Mariska Hargitay: ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Costar Richard Belzer Was ‘Brilliant’

Mariska Hargitay: ‘Law & Order: SVU' Costar Richard Belzer Was ‘Brilliant'
Mariska Hargita and Richard Belzer. Shutterstock (2)

Mourning a heartbreaking loss. Mariska Hargitay opened up about the death of longtime friend and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit costar Richard Belzer just days after his death. 

Law & Order: SVU’s Richard Belzer Dead at 78: Mariska Hargitay and More Stars React

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“What a heart and soul,” Hargitay, 59, said during a Thursday, February 23, appearance on the Today show. “He was family and taught me so much about taking risks and creativity and trust, and he brought so much joy to the set.”

SVU writer Bill Scheft confirmed the news of Belzer’s death to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday, February 19. “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F—k you, motherf—ker,’” Scheft said at the time. Belzer died peacefully in his sleep while home in France with his family by his side. He was 78. 

“He was just such a beautiful and complex [person], and it was such a privilege to know him,” the Leaving Las Vegas star told host Savannah Guthrie on Thursday. “And boy, did this man love children. He was this acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant mind, and yet he would melt in the sight of a child.”

While the Groove Tube alum never had any biological kids of his own, he was a proud stepfather to wife Harlee McBride’s two daughters from a previous marriage, Jessica and Bree Benton. (Belzer married three times throughout his life: to Gail Susan Ross from 1966 to 1972 and to Dalia Danoch from 1976 to 1978. He settled down with McBride five years later.)

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Belzer’s most well-known role was as Law & Order’s Detective John Munch. He originated the character on Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 and appeared in 119 episodes of the series until it ended in 1999. The Connecticut native then reprised Munch on SVU opposite Hargitay from 1999 to 2016, appearing in a total of 242 episodes of the NBC crime drama.

Following his death on Sunday, Hargitay took to social media to share a touching tribute to her longtime coworker and friend. 

“Goodbye my dear, dear friend. I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world,” she wrote via Instagram at the time. “I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years.”

Mariska Hargitay: ‘Law & Order: SVU' Costar Richard Belzer Was ‘Brilliant'
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She concluded the post by saying, “How lucky the angels are to have you. I love you so very much, now and forever.” 

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Christopher Meloni, who starred on the hit NBC series from 1999 to 2011 before his season 12 exit, also honored his pal on Sunday, tweeting a photo of Hargitay feeding Belzer while on set. 

Later in the day, the Oz alum posted a photo of himself via Twitter kissing the Fame star on the cheek. “Good bye mon ami. I love you,” he wrote, along with the hashtag #TheBelz,” he captioned the sweet snap.