It's been nearly 20 years since Law & Order: SVU debuted, but Mariska Hargitay — who has been a series regular since the hit show began in 1999 — is still feeling "inspired and excited" for the upcoming season.
Mariska, 55, who is famously known for her character Lieutenant Olivia Benson, got candid about the 21st season of SVU, which is set to be release in the fall.
“I feel so newly challenged and inspired and excited, which just surprises me,” the actress told People. “I can’t believe how much I care now.”
While it seems like Mariska has been acting on SVU for a lifetime, she did admit that she is “still learning on the show.” She added, “It is so challenging to me. People think, 'Okay, you’ve done it.' And yes, there are scenes where I’m like, ‘I’ve done this scene. I’ve done this scene 5,000 times and I can do it in my sleep and in Chinese.’"
"And then there’s something else, or another moment where I go, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ And I get so happy of how nervous I am,” the star said. "All of a sudden, in a time when you think we’ve done it all, I should be like, ‘Bring her back to the barn, baby.’"
"I am so invigorated by the unknown. I’m as invested as Dick Wolf SVU creator in the milestone. But newly, for some reason," the brunette said.
Although Mariska is excited for the new season and the future of the show, she admitted that there was a time she wasn't sure if she wanted to continue her work on SVU. When her costar Christopher Meloni left in season 12, the 55-year-old also contemplated leaving.
“I did a lot of soul-searching of whether I wanted to go on. I was on my way to being at peace to be done," she said. Mariska ultimately ended up staying on the show due to all of the producing and directing opportunities being thrown her way.
"With all the new things that I’ve learned, I go, ‘I can’t leave the show.’ I’m learning how to direct, I’m learning how to executive produce, I’m learning how to produce-produce. I’m learning about the puzzle of putting things together and weather and actor availability," Mariska said.
Law & Order: SVU will officially become the longest-running drama in TV history when season 21 airs.
Are you excited to watch Mariska on season 21 of 'SVU?' Let us know in the comments below.