March 10, 2014 8:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Mariska Hargitay to Produce Documentary on Rape Kit Backlog (Exclusive)
Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay is adding producer to her resume.
The actress, who recently directed her first episode of the NBC procedural, will produce Shelved, a documentary about the rape kit backlog.
Hargitay, who founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, will use the organization to serve as a social action partner, counsel and beneficiary of the film.
Production begins this week in Detroit, where the foundation has spent the past three years working with prosecutors, police and community advocates to fix the city's rape kit backlog of 11,000 untested kits. The 1,600 kits that have been tested so far have resulted in the identification of 87 serial rapists and crimes in 19 states. Detroit will serve as the focus of the film, but the documentary will also examine the backlog as it exists in cities and states across the country.
Marc Levin (Chicagoland, Hard Times, Brick City) will direct and Trish Adlesic (Gasland and SVU's location manager) will oversee day-to-day producing duties. Joyful Heart CEO Maile Zambuto is on board as an executive producer. For his part, Levin is a three-time News & Documentary Emmy Award nominee, winning for 1987's The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. Shelved will also follow the momentum building among policymakers at the federal, state and local level to end the backlog and change the way the criminal justice system and communities across the country respond to sexual violence.
"I was shocked when I learned about the rape kit backlog and the lost opportunities for justice -- and healing -- it represents," Hargitay told The Hollywood Reporter. "I also find the backlog to be the starkest example of how we regard the issue of sexual violence in the country: something that belongs tucked away on a shelf. That attitude -- and the violence -- has to end, and I hope this film will open people's eyes to the value of investing in change."
Hargitay, who has spent the past 15 seasons starring on NBC's Law & Order: SVU, has won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her work as Detective Olivia Benson on the Dick Wolf procedural. She founded Joyful Heart in 2004 and is a tireless advocate for social reform to end the backlog. She's repped by CAA.