Chicago P.D.'s Jesse Lee Soffer Reveals Why He Really Left the Show

Original Chicago P.D. star Jesse Lee Soffer explained walking away from the NBC crime drama last year after 10 seasons and revealed if he's open to ever returning in the future.

By Brett Malec Feb 24, 2023 4:50 PMTags
Watch: Jesse Lee Soffer Talks "Chicago P.D." Crossover Episode

Jesse Lee Soffer is finally giving fans insight into why he left Chicago P.D.

Having starred on the NBC crime drama since it premiered in 2013, last summer, the actor made the surprising call decision to turn in his badge during the show's 10th season. And he's never really explained why—until now.

"I've thought so hard about how to answer this question—and there's no good answer," Soffer, 38, who played Detective Jay Halstead on the procedural, told Variety in an interview published Feb. 23. "Except I was ready for more."

"Eventually, you know the character so well, there's not much that can shift or transform," he continued. "I really wanted to grow and expand, and we've only got this one trip. If I signed up again, it would have been for another three years. I would have turned 40 on the show. I thought, ‘You know what? It's time to take a risk."

And it wasn't an easy call by any means, calling the decision to leave the One Chicago world was "one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."

One of the reasons it was so difficult? The extremely loyal viewers. "I love the fans of our show so much, and I love my fans," he admitted. "I know that they're still grieving this, and to some degree, I am too."

TV's Most Shocking Exits: Stars Who Left Hit Shows

Soffer's final episode aired in October 2022 and saw Halstead resign from the force to join the army to fight the drug cartel, leaving his wife Hailey (Tracy Spiridakos) behind in doing so.

"I know the fans are upset be­cause, like, ‘This isn't the Jay that we know and love! Why isn't he calling? Why is he doing this?!'" Soffer noted of the storyline behind his character's exit. "But, you know, the show must go on. I don't think I really have the right to feel any way about that. The writers have to do what they have to do to service the story and the characters that are still there. Also, our show's pretty dark, and they love diving into the ugliest, hardest version of life. So for Hailey to have to go through this, it probably just made sense."

Lori Allen/NBC

So has Soffer completely ruled out a future return to the series?

"Definitely not," he confirmed. "Never say never. I feel so bad for the fans that are like, ‘Is he going to come back?' ‘What's he going to do?' ‘What's going on with him and Hailey?'"

But until his return, he shared this message to fans missing Halstead.

"I like to think—and I hope the fans think this too—that he's just in another country right now, doing what he does best and making the world a safer place," Soffer concluded. "In a family, sometimes somebody moves away or goes to college somewhere else. I still love it. I still love the fans. And I still love Halstead. Halstead's always going to be in my blood. That's never going to change."

Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. Scroll down to see more shocking TV exits.

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Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy

Fans of the ABC medical hit were feeling the blues when Ellen Pompeo announced that, after 19 seasons as the series' lead character, she would be appearing in her last episode as a full-time cast member in the Feb. 23 episode.

Pompeo explained the reasoning behind her decision to scrub out during an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show

"I gotta mix it up a little bit," she said. "I'm 53, my brain is like scrambled eggs. I gotta do something new. You can't do The New York Times crossword puzzle every single day."

Fortunately, viewers won't have to wait too long to see Meredith Grey again, with Pompeo confirming in a Nov. 14 Instagram post that she would "definitely be back to visit" in the future. 

Reneé Rapp, The Sex Lives of College Girls

The Sex Lives of College Girls fans were surprised when star Reneé Rapp confirmed in July that she's leaving the Max series in the midst of filming season three.

"College Girls moved me out to LA and introduced me to some of my favorite people. 2 and a half years later—it's given me y'all and this community," Rapp—who portrayed Essex College student Leighton Murray—wrote in a July 10 Instagram. "A lot of queer work gets belittled—but playing Leighton has changed me life. I love who I am 10x more than I did before knowing her. I hope she gave y'all a little bit of that too. She's such a tiny part of representation but even the tiny parts count. I wouldn't be half the person I am without her and y'all."

She added, "I love that bitch more than you know. I'm so excited for this season and I can't for you to see what we have coming for her and the girls." 

