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Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay on "Super Sad" Goodbyes, Dealing With Evil and What's Next

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mariska Hargitay James Dimmock/NBC

Spoiler alert if you haven't yet watched tonight's Law & Order: SVU!

That might not be the last we've seen of the Beast...If Mariska Hargitay gets her way.

"I'm pitching a last one with him," Hargitay told E! News exclusively. The "him" in question is William Lewis, played by Orange is the New Black's Pablo Schreiber.

"I want him back. I have such a good idea. I already told Warren [Leight]. It leaves it open and it's so painful and Olivia is left in pain, which I don't like," the SVU star said backstage at NBC's Today. "I don't have closure. And so I want closure. I know how to get it."

READ: Part one of E!'s Mariska Hargitay interview

The "Psycho/Therapist" episode of Law & Order: SVU saw Hargitay's Detective Olivia Benson face Lewis in court, the first time she's seen him since the savage attack he inflicted on her in the SVU season 15 premiere. In the episode, Benson lies. Both about the beating she gave Lewis following her escape and the housekeeper and her daughter she encountered during her captivity.

"[S]he is lying and struggles with lying. It's this idea of lying—‘I'm a cop, I don't lie. I'm about justice and the truth'—and yet it was this: ‘Do I lie and put this guy away because I know that he is evil? I know he is evil. I need to deal with evil, I need to deal with it the way that I can. The way that I can deal with it doesn't feel good and I'm scared to death of it. It scares the s--t out of me. ‘"

Benson grappled with the lies and her encounters with Lewis throughout the episode.

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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mariska Hargitay NBC

"I [as Olivia] felt truly between a rock and a hard place. What do I do? Then you think, ‘Keep your eye on the ball, this guy needs to be put away so he can't hurt other women.' I kept thinking, again, of the protector in me. Olivia's the protector. Other girls, little girls—you keep that little girl in your mind and you do what you got to do. I think she proves to herself, again, the mama bear, the mama bear that she is. And having to reprove it because she lost it, she thought she lost it. This is a time of reevaluating and reassessing who she was. Pull the rug out!"

Look for Benson's journey—along with her time with her therapist played by Bill Irwin—to continue. Hargitay likened this look into Benson and how she's been changed like learning about her childhood heroes. "I think it's also great and sort of levels the playing field when you look at our heroes and we see them as human beings because then it gives you—us—all hope. As kids you think, ‘Oh they're so amazing.' Then you grow up and you're like, ‘I'm just like them.' That's what we're doing, we're sort of trying to look for the inner superhero in all of us, especially kids. That's what I want, to tell young girls, ‘Hey, you're just like me.'"

Before the episode, Hargitay had a message for fans, "never doubt Olivia." Her post-show message: "You've got to go through the fire to get to the other side. You do get to the other side, but you've got to go through the fire. Life is hard. Nobody said it was easy, but you come out and you come out differently...You've got to walk through the fire and trust yourself and you get out on the other side."

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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Cast Warwick Saint/NBC

Hargitay has played Detective Benson since 1999, and during her 15 years on the show she's said goodbye to quite a few co-stars. This season, Richard Belzer's John Munch said goodbye to the squad with Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) following suit soon. Hargitay said the exits have been "super sad."

"It's closing another chapter and it's just hard. It was so hard with Munch because these days are markers in your life. You sort of can't believe the history. I gave a little toast to both of them. Dann was the last one and I had to read what I had written, I was sobbing so hard," she said. "It's not just him, it's Chris [Meloni] and Munch and Dann. But Dann, we've had such a solid connection, such a deep father/daughter relationship over the years. He's just so steady and solid and I loved acting with him and he's one of the funniest people I've ever met. I will miss that and he will be deeply missed. The same with Belzer, all deeply missed. It's an energy that is missed there. But the show is evolving into what it's evolving into. That's also life. There will be a time when I leave too, so I feel like it's getting me ready."

Is an exit on the horizon for Hargitay?

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"I don't know what's going to happen. I know that right now I am so creatively fulfilled and I feel like I'm very happy at work. When I saw this episode, I was so happy and so proud and felt so fortunate that I get to act with this kind of writing and these kinds of actors and this kind of director—I love Mike Slovis. But my team, I feel like we've created this acting team. Raul [Esparza], Danny [Pino], Kelli [Giddish] and I—we do scenes and we say ‘No acting!' We're like a team and it feels so good to do scenes like that. And then Pablo and I…I think Pablo and I kind of have a thing that you can't put words to. It feels like that."

Hargitay will step behind the camera for an upcoming episode of SVU. It will be her first time directing and Hargitay said she's excited and nervous to dive in.

"It's a long time coming; I've wanted to do it for a while. There are a lot of things that I've learned and collected. I know how to get performances, I know what buttons to push in people and I've been doing it for a long time…Since I've been on SVU, I get more joy, sometimes, from helping somebody else with their performance than my own. That's when I got the idea...It's just this idea of helping to tell the story or even help people get in touch, like how people help me to get to my soul. I'm up for the challenge...It feels like a natural progression."

Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on NBC

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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