Mariska Hargitay: Future On ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Remains Uncertain

Mariska Hargitay has spent the last 15 years playing Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but her future on the show is growing uncertain.

Hargitay committed to the show last year, signing a deal in May that brought her back for the 15th season of the crime drama. But at the same time, the actress has been expanding her artistic horizons, suggesting that her days on the popular NBC show could be numbered.

This week Mariska Hargitay will move behind the camera for the first time, directing the March 19 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The episode, titled “Criminal Stories,” centers on the rape of a young Muslim woman that’s investigated as a hate crime.

Hargitay said that directing has always been a dream.

“I’m thrilled to be directing,” Hargitay said in a statement. “It’s been a goal of mine for a long time, and it’s quite an experience to see it realized. My respect for the process of making this show and telling these important stories deepens with every scene we shoot. I have always been so honored to work with this cast and crew, but never more so than now, as a director collaborating in a new way.”

Though Mariska Hargitay did not say if she wanted to spend more time directing, signs indicate that her days on Law & Order: SVU could be coming to an end. There was uncertainty whether she would return for this year, and it reportedly took weeks of negotiations to reach a deal with NBC to bring her back.

The past two seasons has already seen an exodus of long-running stars of the show. Prior to last year, Christopher Meloni, who played Hargitay’s on-screen partner, left the show. This season has seen two more longtime actors leave — Dann Florek and Richard Belzer.

Mariska Hargitay has also been increasing her stature outside the show, expanding her work as a real-life an advocate for victims. She founded the the Joyful Heart foundation, which offers services to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and last week joined officials in Michigan to push for legislation that would clear a backlog of untested rape kits in Detroit.

Though it may be unclear what Mariska Hargitay will do next, the future of Law & Order: SVU is a bit more certain. The show has kept consistent in ratings, and is seen as a lock to return for a 16th season.