Raúl Eduardo Esparza (born October 24, 1970) is an American stage, screen, and voice actor & singer. Considered one of Broadway's leading men since the 2000s, he is best known for his Tony Award-nominated performance as Bobby in the 2006 Broadway revival of Company and for his television 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.
Raúl Eduardo Esparza
October 24, 1970
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
|Alma mater||New York University|
|Occupation||Actor & Singer|
(m. 1994; div. 2008)
He made his Broadway debut in 2000 as Riff Raff in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show. Subsequently, he starred as Jonathon in the original Off-Broadway production of Tick, Tick... Boom! and Caractacus Potts in the original Broadway production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2005. He received Tony nominations for his roles as Philip Salon in the Boy George musical Taboo in 2004; Bobby in the musical comedy Company in 2006; Lenny in Harold Pinter's play The Homecoming in 2008; and Charlie Fox in David Mamet's play Speed-the-Plow in 2009. Most recently, he starred in the Off-Broadway production Seared in 2019.
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, the Sherman Brothers and in 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 he sings in concerts across the country.
Esparza was born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Cuban parents, María Elena Cecilia García y Gutiérrez and Raúl Esparza y Rues, who had left the country because of the Castro regime. While his paternal grandfather had been established in Castro's sugar ministry, his father's family grew disillusioned with the government, and in 1966, his father and grandmother escaped to the U.S. by boat, while his grandfather defected through Spain. Esparza's maternal grandfather had moved to Cuba from Figueres, Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain.
Esparza was raised in Miami, Florida. He graduated from Belen Jesuit in 1988 and won a Silver Knight Award in Drama that same year. 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.
While on Finding Your Roots, Season 8, Episode 2, Esparza learned that his Catalan great-great-grandparents founded Garcia de Pou Restaurant Supply Store in Madrid, Spain, which is still owned and operated by members of his family. He also learned that another branch of his family came from the small town of Navata, Girona, Catalonia, Spain, where they can be traced back 14 generations.
Esparza first drew attention with his performance in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, which won him the Theatre World Award. Esparza's other 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 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. 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 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, for which he received a 2012 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.
In 1999, Esparza played 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 for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. He appeared in two musicals by Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George and Merrily We Roll Along at the 2002 Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration. He also appeared as the Arbiter in the Actors Fund of America concert of Tim Rice's Chess in September 2003.
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. 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.
In February 2018, Esparza played Freddie Trumper in the Kennedy Center's revival of 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.
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 benefiting the charity organisation ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty).
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, Esparza recorded the audiobook Under the Dome by Stephen King. He has done narration for The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer and The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark. 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". In 2010, Esparza appeared as Abel Plenkov in Wes Craven's My Soul to Take.
From 2013 to 2015, Esparza appeared in the recurring role of Dr. Frederick Chilton in Hannibal. He appeared in the 2016 film Custody, written and directed by James Lapine, as an Administration for Children's Services agent.
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". He appeared in 11 episodes of the show's 14th season. On July 17, 2013, he was promoted to series regular for the show's 15th season. 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. On February 7, 2018, Esparza left SVU in the episode "The Undiscovered Country” after six seasons on the show.
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". He made another guest appearance in Season 22 episode "Sightless in a Savage Land" and in the Season 23 Finale, "A Final Call at Forlini's Bar.
Esparza married Michele Marie Perez, his high-school girlfriend, in 1994. They divorced in 2007. Esparza was the subject of a The New York Times profile in 2006 in which he revealed that he is bisexual.
