‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Raúl Esparza Describes Courtroom Relationship Between Barba and Carisi

by Taylor Cunningham

There are many reasons for Raúl Esparza to enjoy starring in Law & Order: SVU, but the dynamic his character Barba has with Carisi is one of his favorites.

While chatting about the upcoming season finale with TVLine, Esparza touched on the relationship that the two ADAs share in the series. And he noted that the characters have morphed over the years.

When the two first began working together, Carisi used to shadow the more senior attorney. But he gradually began to develop a bit of an ego. And because of that, “Barba just likes to school Carisi all the time” in the recent seasons.

Of course, the duo enjoys and trusts each other. But their competitive natures play off the other. And that causes a lot of good-natured quips.

“Carisi comes back with a few where he is like, ‘Oh, I know how to get him. I know how to fight back,’ which is actually a [Peter] Scanavino thing,” he said, pointing out that the actor and his character share that trait. ‘It better be time for me to fight back.’”

Barba and Carisi Add Some Lighthearted Moments to ‘Law & Order: SVU’

The actor admitted that playing off of Carisi is one of the best parts of the job. Because in almost all respects, Law & Order: SVU is full of heavy and emotional content. But the battling ADAs give the story a fun twist.

“It’s one of my favorite dynamics in the whole series, how much Barba likes to ride Carisi’s ego,” Esparza admitted. “He just likes to just take him down. And we’ve always found it really funny and fun to play, but there is a kind of mutual admiration and respect between them that’s fun.”

In the upcoming season finale, the competition will take a bit of a darker turn. But not in a way that will hurt their relationship. Instead, Carisi will put Barba in his place when the latter gets out of line.

“In this case, Carisi steps up a little bit more, which is good, as he should, because Barba’s being a total dick as usual,” the actor shared.

Raúl Esparza also noted that because the characters’ relationship is such a pivotal part of the plot, he spends a lot of time with Scanavino while hanging out on set. And whenever he gets to join the actor on-screen, it’s “a total joy.”

“I can’t tell how it’s perceived from the other side, but for us, it’s just trying to one-up each other in front of the cameras. I’m assuming that’s what Carisi and Barba are doing on screen.”

Watch the Law & Order: SVU season 23 finale this Thursday on NBC at 9/8c.