Mariska Hargitay has spent 18 years and 400 episodes with Olivia Benson's badge and gun on Law & Order: SVU and is showing no signs of putting those down yet.

"Each year the show goes in such a sort of different direction and that's been very exciting because like life we sort of never know what's going to happen. I always just say I'll know when I'll know," Hargitay told E! News at the party celebrating her TV Guide Magazine cover. "I think about it very carefully and I put a lot of thought into the future and what it holds and how long I'll stay on the show. Obviously my muscles have had quite an acting workout in the last 18 years, but also I've been so blessed with now moving into producing and obviously with the directing, so I really, really, really enjoyed that."

Law and Order: SVU 400th Episode, Mariska Hargitay

Michael Parmelee/NBC

SVU creator and Law & Order and Chicago mastermind Dick Wolf said he's never thought of an ideal ending for Benson.

"An ideal ending? Yeah, retirement from the PD," Wolf cracked.

Hargitay stepped behind the camera to direct the landmark 400th produced episode of the long-running NBC police drama, but the monumental nature of the episode didn't hit her until she and the show were being celebrated with a TV Guide Magazine cover.

"When I shot the 400th episode, I didn't download it…I was directing, so my hair was on fire, I had so much going on. I was so focused, I couldn't really take it in," she said. "Last night when I thought about seeing Dick and seeing this night, it was like the floodgates opened…It's 18 years…I'm just so overwhelmed and filled with gratitude and pride with what we've accomplished…"

Hargitay said SVU changed her life and inspired her to start the Joyful Heart Foundation, which in turn pointed to her about "why I think I was born."

"It's been a very profound show," she said.

Because it's Law & Order: SVU, the 400th episode, "Motherly Love," has its fair share of twists. The episode centers on a teen boy shooting someone who he believes is sexually assaulting his mother, but it turns out the assailant is someone he knows. And that's just the tip of the twist iceberg.

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

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

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