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Jesse Lee Soffer discusses his decision to leave “Chicago P.D.” after nearly ten years.

“I’ve thought so hard about how to answer this question — and there’s no good answer,” Soffer, who played Detective Jay Halstead on the procedural from 2013 to 2022, told Variety in a Thursday article. “Except I was expecting more.”

Soffer, 38, has played Detective Jay Halstead on the NBC crime drama since its inception.

“At some point, you know the character so well that there’s not much that can shift or transform,” he explained. “I really wanted to grow and expand, but we only have one trip. If I had to sign up again, I would have done so for another three years. On the show, I would have turned 40. ‘You know what?’ I thought. It’s time to take a chance.”

Soffer described his decision to leave the series as “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.”

“I adore our show’s fans, and I adore my fans,” he said. “I know they’re still grieving, and to some extent, so am I.”

Soffer also addressed fans who were disappointed to see his character written off the show by having him sent on an extended mission with the Army to take down a cartel in Bolivia.

“I know the fans are upset because, as they say, “This isn’t the Jay we know and love!” Why is he not calling? ‘What is he thinking?!’ “But, you know, the show has to go on,” he explained. “I don’t think I have the right to feel that way. The writers must do whatever is necessary to serve the story and the remaining characters. Also, our show is quite dark, and they enjoy delving into the ugliest, most difficult aspects of life.”

“I like to think — and I hope the fans do, too — that he’s just in another country right now, doing what he does best and making the world a safer place,” he continued. Someone in a family may move away or attend college elsewhere. I still enjoy it. I still admire the fans. And I’m still a fan of Halstead. Halstead will always be in my blood. That isn’t going to change.”

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