Raul Esparza, the latest ADA, Rafael Barba, on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” has been a Broadway darling for a decade.
He not only escaped unscathed from “Taboo” but came away with one of his four Tony nominations. Considering that musical remains the butt of jokes, it’s an indication of his talent. Usually Esparza walks onstage, and the audience starts clapping; once he performs, the reaction is justified.
Then there was “Leap of Faith,” a splashy flop earlier this year, from which Esparza is still recovering.
“I have been part of some critically acclaimed glories,” Esparza tells Zap2it. “I have been involved in [‘Leap of Faith’] for five years and love the music very, very, very much, and the last thing I expected was it to fall apart.
“What Warren did was come in and work with me a little bit,” he says of Warren Leight, the “SVU” show runner and a co-writer of “Leap of Faith.” “It is a gift. I could not have told you at the time it was the best time to step away from a place where my heart was broken. It would be very hard to fall in love with the next musical right now.
“He offered me a safe place and to find the joy in the next workplace and to find the creative joy, and I wanted to really go for it and play,” Esparza continues. “He has written a character. He is riffing on a lot of my strengths as an actor.”
He praises star Mariska Hargitay for the set’s welcoming tone, even to recurring characters such as his, who appears again on the Wednesday, Nov. 21, episode.
“I was able to transfer so much of my creative joy to that space,” he says of the show. “And that has never happened to me on a TV set, ever.”