‘Law & Order: SVU’: Could Raúl Esparza Return to the Series?

There’s been a number of ADAs on Law & Order: SVU that fans absolutely adore. One of those is certainly Rafael Barba, played by Raúl Esparza. His departure was abrupt and not what fans were hoping for. Since SVU has been renewed for three more seasons, is it possible that Esparza could return to play Rafael Barba? Read on to learn what the evidence suggests.

Rafael Barba left after an extremely difficult case

Raúl Esparza
Raúl Esparza | David Giesbrecht/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

After six seasons on the hit series, Barba was written off the show. He gets involved in a case and he turns off life support to a child with MDDS. He’s then indicted on murder charges, but is eventually cleared of them. He leaves his job after that and it’s a sad end to an already difficult episode. Barba does manage to say goodbye to Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), who he shares a close friendship with.

But why did he leave? In 2018, Esparza spoke with Entertainment Weekly about his decision to depart the hit series, saying, “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. 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 theater 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 also admitted that showrunner Warren Leight’s exit (he has since returned) was a factor in his decision as well.

Could Raúl Esparza return to the series?

In the same interview with Entertainment Weekly, Esparza spoke about whether or not he could return in the future. The interview happened before season 21 was confirmed, making SVU the longest-running live-action primetime series to date. Esparza admits a return is a possibility, and he reveals that he became friends with Hargitay and he misses the role and her as well.

When asked if he could return in the future, he said: “Absolutely, because I’m really rooting for the opportunity to make television history with the series,” Esparza said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that’s part of what we all hope for, that NBC manages in the end to get a record-breaking series on its hands with potential 21 years. Also, this doesn’t always happen when you work with people, but I became friends with Mariska [Hargitay] and she’s part of my life now. I don’t just miss the role, I miss her, so any opportunity to get back into a room with her is valuable to me. Part of the reason I became Barba, and that it turned into the show that it did for me, was the way I hit it off with her and that was surprising.”

RELATED: ‘Law & Order: SVU’: Why Fans Love Rafael Barba so Much

Barba actually appears in season 21 of SVU in episode 13. He video chats with Benson for her birthday and it’s a really touching moment. It’s obvious the two are great friends, and it’s nice to see their interactions together.

‘Law & Order: SVU’ has been renewed for 3 more seasons

SVU already made history with its 21 seasons, but it’s also been renewed for three additional seasons to come in the future. According to Deadline, Dick wolf signed a deal for SVU with Universal Television. The deal includes a renewal for the hit Chicago series as well.

Although Barba made a small appearance in season 21, there are still three additional seasons on the way, so that means there will be plenty of opportunities to see him again. Hopefully he’ll reunite with Benson again in the future.

Fans are hopeful that Barba could return, at least in another guest appearance in the future. He’s friends with Hargitay, who is the main character in SVU, so chances are we’ll get to see him again in some capacity.