The 47-year-old actor explained his decision in an interview with Entertainment Weekly after appearing as Rafael Barba in a final episode as a series regular Wednesday.
"I've done six seasons, I felt like it was time to go," Esparza said. "I had explored a lot of what I thought Barba was about. I just felt it was time to move on."
"I was also feeling like the role has changed over the years in a way that has been an interesting experience for me," he added. "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."
Wednesday's episode saw Barba leave the District Attorney's office after being found not guilty for his role in a right-to-die case.
Esparza confirmed the plot line allows him to possibly reprise Barba in future episodes.
"I'll say that the one thing we talked about is he absolutely doesn't need to die, because it's not like I'm leaving on bad terms," the star said.
"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 added. "I'm glad they left the door open."
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