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Law and Order SVU: Why did Raul Esparza really leave Law and Order?

Law and Order: NBC teases SVU crossover

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Law and Order SVU is going to be returning in a matter of months to NBC for series 23. The drama has been on TV for decades with many memorable characters coming and going during this time. So what is the real reason for the actor behind Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba leaving the show?

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Why did Raul Esparza leave Law and Order SVU? 

Actor Raul Esparza was first introduced as Rafael Barba in season 14 of SVU.

He was initially hired in a returning character capacity before becoming a series regular in season 15.

But after six series, Esparza made his exit in season 19’s The Undiscovered Country when Rafael pulled the plug on a brain-dead child.

The incident proved too traumatising for him and so he resigned from his position.

After leaving the show in 2018, Esparza went on to perform in the Broadway revival of Chess at the Kennedy Center.

Despite many actors being forced out of beloved shows, it was actually the 50-year-old star’s decision to leave.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly at the time, Esparza explained: “I’ve done six seasons, I felt like it was time to go.

“I had explored a lot of what I thought Barba was about. I just felt it was time to move on.”

Esparza continued: “I was also feeling like the role has changed over the years in a way that has been an interesting experience for me.

“Again, I’m a theatre guy, so it’s like having a script in front of you that keeps changing every time you go to do it.

“The learning process of how roles grow over a period of time with a series has been kind of fascinating, and I just felt I had reached the end of what I wanted to explore where they were writing.

He said there was “absolutely” a chance he would go back into SVU though so fans could see Barba’s return at some point in the future.

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SVU showrunner Michael Chernuchin also confirmed this sentiment of a potential comeback.

He added: “Raúl is family and we look forward to seeing his talent shine in new projects. As for Barba, SVU fans may see him again soon.”

Barba was shortly replaced by Chicago Justice’s Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) who became the new ADA on the team.

In series 22, the job role was once again taken on by Peter Scanavino as Dominick “Sonny” Carisi Jr.

Luckily for fans, NBC confirmed the drama’s return date earlier this year.

Law and Order SVU will be back on Thursday, September 23 for season 23.

But what cases will the team have to face this time around?

Law and Order SVU is available to watch on NBC.

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