Raúl Eduardo Esparza (born October 24, 1970) is an American stage and television actor, singer, and voice artist. He has received Tony nominations for his role as Philip Salon in the Boy George musical Taboo in 2004; Robert, an empty man devoid of connection in the musical comedy Company in 2006; a lazy and snarky man in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming; and an aggressive volatile movie producer in David Mamet‘s Speed the Plow. He played the role of Riff Raff on Broadway in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show and the role of Caractacus Potts in the Broadway musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
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, and the Sherman Brothers and 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 Medium, Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He narrated the audiobook for Stephen King’s Under the Dome, as well as several others, and sings in concerts all over the country.
Born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Cuban American parents and raised in Miami, Florida, Esparza graduated from Belen Jesuit in 1988 and later received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Esparza first drew attention with his performance in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show, which won him the Theatre World Award. Additional 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 the musical 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 portrayed 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 as Outstanding Actor in a Musical. He appeared in two Stephen Sondheim musicals, 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 The Actors Fund of America concert of Sir 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 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, he recorded the audiobook Under the Dome by Stephen King. He has done previous 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.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
In 2012, Esparza became a recurring character 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 upgraded 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.
In a New York Times profile, Esparza came out as bisexual, and revealed that he had same-sex relationships. He married Michele, his high school girlfriend, in 1993, but they divorced in 2008.
Leap of Faith – [Musical, Original] Starring: Raúl Esparza [Jonas Nightingale] 2012
Arcadia – [Play, Revival] Performer: Raúl Esparza [Valentine Coverly] 2011
Speed-the-Plow – [Play, Revival] [Charlie Fox] 2008
The Homecoming – [Play, Revival] [Lenny] 2007
Company [Musical, Drama, Revival] [Robert] 2006
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – [Musical, Comedy, Original] [Caractacus Potts] 2005
Taboo – [Musical, Drama, Original] [Philip Sallon] 2003
The Rocky Horror Show – [Musical, Comedy, Revival] Riff Raff 2000
Cabaret – [Musical, Drama, Revival]
Master of Ceremonies – Replacement – (Sep 09, 2002 – Dec 31, 2002)
Master of Ceremonies – Replacement – (Oct 26, 2001 – Apr 28, 2002)
Film & TV
|2006||Find Me Guilty||Tony Compagna|
|2010||My Soul to Take||Abel Plenkov|
|2011||Trouble in the Heights||Nevada|
|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||Gifted Man, AA Gifted Man||Phillip Romero||2 episodes|
|2012–present||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||ADA Rafael Barba||Recurring (season 14),
Main cast (season 15 – present)
|2012||666 Park Avenue||Phillip Perez||Episode: “Hypnos”|
|2013–2015||Hannibal||Dr. Frederick Chilton||12 episodes|
Awards and Nominations
- The International Jesuit Alumni Directory Belen (Forum Press Inc., 1994)
- Friedman, Roger (December 22, 2008). “‘Entourage’ Star Bashed For Being Diva”. Fox News Channel. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
- BroadwayWorld.com “Arcadia” broadwayworld.com, December 12, 2012
- Jones, Kenneth. “Leap of Faith, With Raúl Esparza at the Musical Pulpit, Opens on Broadway” playbill.com, April 26, 2012
-  theatermania.com, April 27, 2012
- “Guide to Sondheim Shows” sondheimguide.com, accessed July 10, 2009
- Gans, Andrew.“Julia and Josh Dazzle in All-Star ‘Chess’ “ playbill.com, September 23, 2003
- Hetrick, Adam. “Hathaway, McDonald, White and Esparza Open ‘Twelfth Night’ in Central Park June 25”, playbill.com, June 25, 2009
- Healy, Patrick. “Raúl Esparza Joins Anyone Can Whistle“, The New York Times, March 17, 2010; accessed May 16, 2014.
- “The House of the Scorpion”. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
- “The Book Of Unholy Mischief”. Simon & Schuster. 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.
- “Raul Esparza Makes Debut on Hannibal tonight”. broadwayworld.com. May 2, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- “Raul Esparza Set to Appear on Law & Order: SVU“. broadwayworld.com. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
- “Raul Esparza Upped To Regular On Law & Order: SVU“. Deadline. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
- “Lady’s Man”. Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Season 8. Episode 11. 28 June 2009. NBC.
- “Blackmail”. Law & Order. Season 20. Episode 12. 15 January 2010. NBC.
- Interview with New York Times, November 26, 2006; accessed May 16, 2014.
- “A Troubie Triumph at the Ovation Awards”. November 14, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- Official website
- Raúl Esparza at the Internet Broadway Database
- Raúl Esparza at the Internet Movie Database
- Raúl Esparza at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Video interview in which Esparza discusses his relationship to Catholicism
- Interview in which Esparza discusses his stage and film work
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