How Law & Order: SVU's Dann Florek Feels About Mariska Hargitay

Fans of "Law & Order: SVU" had to bid a sad farewell to Dann Florek's esteemed character, Capt. Donald Cragen, in 2014. But at least Cragen left his squad in the capable hands of Mariska Hargitay's Capt. Olivia Benson. Hargitay has spent more time on "SVU" than anyone, so there's no doubt that Benson was the right woman for the job.

If Florek was the bitter, begrudging type, it might have been difficult for him to bid adieu to his badge. He's since had to watch Hargitay enjoy a stable gig on television's longest-running drama and Florek left "SVU" after 15 seasons for a reason that feels unfair (even though it made sense story-wise). Unfortunately for Cragen fans, he was about to turn 63, the age at which NYPD officers are forced to retire.

When "SVU" celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2024, Florek reflected on the moment Cragen left Benson in charge. "It's a beautiful passing of the baton," he told People. Since then, Benson has evolved into a strong and thoughtful leader, as well as a feminist icon. Florek noticed that Hargitay has undergone quite a transformation herself. "I'm proud of Mariska as an actress," he told E! News in 2022. "Mariska has grown so much over all these years, and to remember doing the pilot to where she is now? The gravitas? She earned her stripes." According to Florek, he's responsible for an "SVU" scene that had Cragen expressing a similar sentiment.

Dann Florek would love to return to Law & Order: SVU

Dann Florek made a special guest appearance in the 500th episode of "Law & Order: SVU" in 2021. He didn't just return to the show to assure fans that Donald Cragen was still alive and well but also to film a moving scene with Mariska Hargitay. During a video call, Donald Cragen makes Olivia Benson get emotional by telling her, "Thank you, Captain. You don't know how proud it makes me to say that." Florek told E! News the former colleagues' sweet exchange wasn't originally part of the script. "I actually asked for that scene. ... I said well, 'I think I have to have contact with Olivia. Not just for me in a selfish way. I think the audience will want it,'" he explained.

Florek has been a steadfast supporter of Hargitay since his "SVU" exit. When Hargitay penned an essay for People about being raped, Florek was among the "SVU" alums who praised her brave decision to speak out about her devastating ordeal. "She is the heartbeat and the soul of this show, and to realize that that nugget was in there, it only [serves as a] testament to why she was, and is, so incredible," he told Entertainment Tonight.

In case you can't tell by how highly Florek speaks of Hargitay, he would love to work with her again on "SVU" someday. "I'd be there in a heartbeat," he told TV Insider in 2024.

Proof that the co-stars both make believable cops

For a 2024 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T rewatched some of the most meaningful "Law & Order: SVU" episodes of their careers. Hargitay reportedly teared up when Donald Cragen said farewell to the squad, leaving Olivia Benson in charge. "This was another very painful exit for us," she said. She also marveled over how much her character has evolved since that moment and joked that viewing the scene made her want to watch the rest of the series. "It's so good!" she said.

Over the years, Hargitay has become such a believable law enforcement official that a little girl mistook her for one. According to People, Hargitay was shooting on location at a playground when the lost child saw her badge and told her that she couldn't find her mom. Hargitay reportedly rallied the rest of the crew, and they successfully reunited the mother and daughter.

Dann Florek has also been mistaken for a cop, but he didn't get to do anything so heroic. For him, it happened when he was a member of the OG "Law & Order" cast. His experience with a bar patron who he believed to be a mafioso wannabe sounds a bit unsettling. "He goes, 'Dude, I know you're a cop,'" Florek recalled to People. "I'm like, 'I just do a TV show.' And he goes, 'All I'm saying is this: I know people.'" Luckily, the encounter didn't end in a beatdown.