Mariska Hargitay Speaks Fondly of ‘Brilliant’ Richard Belzer Days After His Death

Mariska Hargitay thinks back on her late friend and co-star Richard Belzer’s gentler side. On Thursday, the actress of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit shared how she and the cast are grieving the death of the 78-year-old actor, who passed away on Sunday.

“What a heart and soul,” Hargitay, 59, told Savannah Guthrie 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.”

She continued, “And boy, did this man love children. He was this acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant mind, yet he would melt in the sight of a child.” She summed up, “He was just such a beautiful and complex [person], and it was such a privilege to know him.”

Hargitay’s comments come after she first spoke of Belzer’s death in a touching tribute on her Instagram, which she captioned with a simple broken red heart emoji.

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“Goodbye my dear, dear friend. I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world.” Hargitay, 59, wrote on Instagram. “I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years.” “How lucky the angels are to have you. I love you so very much, now and forever,” the post concluded.

Before adding his own statement, fellow costar Christopher Meloni tweeted a photo of Hargitay feeding Belzer on the set of the show. He followed up with a separate tweet, this time featuring a photo of himself kissing Belzer on the cheek. “Good bye mon ami. I love you,” he wrote, along with the hashtag #TheBelz.

The actor Belzer passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, with his wife Harlee McBride and oldest daughter by his side, according to reports from his family.

Mariska Hargitay Remembers Late SVU Co-star Richard Belzer

The family shared an exclusive statement with PEOPLE Thursday, sharing further details on the star’s sudden death. “We are overwhelmed with the beautiful and heartfelt memories, admirations and love from Richard’s family, friends, acquaintances and admirers,” Belzer’s loved ones wrote.

“It has been truly helpful for us, his family, traversing this challenging time. So thank you,” Belzer’s family added. “We have had a delay in making a statement in regards to his passing because, although he did have several health issues that had been difficult but not terminal, he experienced quite a sudden decline in health that caught us completely off guard, which lead to his passing.”

 

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“His youngest daughter could not be there with us but will be joining us soon. Due to the sudden nature of his passing, we apologize that we were unable to reach [out] until now, as we needed the time to process this and gather ourselves and our thoughts,” the statement continued.

Belzer’s family concluded, “We so appreciate the outpouring of support from our family and friends. And thank you so much for those of you that have been so respectful of our need for privacy and solace during this difficult time.” His death’s cause is still a mystery. In contrast, a small family service will be held in Colomars, France, on Friday afternoon.

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