Jesse Lee Soffer Explains Why He Left ‘Chicago P.D.,’ Reveals If He’d Ever Return

Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead in Chicago P.D. - 'Intimate Violence'
Matt Dinerstein/NBC
CHICAGO P.D. -- "Intimate Violence" Episode 715 -- Pictured: Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)

Jesse Lee Soffer is opening up for the first time about his decision to quit his role as Detective Jay Halstead on Chicago P.D. The star exited the show last October after nine seasons and although he’s expressed gratitude and spoken up about his decision to leave, he’s never quite explained it. In a new interview with Variety, Soffer revealed that although there’s “no good answer,” he was simply “ready for more.”

“Eventually, you know the character so well, there’s not much that can shift or transform,” says Soffer, before adding how grateful he was for his Season 9 storyline, which saw Jay getting married and becoming number 2 at the unit.

“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,’” he says. “It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life. Let’s be honest: I love the fans of our show so much, and I love my fans. I know that they’re still grieving this, and to some degree, I am too.”

Thankfully, showrunner Gwen Sigan kept the character alive and wrote him out by having Jay leave the department. However, his presence has yet to leave the set, as Soffer began shadowing director Bethany Rooney in Chicago to prepare himself to direct an episode of the show. The episode “Deadlocked,” which is slated to air on March 22, felt like coming home, stating, “It was like I never left.”

Jesse Lee Soffer in Chicago PD

Lori Allen/NBC

“Some of it was effortless. Some of it was frustrating. Some of it was super rewarding. Some of it was humbling,” he says. “It was easier than I thought it was gonna be, because we’re storytellers in this industry, and I love telling stories. When I’d get a script that was a Halstead-centric story, I’d break that sucker down so much, calling the producers with suggestions. I’ve been doing that all along, so it was an easy shift.”

“There are no plans to see him onscreen,” Sigan told TV Insider in December 2022. “But we’re very excited that he is coming back and directing one. I think he’s gonna really enjoy it. I think it will be a nice opportunity for him.”

Soffer also states the doors aren’t closed for Jay to make a possible return. “Never say never,” he says. “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?’

“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. 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.”