Mariska Hargitay Remembers ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Co-Star Richard Belzer: “He Was Family”

Mariska Hargitay is once again remembering Richard Belzer, her late Law & Order: SVU co-star, as a special “heart and soul” who as both an actor and comedian was “brilliant.”

While appearing on NBC’s Today to discuss the latest episode of one of TV’s longest-running series as well as celebrate longtime colleague and friend Ice-T’s recent Hollywood Walk of Fame honor, the actress opened up about Belzer, who died on Feb. 19 at 78.

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“What a heart and soul,” she told Savannah Guthrie. “He was family and taught me so much about taking risks and creativity and trust.”

Hargitay added that while working on the series with her, from which he retired as a series regular in 2016, “he brought so much joy to the set.” According to the actress and EP, he also — despite being an “acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant” mind — had a soft spot for children, whom he would “melt” at the sight of.

“He was just such a beautiful and complex [person] and it was such a privilege to know him,” she said.

Hargitay, along with other SVU stars and creative team members, paid tribute to the late actor last weekend. The actress previously remembered Belzer’s “unique light, and your singular take on this strange world.”

“I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years,” she added.

Law & Order: SVU paid tribute to Belzer by dedicating the Feb. 23 episode, directed by Mariska Hargitay, to the late actor, who played the beloved Detective John Munch on the series

Ice-T — whose character, Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, was partner to Belzer’s Munch — also shared that he’d “miss” his co-star. “I wake up to the news I lost my friend today. Belz is gone,” he wrote on social media. “When you are having real fun and are truly happy, enjoy it to the fullest! Cause pain is inevitably coming.”

Christopher Meloni also tweeted out his farewell to Belzer, while Diane Neal called the late actor “my hero,” with whom she “always had fun.” SVU showrunner Warren Leight called him “open, warm, acerbic, whip smart, surprisingly kind,” while in a statement, show creator Dick Wolf called his character Munch one of TV’s most iconic characters.

“Richard brought humor to joy into all our lives,” Wolf said, “was the consummate professional, and we will all miss him very much.”

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