Filming on “Law & Order: SVU” began while Mariska Hargitay was already well into her pregnancy. In January 2006, she teased the arrival of another actor who would fill in for her while she prepared for maternity leave (via People) and, in June 2006, the actress and her husband, fellow “SVU” actor Peter Hermann, welcomed their first child (via Today).
“I didn’t know what they were going to do. The show being what it is and the writing being what it is, I had utter trust that they would come up [with] an amazing sort of answer to it,” Hargitay told Movie Web in 2007. “It was actually really fun and really challenging to cover it up, and I think they handled it really well and really creatively.” The show tried to cover her pregnancy for as long as possible, using the classic TV techniques of showing Benson carrying folders to cover her stomach, sitting at desks, and the like. Eventually, Hargitay’s pregnancy was too noticeable, and the show temporarily wrote her off.
“Going undercover in an eco-terrorist cell” is by no means the strangest excuse a show has given to temporarily write off a pregnant actor. On “Frasier,” Jane Leeves’ first pregnancy was explained away a sudden overeating compulsion. When she had to give birth, the writers sent her off to fat camp. That has become one of the cringier aspects of the show. On “The Nanny,” CC was committed to an institution the actress who played the character, Lauren Lane, took maternity leave. Yikes.