Ryan Buggle has spent more than half of his 13 years of life on the set of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Noah, the son of Mariska Hargitay's Captain Olivia Benson, so it's only natural that some of the teen's favorite (and silliest) memories are of his on-screen mom.
"I remember when she put whipped cream on my face," Buggle recalls fondly of one of his very first SVU scenes, in which Noah and Liv snuggled on the couch.
"Working with her is like a dream," Buggle says of Hargitay, 59. "My favorite part of being on set is definitely creating the friendships that I have, the friends and family."
Buggle, who has already graced the boards of Broadway, is committed to continually honing his skills as a performer even after six years on the long-running procedural.
"Something recently I learned about acting — from Mariska, actually — is to always act with your heart and come from a real natural place," he says. "My favorite thing about her is that whenever we're on set, it's always an acting class. I really love her kindness."
"I just love how she's such an incredible actor — and director," he adds, his face lighting up talking about Hargitay's work helming the series (her latest directorial effort, guest-starring Emmy-nominated actor Bradley Whitford, aired in February).
The off-screen relationship between Buggle and Hargitay is just as vibrant as the on-screen one, and Buggle says that sometimes the lines really do get blurred during filming.
"Mariska definitely knows me, Ryan, because sometimes when we're filming a scene instead of saying 'Noah,' she's like, 'Oh, Ryan.' Then she's like, 'Oh, I messed up!'" he shares with a laugh.
In fact, Buggle's most challenging scene to date was one that just aired in January as Noah watched his mom get attacked right in front of him by gang members.
"It was the BX9 scene," Buggle recalls. "It was fun, but also really hard and scary, too, because I literally saw Mariska getting beat up in front of me."
To prepare for the tough scene, Buggle did the one thing that he knows always works: he talked it through with "mom."
"I talked to Mariska about it a lot before [we filmed]" he explains. "And I just think because I've been Noah for so long, I just kind of think 'How would Noah feel?' and that's just how I do it."
That BX9 gang scene wasn't all bad, though — Buggle has found a love for stunt work (he's already a gymnast in addition to acting and dancing), and he hung around the set a little longer just to check out the action.
"If I'm being honest, I kind of stayed two hours after just to watch the stunts happen," he admits with a smile.
Looking to the future, Buggle sees himself emulating his on-screen mom and mentor, telling PEOPLE: "I would definitely like to act and do my own stunts, and I really want to direct when I'm older."
But, for now, Buggle is as happy as any 13-year-old can be on the set of SVU. Even his down time is inherently cool: he plays Mario Kart with Ice-T.