|2005||ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway||Himself||Documentary film directed by Dori Berinstein|
|2006||Find Me Guilty||Tony Compagna|||
|2010||My Soul to Take||Abel Plenkov|
|2011||Trouble in the Heights||Nevada Ramirez|
|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|
|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||ADA Rafael Barba||Recurring (Season 14)|
Main cast (Seasons 15–19)
Guest (Seasons 21–23)
|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||Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Celebration||Himself (host)||TV special|
|The Good Fight||Bryan Kneef||Episode: "The Gang Is Satirized and Doesn't Like It"|
|2021||Dopesick||Paul Mendelson||6 episodes|
|Law & Order: Organized Crime||Rafael Barba||Episode: "The Christmas Episode"|
- 1998–99: Evita (20th Anniversary US National Tour) – Che
- 2002–01: The Rocky Horror Show; Circle in the Square Theatre (Broadway) – Riff Raff
- 2001: Tick, Tick... Boom!; Jane Street Theatre (Off-Broadway) – Jonathan
- 2001–02: Cabaret; Studio 54 (Broadway) – The Emcee
- 2002: Sunday in the Park with George; Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.) – George Seurat
- 2002: Merrily We Roll Along; Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.) – Charley Kringas
- 2003: Comedians; Samual Beckett Theatre (Off-Broadway) – Gethin Price
- 2003–04: Taboo; Plymouth Theatre (Broadway) – Philip Sallon
- 2004: The Normal Heart; The Public Theater (Off-Broadway) – Ned Weeks
- 2005: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Hilton Theatre (Broadway) – Caractacus Potts
- 2006: Company; The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Regional) – Robert
- 2006–07: Company; Ethyl Barrymore Theatre (Broadway) – Robert
- 2007–08: The Homecoming; Cort Theatre (Broadway) – Lenny
- 2008–09: Speed-the-Plow; Ethyl Barrymore Theatre (Broadway) – Charlie Fox
- 2009: Twelfth Night; Delacorte Theatre (Shakespeare in the Park) – Orsino
- 2010: Leap of Faith; Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) – Jonas Nightingale
- 2011: Arcadia; Ethyl Barrymore Theatre (Broadway) – Valentine Coverly
- 2012: Leap of Faith; St. James Theatre (Broadway) – Jonas Nightingale
- 2015: Cymbeline; Delacorte Theatre (Shakespeare in the Park) – Iachimo
- 2018: The Waves; Powerhouse Theater (Poughkeepsie) – Bernard
- 2018: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui; Lynn F. Angelson Theater (Off-Broadway) – Arturo Ui
- 2019: Seared; MCC Theater (Off-Broadway) – Harry
Awards and nominationsEdit
|2001||Theatre World Award||The Rocky Horror Show||Honouree|||
|2002||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||tick, tick...BOOM!||Nominated|||
|2003||Barrymore Award||Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical||Green Violin||Won|||
|Helen Hayes Award||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Musical||Sunday in the Park with George||Nominated|||
|2004||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Taboo||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Won|||
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Taboo and The Normal Heart||Nominated|||
|2005||Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||Nominated|||
|HOLA José Ferrer Tespis Award||Won|||
|2006||Cincinnati Entertainment Award||Outstanding Acting Performance by a Visiting Actor||Company||Won|||
|Enquirer Acclaim Award||Outstanding Musical Lead Performance||Won|||
|2007||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Won|||
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Nominated|||
|Outer Circle Critics Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Won|||
|2008||Tony Award||Best Featured Actor in a Play||The Homecoming||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Ensemble Performance||Won|||
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play||Nominated|||
|2009||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Play||Speed-the-Plow||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||Nominated|||
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||Nominated|||
|2011||Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Arcadia||Nominated|||
|Ovation Award||Lead Actor in a Musical||Leap of Faith||Won|||
|2012||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Nominated|||
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Nominated|||
|2019||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui||Nominated|||
|2020||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||Seared||Nominated|||
|Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||Honouree|||
|Lucille Lortel Award||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play||Nominated|||
- Stated on Finding Your Roots, January 4, 2022
- The International Jesuit Alumni Directory Belen (Forum Press Inc., 1994)
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- "Finding Your Roots | Children of Exile | Season 8 | Episode 3".
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- "Merrily We Roll Along Begins Kennedy Center Previews July 12". Playbill. July 12, 2002. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
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- Healy, Patrick. "Raúl Esparza Joins Anyone Can Whistle", The New York Times, March 17, 2010; accessed May 16, 2014.
- Isherwood, Charles (July 11, 2013). "A Tuneful Depression-Era Howl". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
- McPhee, Ryan (April 25, 2019). "Nominations for the 2019 Drama Desk Awards Announced; Oklahoma!, Tootsie, Rags Parkland Lead the Pack". Playbill.
- McPhee, Ryan (June 24, 2019). "Brandon Uranowitz, Raúl Esparza, More Set for Road Show at New York City Center". Playbill. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
- "Seared". Broadway.com. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
- Sullivan, Lindsey (April 26, 2020). "Tonight! Spot the Slew of Stars Slated for Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration". Broadway.com. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- The House of the Scorpion Audiobook. Simon & Schuster. October 21, 2008. ISBN 9780743572477. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
- "The Book of Unholy Mischief Audiobook". Simon & Schuster. Archived from the original on December 28, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
- "Lyrics & Lyricists—Babalu: The American Songbook Goes Latin". 92Y.org. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
- "Wes Craven's 25/8 Becomes My Soul To Take". Collider.com. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
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- DeFore, John (April 18, 2016). "'Custody': Tribeca Review". Hollywood Reporter.
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- "ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
- "Find Me Guilty". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
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- "2003 Helen Hayes Award Winners Announced | TheaterMania". theatermania.com. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
- "The Tony Award Nominations". tonyawards.com. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
- "Wicked is Tops at 2004 Drama Desk Awards". Broadway.com. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
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