“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star and producer Mariska Hargitay paid tribute to her late co-star Richard Belzer Thursday, days after his death on Feb. 19 at the age of 78.
“He was family and taught me so much about taking risks and creativity and trust and he brought so much joy to the set,” Hargitay said while speaking with Savannah Guthrie during an appearance on “Today.”
“Boy, did this man loves children. He was this acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant mind and yet he would melt in the sight of a child. He was [so] beautiful and complex and it was such a privilege to know him,” Hargitay gushed.
Belzer left “SVU” in 2016. The cause of death is currently unknown.
Hargitay also talked up Thursday night’s installment of “SVU,” which she directed, calling it “one of the most beautiful episodes I think I’ve ever read,” and “a bit of a departure from what we usually do.”
She thanked showrunner David Graziano and writer Julie Martin for writing the episode, which features Bradley Whitford as a guest star. “I’m deeply honored because they trusted me with this material and people do and there are a whole lot of surprises,” she said of the episode, which involves a man with dementia confessing to murder.
“It is different. I was so excited. Every time I direct, I have such reverence and respect for the role of directing and I’m always terrified, and yet this time because I hadn’t directed in three years … And it was one of the most joyous, creative highlights of my time at SVU.”
She also sidestepped the perennial issue of whether her character Olivia Benson and former partner Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) will get together, saying only, “The love each other deeply.”
“SVU” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT and streams the next day on Peacock.