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[OPINION] Chicago PD Fans Cause Uproar Over Exit of Jesse Lee Soffer

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Losing your favorite character from a television series is a different kind of heartache, and it’s one the One Chicago fandom has been feeling and reeling over after news broke out of Jesse Lee Soffer’s exit from Chicago PD as Detective Jay Halstead. 

Deadline reported the exit of PD’s veteran star, but no confirmation was given as far as who made the decision. A general statement was issued by Soffer last Monday where he expressed his love and gratitude to the fans of the long running TV series. As of today, it is still unknown if leaving was his call as there hasn’t been any indication made previously of his wanting to leave. The deafening silence and lack of confirmation from Wolf Entertainment and NBC have left fans of the actor angry to say the least, and buzzing about whether he was forced out early. They have flocked to social media in an uproar, voicing their feelings and concerns over the decision — one that seems pretty out of the blue, and they have been doing so loudly and proudly. 

On Twitter, one PD fan said it best, “There’s no Chicago PD without Jay Halstead” and more than two thousand people have liked it in support of the backlash.

One wrote, “I’ve watched a lot of shows and I’ve seen a lot of characters leaving and/or dying, I’ve never felt this way before.”

Another said, “I still just CANNOT wrap my brain around why they chose Jesse of all the people in the One Chicago franchise to get rid of. There’s just no logical scenario where that makes sense to me.” 

Others have taken to pointing out the continual release of women and people of color, those who have been fan favorites throughout many of Dick Wolf’s series, and the irony of keeping employed those with disturbing allegations made against them. A Twitter thread was created highlighting those instances against actors including Jason Beghe and Dylan McDermott, and even Dick Wolf himself for their behavior on set and against colleagues. 

Many know Dick Wolf best for his One Chicago and Law and Order franchises, the latter of which has also received an unfortunate loss much like that of Soffer. The week prior to the news of Soffer’s exit, Deadline reported that Law and Order: SVU alum Kelli Giddish would be leaving the series after playing Detective Amanda Rollins for the last twelve seasons. Giddish's exit was not her choice, and it has caused a similar online frenzy within the SVU fandom. You can’t help wondering just what is going on with the decisions being made to release beloved actors after years spanning over a decade of work, and how their decisions will affect their top-rated nights of television.

The loss of Soffer cuts even deeper for fans as it will put an end to one of primetime television’s most popular couplings on Chicago PD. Upstead, comprised of Soffer’s Jay Halstead and the lovely Tracy Spiridakos’ Hailey Upton, has been a prominent pairing on the series for the last five seasons. The characters are fan favorites for many and have continued to be season after season. While other couples do exist in the One Chicago universe, Upstead has proven to be a large component to PD’s high ratings and trending topics on Twitter week to week. Their relationship is a classic trope of partners to friends to lovers, and one that has captivated fans from the beginning. They have been wonderfully written, portrayed beautifully by the actors, and with them comes a mass following of loyal fans. Ones that have made threats to stop watching the series altogether, and you can’t exactly blame them. There is no ship quite as good as Upstead, and there never will be. 

Soffer’s impending exit leaves several questions hanging in the air — how will they write off Jay Halstead, will he and Hailey Upton get a happy ending, and how will the show survive once he’s gone, if at all? Fans have been speculating his exit, which is rumored to be in episode three of the series’ upcoming tenth season, though that hasn’t yet been confirmed by anyone at Wolf Entertainment or NBC. The consensus amongst the fandom though? Do not kill him off. He deserves to leave wearing that grin we all know and love, with a nod to his wife as he says, "I'll see you at home." Nothing less.

Jay Halstead has been a main character in the One Chicago universe for over a decade and has been chasing down bad guys and stealing our hearts since day one. He has shown tremendous growth throughout the series, overcoming one obstacle after another — from being kidnapped and beaten, to being a bullet magnet as fans have referred to him as over the years. He’s faced demons of his past and battled with PTSD, lost loved ones and colleagues, and yet, he still has the same incredible heart and sassy charm we all fell in love with years ago. 

It's an unexpected and devastating blow to say the least, and anyone who has lost a favorite character has to know exactly what it feels like. Fans have been grieving online over the news and coming together in an unprecedented way to voice their disagreement with the decision. They’ve created trending hashtags on Twitter and started petitions — here and here, and have even gotten the attention of modern day gossip girl, DeuxMoi, aiding in making some big waves online in hopes to gain the attention of NBC execs. 

With Wolf Entertainment and NBC’s continued silence on the matter, the online yelling has only gotten louder over the last week. Many fans seem to be in a state of denial, rightfully so over the suddenness of it all. Some even seem hopeful that if leaving wasn’t Soffer’s call, that the powers that be might just change their minds and bring the actor back to give him the proper sendoff that he, and the fans, deserve.

One thing is certain though, and that is once Halstead leaves, he takes the heart of Intelligence and many fans with him.

There is no Chicago PD without Jay Halstead.

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