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Where Is Raul Esparza From Law And Order: SVU Now?

When Raúl Esparza joined "Law & Order: SVU" in 2012 as A.D.A. Rafael Barba, he quickly won over audiences with his razor-sharp delivery, immaculate style, and irresistible swagger. Whether he was charming the jury, ragging on Carisi (Peter Scanavino), going toe-to-toe with Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson, or gifting fans memorable lines like "objection, argumentative ... and ridiculous," Esparza brought something to the series it had long been lacking: a breath of levity. Though Barba never slid fully into the realm of "comedic relief," his sarcasm and wit brought balance to the often humorless series. Understandably, fans were sad to see him go when he left the series full-time in 2018.

Though he's returned to guest-star in the show a handful of times — most recently as Richard Wheatley's (Dylan McDermott) defense attorney — his career hasn't missed a beat since his character left the show after helping a desperate mother end her terminal baby's suffering in Season 19. In addition to starring alongside Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard, and Michael Keaton in a 2021 Hulu limited series, Esparza has been enjoying a return to his roots in the theater.

Raúl Esparza starred in Dopesick

Raúl Esparza returned to television in 2021 as Paul Mendelson on Hulu's "Dopesick." Created by Danny Strong and based on Beth Macy's nonfiction book "Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America," the series takes an unflinching look at the opioid crisis caused in part by Purdue Pharma. The show focuses on two different timelines, juxtaposing the introduction and marketing of the wonder drug Oxycontin with the beginning of the DA's later investigation into its effects and consequences (via Digital Mafia Talkies).

Peter Sarsgaard plays Virginia Assistant Attorney General Rick Mountcastle, while Michael Keaton stars as Dr. Samuel Finnix, a rural physician who was reluctantly convinced by the drug's sales team that only a minuscule percentage of those who took the drug would become addicted. Dr. Finnix works hard to repair the community he unwittingly helped addict, but it's an uphill battle, as is fighting the deep pockets of Purdue Pharma. For her part, Rosario Dawson plays dogged DEA agent Bridget Meyer, whose addiction to her work drives a wedge between her and her less-than-understanding partner, Esparza's Paul Mendelson.

The series was nominated for over a dozen awards, with Keaton taking home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Finnix (via IMDb). This comes as no surprise to longtime fans of Esparza, who's no stranger to critically lauded and awarded projects.

Esparza kept theater alive during the pandemic

From 2004 to 2009, Raúl Esparza earned Tony nominations for his roles in Mark Davies and Boy George's "Taboo," George Furth's "Company," Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming," and David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" (via Tony Awards). After lending his talent to the role of Rafael Barba, the actor has made a return to his roots on the stage. In 2019, he starred in Theresa Rebeck's "Seared" (via Playbill), and most recently, he teamed up with some serious star power to celebrate an important birthday.

Despite the devastating impact the past two years have had on live theater, the industry managed to evolve and adapt, and one of Esparza's recent projects is a shining example of that. The actor served as the host and executive producer of "Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration." The live digital production featured performances from a long list of Hollywood's and Broadway's biggest stars, including Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Gyllenhaal, Patti LuPone, and Annaleigh Ashford (to name a few), and took home a coveted Drama League Award (via Broadway.com).