Ryan Seacrest, Live With Kelly and Ryan

After six seasons of co-hosting Live alongside Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest announced on Feb. 16 that he is leaving the daytime talk show, calling it a "hard decision" and one that was "bittersweet."

As for who will step in to replace the American Idol emcee? Ripa's husband of 26 years Mark Consuelos—which means the show will aptly be renamed Live With Kelly and Mark in the future.

"Working alongside Kelly has been a dream job and one of the highlights of my career," Ryan said in a statement. "She has been an amazing partner, friend, and confidant, and although we will always be a part of each other's lives, I will miss our mornings together."

Taye Diggs, All American

After serving his five-year tenure as football coach and father figure Billy Baker, Taye Diggs exited the CW series in its fifth season. The Rent alum made his final appearance in the Feb. 13 episode, which saw his character die off-screen in a bus crash.

While Diggs said he was "having a great time" on All American, he started to get a "feeling" that it was time for him to move on in season four and he began having conversations with showrunner Nkechi Okoro Caroll about his departure.

"We'd been keeping in contact, so she had known, and we'd been talking," he explained to TV Line. "And we decided how to go about it, and storylines and whatnot, so it was all above board, and everyone was in the know."

However, Diggs did share that there is a "one hundred percent" chance that fans could see him return via flashbacks or dream sequences if it were solely up to him.

"I asked for it," he confirmed. "I don't know if it's going to happen, but I'm open to it."

Emma Mackey, Sex Education

School seems to be out forever for Emma Mackey, who revealed she will not be returning for a potential fifth season of the Netflix drama. 

When the RadioTimes asked her at the BAFTA Awards if she'd be back, Mackey, who plays Maeve Wiley, said, "Season five? I've just finished the fourth one last week!" She then added: "No, I don't think I'll be in Season five."

Phoebe Dynevor, Bridgerton

Phoebe Dynevor has put down her Lady Whistledown pamphlet—for now. The season one leading lady told Screen Rant Jan. 28, "Sadly not in season three. Potentially in the future. But season three, I'm just excited to watch as a viewer."

Nina Ali, The Real Housewives of Dubai

On Jan. 30, Nina Ali announced she's exiting the Bravo series after just one season. "It was an honor to be a part of the debut season of The Real Housewives of Dubai, and to help @bravotv bring this beloved franchise to the city I call home," the mother of three and businesswoman announced on Instagram. "I'm grateful to the network, Andy Cohen, and the team at Truly Original for welcoming me into this extended family and for embracing the diversity of riches Dubai has to offer."

Taylor Kinney, Chicago Fire

On Jan. 20, a source close to production for NBC's Chicago Fire told E! News that Taylor Kinney was taking a break from the series to deal with a personal matter.

Kathryn Dennis, Southern Charm

On Jan. 12, Kathryn Dennis confirmed she was exiting Bravo's Southern Charm after eight seasons. 

"What a wild ride it's been!" the 31-year-old told People in a statement. "Can you believe I was 21 when I first started filming Southern Charm, back in its first season? That was in 2013, and in the decade that followed, it's safe to say my life changed in ways I could never imagine."

"It hasn't always been easy," Kathryn continued, "but I'm so lucky to have had reality cameras there, capturing so many moments that I'll never forget (and a few, even, that I'd like to)."

Diana Jenkins, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

On Jan. 9, Diana Jenkins announced she's leaving The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills after just one season. "As so many of you know, Asher and I are expecting our second child later this year," she wrote in an Instagram post. "You also know that due to many factors, this pregnancy is considered high risk and I am on doctor-advised bed rest."

She continued, "To that end, I am not able to devote myself fully to filming the next season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I would like to thank Bravo and Evolution for allowing me to focus on my pregnancy, and for their support and understanding. I promise to continue sharing my fertility journey with you."

Lisa Rinna, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

On Jan. 5, Lisa Rinna announced that she was leaving The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills after eight seasons. "This is the longest job I have held in my 35 year career and I am grateful to everyone at Bravo and all those involved in the series," Rinna said in a statement to E! News. "It has been a fun eight-year run and I am excited for what is to come!"

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