Raúl Esparza

Raúl Eduardo Esparza (born October 24, 1970) is a Cuban-American stage and television actor, singer, and voice artist, best known for his role as New York Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Rafael Barba in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where he had a recurring role in season 14 and was promoted to a series regular in seasons 15 to 19. He has received Tony nominations for his role as Philip Salon in the Boy George musical Taboo in 2004; Robert in the musical comedy Company in 2006; a lazy and snarky man in Harold Pinter's The Homecoming; and an aggressive volatile movie producer in David Mamet's Speed the Plow. He played the role of Riff Raff on Broadway in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show and the role of Caractacus Potts in the Broadway musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Raúl Esparza
Raúl Esparza SDCC 2014.jpg
Raúl Eduardo Esparza

(1970-10-24) October 24, 1970 (age 49)
Alma materNew York University
OccupationActor, singer, voice artist
Years active1993–present
Michelle Perez
m. 1994; div. 2008)

Esparza has been nominated in all Tony categories for which an actor is eligible. He is widely regarded for his versatility on stage, having performed musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Boy George, and the Sherman Brothers and plays by Mamet, Pinter, William Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, and more. His film work includes Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty and Wes Craven's My Soul to Take and his television credits include roles on The Path, Medium, Hannibal, and Pushing Daisies. He narrated the audiobook for Stephen King's Under the Dome, as well as several others, and sings in concerts all over the country.

Early lifeEdit

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Cuban parents, and raised in Miami, Florida, Esparza graduated from Belen Jesuit in 1988 and won a Silver Knight Award in Drama that same year.[1] In 1992, Esparza received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama and a Bachelor's degree in English from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.[2]



Broadway theatreEdit

Esparza first drew attention with his performance in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, which won him the Theatre World Award. Additional Broadway credits include Cabaret (2001), Taboo (2003), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2005) and Sondheim's Company (2006). He received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and a Drama Desk Award for his performance in the musical Taboo. His performance in Company earned him a second Tony nomination, this time for Best Actor in a Musical, as well as his second Drama Desk award. Beginning in November 2007, he appeared in Harold Pinter's play The Homecoming and was Tony-nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play. In 2008, he played Charlie Fox in the revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow co-starring Jeremy Piven and Elisabeth Moss on Broadway.[3] His performance in Speed-the-Plow earned him a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Play, making him the second performer (after Boyd Gaines) to be nominated in all four acting categories a performer is eligible for at the Tonys, although he has yet to win one.

Esparza appeared in a limited-engagement revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, which began previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on February 25, 2011 and opened on March 17, 2011.[4]

Esparza appeared in the musical Leap of Faith in the role of the "Reverend" Jonas Nightingale. He was involved in the workshop in 2008, the out-of-town tryout at the Ahmanson Theatre (Los Angeles) in 2010, and the Broadway production in 2012,[5] for which he received a 2012 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.[6]

Other theatreEdit

In 1999, Esparza portrayed Che in the national tour of Evita, opposite Natalie Toro. The tour was intended to open on Broadway, but failed to do so. In 2001, he appeared Off-Broadway in tick, tick... BOOM! by Jonathan Larson, garnering a Drama Desk Award nomination as Outstanding Actor in a Musical. He appeared in two Stephen Sondheim musicals, Sunday in the Park with George and Merrily We Roll Along at the 2002 Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration.[7] He also appeared as The Arbiter in the Actors Fund of America concert of Sir Tim Rice's Chess in September 2003.[8]

In 2009, Esparza starred in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theater (New York) with Anne Hathaway, from June 25 through July 12.[9] He starred as Hapgood in the City Center Encores! staged concert production of Anyone Can Whistle from April 8 to 11, 2010, opposite Sutton Foster as Fay and Donna Murphy as the Mayoress.[10]

In July 2013, Esparza starred in a production of The Cradle Will Rock at the New York City Center.[11]

In February 2018, Esparza played Freddie Trumper (the American) in the Kennedy Center's revival of Sir Tim Rice's Chess. From October to December 2018, Esparza played the title role in Classic Stage Company's Off-Broadway production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. He was nominated for the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Best Actor for the role.[12]

In July 2019, Esparza appeared in a production of Road Show at the New York City Center.[13] In October of the same year, Esparza played Harry, in the off-Broadway comedy Seared by Theresa Rebeck.[14]

In April 2020 he was a host, executive producer and performer in Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Celebration, a virtual concert in honour of the 90th birthday of composer Stephen Sondheim and benefiting the charity organisation ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty).[15]


In 2007, Esparza had a recurring role on the TV show Pushing Daisies as traveling salesman Alfredo Aldarisio, a role originally given to Paul Reubens. In 2009, he recorded the audiobook Under the Dome by Stephen King. He has done previous narration for The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer,[16] and The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark.[17] In January 2010, Esparza performed opposite Lucie Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Valarie Pettiford at the 92Y's Lyrics and Lyricist event honoring Desi Arnaz and his Orchestra, "Babalu: The American Songbook Goes Latin".[18] In 2010, Esparza appeared as Abel Plenkov in Wes Craven's My Soul to Take.[19]

