I chose episode “911,” where Olivia Benson is going on a
date but stops because a little girl calls for help but she's locked in a room
and she doesn't know where she is. Then Olivia, for three acts, literally stays
on the phone with this girl, keeping her talking as the phone is losing its
charge. Ultimately, it does lose its charge.
My favorite scene is Olivia racing against the clock to find
where this girl is before the phone loses its power. And the phone goes out
before she has located the exact place. The distress and despair on Benson's
face is just profound.
Ted Kotcheff directed it and he’s a renowned feature film
director, so he did things that scared Mariska. I remember because Mariska
called me to the set and we talked because Ted was doing close-ups of her lips,
talking on the phone, close-ups of her eyes and close-ups in ways that we don't
often see on television. I said to Ted, “Go for it.” We looked at the Alfred
Hitchcock film Marnie, where there
are close-ups of Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery's mouths in a scene and jump
cuts. I said, “Always steal from the best.” So we did these jump cuts of Mariska's
mouth and eyes and we get some real tension. We knew we had the ability to do a
very special episode with Mariska and it paid off.
It's my favorite episode of Mariska's because it shows all
the sides of Benson's character: the warmth, the empathy, the anger and the
despair that can come from working these kinds of cases and the determination
not to give up. She does find the little girl in the end. She's actually been
buried and she has one line in the show and she says, 'Olivia.' And your heart
breaks and you're so relieved. It was such a wonderful journey for Mariska.
The one little sidebar that I think is kind of fun is the
way I figured out how to do it. It’s something that I had done with Dr. Doug
Ross [George Clooney], where he saves a kid on ER and I put him in a tuxedo. We got a lot of attention because the
juxtaposition of being in a tuxedo and saving a kid in a tunnel was really
interesting and fun. So I used that idea for Mariska and put her in the black
cocktail dress -- which she got to pick out -- because she was going on a
really important date. She never makes it to the date but she looks beautiful
in this cocktail dress. So you're looking at her in a very different way, from
the way she was physically dressed on the show. I just loved doing that as a
way to highlight her femininity but also her charging toughness. So, that was a
really fun episode for me to do. And that scene in particular, where she throws
the phone in despair when the little girl is disconnected from her, for me has
always been memorable.
That's the episode that won Mariska the Emmy and Golden
Globe -- so well deserved.
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Neal Baer, Showrunner and Executive Producer
“Swing,” Episode 3, Season 10