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Watch: Mariska Hargitay calls Olivia Benson's evolution a 'perfect feminist story'

Mariska Hargitay discussed playing Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: SVU" ahead of the show's Season 25 premiere. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Mariska Hargitay discussed playing Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: SVU" ahead of the show's Season 25 premiere. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Mariska Hargitay is reflecting on her character Olivia Benson's evolution throughout the years.

The 59-year-old actress discussed playing Benson on the NBC series Law & Order: SVU ahead of the show's Season 25 premiere Thursday.

Hargitay first debuted as Benson in the SVU series premiere in September 1999 and plays an older, more experienced version of the character 25 years later.

"It's so beautiful to have the privilege to actually watch the evolution," the star said Thursday on Today. "As I see it and look back, Olivia Benson is sort of a perfect feminist story because we actually see this woman grow into her power."

"You used the word 'swagger,' and that's exactly what it is," she told Today co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. "Just owning all of those parts of ourselves, especially that little voice ... that has just blossomed in. And for that, I'm so grateful."

Mariska Hargitay attends the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Mariska Hargitay attends the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Hargitay said she "absolutely" thinks she's grown alongside her character.

"It's been incredible," the actress said. "I was just thinking the other day, because it's hard to process -- everyone's saying, '25 years, 25 years.' I am so grateful for this time in my life, to be present."

Mariska Hargitay and her daughter Amaya attend her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2013. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Mariska Hargitay and her daughter Amaya attend her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2013. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"Now, as we get older, I have so much room to be present and hold everything that's going on, but with compassion and love," she added.

Hargitay attended the Law & Order: SVU 25th anniversary event Tuesday alongside Christopher Meloni, Peter Scanavino, Octavio Pisano and other past and present SVU stars.

She discussed the show's legacy with The Hollywood Reporter and how it has raised awareness and dialogue about the victims of sex crimes.

"I think we're telling people stories that haven't been told, that deserve to be told, that we're approaching with the attention to detail that should have been a part of our culture for a long time, and now, this show has changed that," Hargitay said. "So it's incredibly powerful and shifting the narrative on how survivors are treated."

Law & Order: SVU Season 25 will premiere Thursday at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.