From 2013 to 2015, Esparza appeared in the recurring role of Dr. Frederick Chilton in Hannibal.[20] He appeared in the 2016 film Custody, written and directed by James Lapine, as an Administration for Children's Services agent.[21]

Law & Order: SVUEdit

In 2012, Esparza became a recurring actor on the long-running NBC drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba, starting in the third episode of the show's 14th season, "Twenty-Five Acts".[22] He appeared in 11 episodes of the show's 14th season. On July 17, 2013, he was upgraded to series regular for the show's 15th season.[23] His character became the first series regular ADA since Stephanie March in the 11th season and the first regular male ADA in series history. His role on SVU was not his first Law & Order role, however, as he had previously portrayed an ADA in a 2009 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and a suspect in a 2010 episode of the original Law & Order.[24][25] On February 7, 2018, Esparza left the series after six seasons in the episode "The Undiscovered Country.”[26][27]

Although having left the series to return to the stage, Esparza has been back on the show, making a very brief cameo before the main title in the season 21 episode "Redemption in Her Corner.” [28]

Personal lifeEdit

Esparza married Michele Marie Perez, his high school girlfriend, in 1994. They divorced in 2008.[29] Esparza was the subject of a New York Times profile in 2006 in which he revealed that he is bisexual.[30]

Esparza is currently in a relationship with his long-term boyfriend Bill Curran. [31] [32]



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2005 ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway Himself Documentary film directed by Dori Berinstein [33]
2006 Find Me Guilty Tony Compagna [34][35]
2010 My Soul to Take Abel Plenkov
2011 Trouble in the Heights Nevada Ramirez
2016 Custody Luis Sanjuro
2017 Ferdinand Moreno (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
1997 Spin City Reporter Episode: "In the Heat of the Day"
2007 Pushing Daisies Alfredo Aldarisio 2 episodes
2009 Law & Order: Criminal Intent ADA Kevin Mulrooney Episode: "Lady's Man"
2010 Law & Order Dennis Di Palma Episode: "Blackmail"
Medium David Ostrowski Episode: "Blood on the Tracks"
2011 A Gifted Man Phillip Romero 2 episodes
2012–2018, 2020 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ADA Rafael Barba Recurring (season 14),
Main cast (season 15–19)
Guest (season 21)

116 episodes

2012 666 Park Avenue Phillip Perez Episode: "Hypnos"
2013–2015 Hannibal Dr. Frederick Chilton 12 episodes
2014 Dora and Friends: Into the City! Big Bad Wolf (voice) Episode: "Puppet Theater"
2016–2018 BoJack Horseman Ralph Stilton (voice) 8 episodes
2018 The Path Jackson Neill 6 episodes
2020 The Good Fight Brian Kneef Guest (season 4)

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Project Award Category Result
2000 The Rocky Horror Show Theatre World Award Outstanding New York Debut Won[36]
2001 tick, tick...BOOM! Obie Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won[37]
2001 tick, tick...BOOM! Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nominated[36]
2002 Sunday in the Park with George Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nominated[38]
2003 Green Violin Barrymore Awards Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won[39]
2004 Taboo Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Nominated[36]
2004 Taboo Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Won[36]
2005 N/A HOLA José Ferrer Tespis Awards N/A Won[40]
2005 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical Nominated[41]
2006 Company at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Enquirer Acclaim Awards Outstanding Musical Lead Performance Won[citation needed]
2006 Company at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Outstanding Acting Performance by a Visiting Actor Won[42]
2007 Company on Broadway Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical Nominated[36]
2007 Company on Broadway Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won[36]
2007 Company on Broadway Outer Circle Critics Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won[43]
2008 The Homecoming Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Play Nominated[36]
2008 The Homecoming Drama Desk Award Outstanding Ensemble Performance Won[36]
2009 Speed-the-Plow Tony Award Best Actor in a Play Nominated[36]
2009 Speed-the-Plow Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play Nominated[36]
2011 Leap of Faith at the Ahmanson Theatre Ovation Awards Lead Actor in a Musical Won[44]
2012 Leap of Faith on Broadway Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nominated[36]
2019 Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Classic Stage Company Drama Desk Award Best Actor in a Play Nominated[36]


