"Thrilling, invigorating, challenging, painful, exciting," those are the words Mariska Hargitay used to describe "Something Happened," the Wednesday, Nov. 29 episode of Law & Order: SVU.
This isn't a normal episode of NBC's long-running drama, now in season 19. The episode is a break from SVU's traditional structure of crime, investigation, and litigation, and is largely a two-hander between Hargitay and guest star Melora Walters. Hargitay's Olivia Benson bares all to Melora Walters' Laurel, a rape victim who struggles to recount the events of her assault, in an interview with more twists and turns than a typical SVU episode.
"Oh my gosh, I have got to tell you. I feel like it's for me—you know I've been doing this a long time—I think it's one of my Top 5, for sure, experiences on the show. It was such a joy, and so incredibly challenging and everything about it was unique and different," Hargitay said. "After doing a show for 19 years, it was like doing a play. And every day nothing about it was the same. Every day we would get to work and we would rehearse for an hour and a half, which we've never done. Just rehearse, like a play, because it was a whole act that we were doing for that day…The scenes were so long."
Hargitay said the episode was 35 minutes over. Traditionally episodes sometimes go five minutes long, or in the case of the 400th episode which she directed, 12 minutes, but 35 is virtually unheard of in broadcast television.
"Afterwards I said, ‘I don't know how I'm ever going to go back to regular shooting.' You know, going in, rehearse the scene, shoot the scene. This was like a play and it was one of the greatest not only acting experiences, but definitely one of the greatest SVU experiences of my career, for sure," she said.
She didn't do it alone. Walters, a veteran of Big Love, turns in a performance that had Hargitay believing everything the actress was saying as Laurel. It's a performance Harigtay dubbed as "brave."
"And this actress, Melora Walters, is just from another planet of awesome. I was so blown away. We, obviously, had this kind of beautiful connection and this sort of god-given trust. I still don't know totally where it came from, but it felt like we've been doing it for years, what we did," she said.
"Obviously the subject matter was so heart wrenching and difficult and painful, and it was excruciating…but I felt that she was an incredibly brave. That's all," Hargitay added later. "It's just simply that…It's just that word, that I think goes hand-in-hand with her performance and certainly the excruciating subject matter…It was rough."
Be sure to come back to E! News for more from Hargitay about "Something Happened" and what's next for Benson.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)