For more than 20 years, Law & Order: SVU has been with us and at its heart was always Mariska Hargitay. The NBC TV drama made TV history on Thursday, Sept. 26 with the premiere of its 21st season. The new season means Law & Order: SVU is the longest-running drama in TV history, surpassing the 20 seasons of both Gunsmoke and the original Law & Order. What would life be like without Law & Order: SVU? That's something we never have to imagine, but we did ask the cast to do just that.

In the video above, Hargitay, Kelli Giddish, Ice-T, Peter Scanavino and executive producers Warren Leight and Julie Martin contemplate life without Law & Order: SVU. Hargitay's answer is especially poignant.

"Without Law & Order: SVU, I would've not been awakened to the epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence, I would not have started The Joyful Heart Foundation…I would not have made I Am Evidence, I would have not met Peter Hermann. And my life would be very different," Hargitay said, tearing up.

Click play on the video above to hear the rest of the answers.

The Law & Order: SVU season 21 premiere brought about some big changes for everybody's favorite squad of elite detectives. Carisi (Peter Scanavino) switched from order to law and became a counselor with the district attorney's office, and in the squad room, Harigtay's Benson took on a new role: captain.

"Thematically, [season 21 is] a year about passages and changes. I don't think nobody at the start of the season will be in the same place at the end of the season," executive producer Warren Leight told us ahead of the premiere. "People's titles will change, people's roles in the squad room will change, people's domestic life—turning 21 is a major passage in life, so it should be for the show as well. With any luck, the special victims unit will still be up and running by the end of the season, but people will go through a lot of personal and professional changes, I think."

Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays, 10 p.m. on NBC.

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

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