‘Law & Order: SVU’ Cast and Crew Say Goodbye to Raul Esparza After He Leaves the Show

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 Courtesy of Mariska Hargitay/Twitter

Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Wednesday, February 7, episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The Law & Order: SVU cast had to say goodbye again: These are their stories. After six seasons, Raúl Esparza’s Rafael Barba exited the NBC courtroom drama on Wednesday, February 7.

“I’ve done six seasons, I felt like it was time to go. I had explored a lot of what I thought Barba was about. I just felt it was time to move on,” Esparza, 47, told Entertainment Weekly. “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.”

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Mariska Hargitay as Lieutenant Olivia Benson and Raul Esparza as A.D.A. Rafael Barba on Law & Order: SVU Michael Parmelee/NBC

SVU has a history of bringing back beloved characters, so it’s definitely possible for Barba to eventually return. “I think that Barba’s become a part of the SVU family, and I think there’s a life for him. I don’t know necessarily, but it’s possible that there’s a life for him as the series goes on,” he revealed. “I’m glad they left that door open.”

“Goodbye Barba. Thank you. You changed my life. My squad. And you, you always, my Liv, my friend Mariska. I will always treasure my time with all of you,” Esparza tweeted following the episode. The cast then took to social media to say their farewells to ADA Rafael Barba.

“One of the great honors of my life is to have shared the screen with the incredible scene partner, beautiful friend, giant heart, brilliant artist, kindest of men @RaulEEsparza,” Mariska Hargitay wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo. “#SVU has been graced and great with you in it. Family always gets to come home … come home soon.”

Other members of the cast and crew also took to social media to share their messages to Esparza.

SVU writer Celine Robinson admitted she was crying in a tweet.

Philip Winchester, whose character Peter Stone replaced Barba as ADA, also tweeted a thank you to the actor.

Warren Leight, whose was an executive producer on the show from 2011 to 2016, as well as writer Julie Martin, shared sweet memories.

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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