  1. ^ The International Jesuit Alumni Directory Belen (Forum Press Inc., 1994)
  2. ^ "Grad Acting Alumnus Raúl Esparza on Shakespeare in the Park". tisch.nyu.edu. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  3. ^ Friedman, Roger (December 22, 2008). "'Entourage' Star Bashed For Being Diva". Fox News Channel. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
  4. ^ BroadwayWorld.com "Arcadia" broadwayworld.com, December 12, 2012
  5. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Leap of Faith, With Raúl Esparza at the Musical Pulpit, Opens on Broadway" Archived May 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, April 26, 2012
  6. ^ [1] theatermania.com, April 27, 2012
  7. ^ "Guide to Sondheim Shows" sondheimguide.com, accessed July 10, 2009
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew."Julia and Josh Dazzle in All-Star 'Chess' " playbill.com, September 23, 2003
  9. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Hathaway, McDonald, White and Esparza Open 'Twelfth Night' in Central Park June 25", playbill.com, June 25, 2009
  10. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Raúl Esparza Joins Anyone Can Whistle", The New York Times, March 17, 2010; accessed May 16, 2014.
  11. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/theater/reviews/the-cradle-will-rock-a-30s-revival-at-city-center.html
  12. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "Nominations for the 2019 Drama Desk Awards Announced; 'Oklahoma!', 'Tootsie', 'Rags' 'Parkland' Lead the Pack" Playbill, April 25, 2019
  13. ^ http://www.playbill.com/article/brandon-uranowitz-raul-esparza-more-set-for-road-show-at-new-york-city-center
  14. ^ https://www.broadway.com/shows/seared/
  15. ^ "Tonight! Spot the Slew of Stars Slated for Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration". Broadway.com. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  16. ^ "The House of the Scorpion". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  17. ^ "The Book Of Unholy Mischief". Simon & Schuster. Archived from the original on December 28, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  18. ^ "Lyrics & Lyricists—Babalu: The American Songbook Goes Latin". "92Y.org". Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  19. ^ "Wes Craven's 25/8 Becomes My Soul To Take". Collider.com. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  20. ^ "Raul Esparza Makes Debut on Hannibal tonight". broadwayworld.com. May 2, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  21. ^ DeFore, John. " 'Custody': Tribeca Review" Hollywood Reporter, April 18, 2016
  22. ^ "Raul Esparza Set to Appear on Law & Order: SVU". Broadway World. New York City: Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  23. ^ The Deadline Team (July 12, 2013). "Raul Esparza Upped To Regular On Law & Order: SVU". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  24. ^ "Lady's Man". Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Season 8. Episode 11. New York City: NBCUniversal. June 28, 2009. NBC.
  25. ^ "Blackmail". Law & Order. Season 20. Episode 12. New York City: NBCUniversal. January 15, 2010. NBC.
  26. ^ Abrams, Natalie (February 7, 2018). "Raúl Esparza exits Law & Order: SVU after six seasons". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Time Inc. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  27. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (February 7, 2018). "Raul Esparza Exits 'Law & Order: SVU'; 'Chicago Justice' Vet Promoted To Series Regular". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  28. ^ "'Law & Order: SVU' Viewers Shocked by Surprise Cameo From Fan-Favorite Cameo". TV. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  29. ^ Shewey, Don (July 9, 2007). "Is He Or Isn't He?". The Advocate. San Francisco, California: Here Media – via donshewey.com.
  30. ^ Nadler, Joyce (November 26, 2006). "Breaking Character for the First Time in His Life". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  31. ^ "INTERVIEW: Actor Raul Esparza On Bay Street's "A Starry Night" Gala, His Broadway Highlights, The Future Of Theater And More".
  32. ^ Rivas, Aby (May 18, 2020). "Lookback at SVU Alum Raúl Esparza's Marriage and His Coming out as Bisexual". news.amomama.com. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  33. ^ "ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  34. ^ "Find Me Guilty". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  35. ^ Rangel, Jesus (August 27, 1988). "ALL 20 ACQUITTED IN JERSEY MOB CASE". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Esparza Awards and nominations Broadway", ibdb.com, retrieved February 10, 2018.
  37. ^ Tick, Tick... Boom!, lortel.org, retrieved February 11, 2018.
  38. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "New Works and Big Stars Compete for 2003 Helen Hayes Awards May 5 in DC", Playbill, May 5, 2003.
  39. ^ Robb, Cooper. "Andreas, Esparza, Frugé et al. Win Barrymore Awards", theatermania.com, October 29, 2003.
  40. ^ "6th Annual HOLA Awards for Excellence", hellohola.org, retrieved February 11, 2018.
  41. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "'The Light in the Piazza' Leads Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations with 11, Followed by Chitty, Spamalot", Playbill, April 24, 2005
  42. ^ Pender, Rick. "10th Annual CEAs Celebrate Cincinnati Stages", backstage.com, September 6, 2006.
  43. ^ "Outer Critics Circle Awards for 2006-2007", outercritics.org, retrieved February 10, 2018.
  44. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'Leap of Faith' 's Raul Esparza, 'Voice Lessons' Laurie Metcalf Among L.A. Ovation Winners", Playbill, November 15, 2011.

External linksEdit