Podcast #531: Raúl Esparza of NBC’s “LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT”

Raúl Esparza
Raúl Esparza

Raúl Esparza has joined the ranks of the SVU team as ADA Rafael Barba. The character was seen in a recurring capacity last season, but was bumped up to a contract player at the beginning of season 15. Esparza gave us a bit of insight in the character that makes up the tough as nails ADA:


“Barba is a complete no-nonsense ADA. He is incredibly ambitious and we are introduced to someone who made a lateral move from Brooklyn into New York for possible political reasons. He is someone who will do anything to win a case. He’s a good man who behaves like a real jerk sometimes, which I love about him. Barba is written hard and tough, and also written with a sense of sarcasm. He also has a sense of humor which I also thoroughly appreciate. I think that he is someone who is very quick in the decisions he makes, and also fast in how he deals with the team. However, he has a good heart. That is very fun to play where you have that balance between someone who isn’t necessarily the easiest person to get along with, and yet is very good at what they do. I also love the balance between someone like Benson, who approaches situations with her heart, and Barba, who approaches situations with his head. The way the two of us have informed each other as human beings, and wound up changing one another over the course of the season, we have become unspoken friends.”

This week’s episode, entitled, “October Surprise,” will showcase Barba with a bit more of a backstory, as he/Esparza will be a huge focal point throughout the show. Here is what the actor had to say about the upcoming episode:

Kirk Acevedo came on, and he is a sensational actor. The very first day, we had to play a scene where we were old friends in the neighborhood. This is an episode that deals with Barba’s past, and very much about the ties that bind, how friends make us who we are, and how we have to let go of that. There is a seriously compromising political situation involved. It’s very rare for an ADA to get that kind of attention on a ‘Law & Order’ episode. In this case, dealing with the politics of a mayoral campaign, and the politics of being in a district attorney’s office, allowed the writers’ to play with a strong New York episode. For me, it allowed me to play around with my own heritage, as I am Cuban American. The one thing I never get to do is play Cuban. Here, that is an essential aspect of Barba’s personality, where he comes from, and why he had to step away from his past. I think many people can relate to that. I was actually able to use some Spanish. There is a big moment between me and Danny Pino where we threw a line in in Spanish, and I thought, ‘No one will understand the end of the scene if they don’t know Spanish.’ *laughs* We were ad-libbing all over the place.”

We spoke more with Raúl Esparza about how the character was first introduced in season 14 by Warren Leight, and even learned about a blog dedicated to his ties and possibly…suspenders.

Follow Raúl Esparza on Twitter: @RaulEEsparza.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on NBC.

To listen to the full podcast, click on the player below:

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