Hargitay: “I Had So Much to Lose, So Much to Live For”

Every so often, you meet somebody who exudes gratitude from every pore. And as Mariska Hargitay walks out of her home to greet me in a white bathrobe, with wet hair, a wide smile, and an enviable natural beauty, I immediately feel like I am in the presence of a girlfriend. Everything about Mariska makes you feel comfortable, interesting, appreciated, and, well, grateful to be here. Mariska simply radiates infectious gratitude.

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She has just jumped out of the pool, she explains, and being in the water with her 3-year-old son is her favorite place to be. She and her husband of five years, actor Peter Hermann, are tucking their family into their new house on New York’s Long Island, busy renovating the details and making it feel like theirs, inside and out.

Soothing ocean and beach hues fill the house. There are shells and books and family photos, including some of Mariska’s famous actress mother, Jayne Mansfield, and her father, Mickey Hargitay, a former Mr. Universe. Framed in the powder room is evidence of Mariska’s great genetics: her mother’s bikini and a magazine cover of her famously fit father.

After an unusually intense spring, Mariska is already feeling healed by this time off with family. She’s finally recovered from a severe injury she sustained last fall on the Law Order: SVU set, one that sent her on a scary, months-long roller-coaster ride. Last October, while shooting an episode, doing her own stunts as usual, Mariska jumped and landed in such a way that a microscopic bleed began in her lung tissue. In January of this year, she was admitted to the hospital. Her lung had collapsed, and it would eventually require multiple surgeries to repair. The experience shook her to the core and cracked open a fissure into old wounds.

The origin of those wounds for Mariska was the death of her 34-year-old mother in a car accident. Mariska, only 3 at the time, was asleep in the backseat. She doesn’t remember the accident, but trauma from that experience has forged her current outlook on life. “Losing my mother at such an early age is the scar of my soul,” she tells me. “But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I did to be here.”

The birth of her son, August, in 2006 brought her to a new level of appreciation of her journey. She now lives in what she describes as “an interesting reality between loss and gratitude.” But she’s quick to note that it’s the gratitude side of the equation that is winning these days. “Becoming a parent erased many of my negative childhood feelings and filled them in with something new,” she explains. Her husband has been a big part of that healing too. “I wish I’d met him 10 years ago,” she confides, as if all the years to come won’t be enough time to contain their plans. “But everything in my life prepared me for meeting Peter. I am so grateful.”

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Looking at Mariska now, 45 and at peace in her place of calm, you see only a woman comfortable in her own skin. “I would spend a year here if I could, reflecting, being with my son and husband,” she says. “This is the spot I’d retire to.”

But far from retiring, Mariska is hitting her stride, taking center stage in the life she has created. Her role as Detective Olivia Benson on SVU led her to create the Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse reclaim their lives. Both projects along with her family sustain her on a deep level. And where she is today is a place she could not have envisioned reaching early in her career, when, she laughingly recounts, she was fired as Dulcea, friend of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, on a movie set in Australia. “I was lucky enough to have a father who said, ‘Don’t quit.’ So I just kept going.” It’s this buoyancy, this ability not to give up, that has allowed Mariska to take tragedy and loss and turn the telescope around to feel like, in her own words, “the luckiest person in the world.”

See Mariska’s Most Treasured Family Photos

Do you remember exactly how your injury last fall happened?
On October 16, I was doing a stunt chasing a bad guy. I’d always insisted on doing the stunts my own way, although I don’t feel so strongly about that anymore. I jumped and landed on pads, but on the second take something happened I just landed wrong. I got up and felt that something inside was not quite right. At first I thought I had the wind knocked out of me. I was angry with myself. Later, I thought maybe I’d pulled a muscle, but I didn’t focus on the injury and kept expecting it to get better.

What happened next?
I didn’t know for three months that something was really wrong. At first I seemed to get better. But then two weeks later I had chest pains and shortness of breath. My grandfather died of a heart attack at 34, and my mom died at the same age. At first I worried it was a heart attack. Then someone pointed out that my heart was on the other side!

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