Jesse Lee Soffer, known for his incredible acting skills, recently found himself unemployed for the first time in 12 hours. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but when you consider that Soffer has been in the acting industry since the tender age of 6, it becomes a significant milestone. He has amassed an impressive resume with over 500 episodes of “As the World Turns” and three Emmy nominations. Many also remember him fondly as Bobby Brady in the “Brady Bunch” movies. However, it was his role as Jay Halstead in Dick Wolf’s “Chicago Fire” that truly launched his career, leading him to become one of the leads in “Chicago P.D.” when it premiered in 2014.
To Soffer, the cast and crew of “Chicago P.D.” have become like family. This is what made his decision to leave the show at the end of Season 9 so difficult. While he didn’t publicly disclose the reasons behind his departure, he shared, “I’ve thought so hard about how to answer this question – and there’s no good answer. Except I was ready for more.” Perhaps filming a 22-episode procedural show in Chicago limited his ability to explore new roles and experiences. Soffer acknowledged that despite the amazing storylines he was given in Season 9, he desired more freedom and growth in his career.
Leaving a character like Jay Halstead was one of the toughest decisions Soffer had to make. He understood the grief that fans felt and empathized with them. However, he believes the show must go on, and the writers have to continue developing the remaining characters and the story’s dark and gritty nature. Soffer agreed to return for the start of Season 10 to ensure a proper exit for Jay. In the storyline, Jay was sent to Bolivia on a task with the Army to dismantle a cartel, leaving behind his wife, Hailey Upton.
Despite the emotional toll of leaving the show, Soffer saw an opportunity for personal growth. Soon after wrapping up his final episode as an actor, he returned to Chicago to shadow director Bethany Rooney. This experience confirmed his interest in directing and provided him with valuable insights into the craft. With the support of the show’s producers, Soffer directed an episode scheduled to air on March 22nd. This transition felt natural to him since he had always been deeply involved in crafting his character’s storylines and had collaborated with the producers, providing them with his suggestions.
Jason Beghe, who plays the boss on “Chicago P.D.,” expressed his admiration for Soffer, describing him as a highly talented actor and a fantastic human being. Soffer values his partnership with Beghe and the strong bond they developed over the years. They supported each other through the challenges of working on a show like “Chicago P.D.,” pouring their heart and soul into their roles.
As for what lies ahead, Soffer envisions himself taking on a lead role in a show of his own. He believes it’s time to step into the spotlight and explore new opportunities. Additionally, he aspires to work on a Taylor Sheridan drama or a period piece, while continuing to direct more television projects. Although he may miss the tough conditions and close-knit environment of working in Chicago, he wouldn’t mind moving somewhere warmer.
While Soffer’s journey on “Chicago P.D.” has come to an end, the door remains open for a possible return. He wants fans to know that Jay Halstead is still out there, making the world a safer place. Despite his departure, Soffer’s love for the show, fans, and his character will never fade. Jay Halstead will forever hold a special place in his heart.
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