‘Law & Order: SVU’: Why Raúl Esparza Left the Series

In the history of Law & Order: SVU, there’s one ADA that fans seem to favor above all others, and that’s Rafael Barba, played by Raúl Esparza. No one wanted to see him leave the series, especially with the way he left. Read on to learn why Esparza left the series after six seasons and how it all went down.

Rafael Barba was the ADA for the Special Victims Unit

Raúl Esparza
Raúl Esparza | Michael Parmelee/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Barba was the ADA for SVU and he had a connection with Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Fans first meet Barba in season 14 and It’s immediately clear that he’s unlike any of the squad’s previous ADAs. He has an immense amount of passion for the job, that’s why it was so hard to deal with the way he was written off the show.

Barba leaves after a difficult case

According to the character’s Fandom page, Barba gets involved in a case, and he turns off life support to a child with MDDS. Barba is then indicted on murder charges, but he gets cleared of them. He decides to leave his job and says a heartfelt goodbye to Olivia after everything they’ve been through together.

Barba was last seen in season 21, episode 13 when he video chats with Benson for a few minutes. He wishes her a happy birthday and tells her he will take her out to dinner when he gets back into town.

Why Raúl Esparza left the series

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

Esparza spoke with Entertainment Weekly and it turns out it was Esparza’s choice to leave the series. His time on the series has been “an interesting experience” for him. He felt it was time to move onto other things after he says he “reached the end” of what he was trying to “explore” with the series.

“I’ve done six seasons, I felt like it was time to go,” Esparza said. “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.”

Was Esparza surprised by the way his character was written out?

Esparza was asked if he was surprised with the way Barba was written out, and he certainly was. “Yeah, it wasn’t really a way that I figured that he would go out,” Esparza continued. “But I do have to say that when we worked on the script, it was pretty extraordinary. I don’t watch myself, so I haven’t seen the episode, but putting it together was a really great experience.”

Fans will always treasure the seasons with Barba as the ADA of SVU.