EXCLUSIVE: Suddenly and with no warning, Raul Esparza is out at “Law & Order.” He’s been playing Assistant DA Rafael Barba since Season 14. (We’re now in season 19.) Barba was a great scene partner for Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson. He’s a terrific actor period.
So what happened? My sources say “Law & Order” impresario Dick Wolf was behind Esparza’s ouster. He’s replaced him with a younger, taller, sexier guy, Peter Winchester from Wolf’s “Chicago PD” series. (He’s 11 years younger, actually.) So last night out went Barba and in came Peter Stone. And Wolf must have known this would disturb “SVU” fans so be brought back Sam Waterston to usher him away.
Esparza is a multi-talent so he’s already down in Washington, DC heading up a new Broadway-bound production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Chess.” The show plays next week in DC, but you can bet it will be looking for a New York home in the fall. Esparza is no stranger to Broadway. I first met him when he was in Rosie O’Donnell’s Boy George musical, “Taboo.”
ADA Barba will be very much missed, that’s for sure. But Wolf is like that. In the last couple of years he’s gotten rid of Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Danny Pino, Diane Neal, Stephanie March, and others including — most importantly — Christopher Meloni. (Neal just announced she’s running for Congress from New York City.) Plus, back in the day of the original “Law & Order,” Wolf made no friends when he dumped Paul Sorvino after 29 episodes. We’re still waiting for Sorvino to return!