Who Misses SVU’s Barba More: Benson or Carisi? A Chuckling Raúl Esparza Offers His Thoughts — Watch

Few assistant district attorneys have left as indelible a mark on Law & Order: SVU as Rafael Barba. Even fewer have left as indelible a mark on SVU‘s Capt. Olivia Benson.

Fans of the NBC procedural will remember that Raúl Esparza played the prickly public servant for several seasons. During that time, Barba and Benson grew close; when he left the show in Season 19, after helping the distraught mother of a terminally ill child end her son’s life, his departure was fraught.

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“You’ve opened my heart, and I thank you for it,” Barba tearfully told Olivia after he was cleared of charges in the boy’s death. “I’ve got to move on.” He’s returned a few times since — most notably in Season 23 to, among other things, have complicated conversations with Capt. Benson about the nature of their deep friendship. “I do know what it means to love someone unconditionally,” he told her at the time. “When you’re ready to stop feeling betrayed by me, I’ll be here.”

So of course, when TVLine caught up with Esparza at a recent celebration of the show’s Season 25 premiere, we asked how much Benson is on Barba’s mind these days.


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“Oh, I think he thinks about her all the time. I think she changed him fundamentally as he also changed her,” he says in the video above. “They are completely symbiotic as characters. Again, that wasn’t something that we necessarily knew would happen but began to happen because it happened between Mariska [Hargitay] and myself.”

But what about that other fundamentally important relationship Barba forged during his time with the SVU squad: that of legal mentor to cop-turned-lawyer Sonny Carisi? “I think Carisi thinks about Barba every day!” Esparza says, laughing. “And woah, who knows what the fan fiction” — written by a subset of viewers who’d really like to see the two characters romantically linked — “is going to do with that!”

Press PLAY on the video at the top of the post to hear Esparza’s thoughts on whether Barba will be back for another guest stint, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

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