Jesse Lee Soffer is opening up about his decision to leave "Chicago P.D." after almost 10 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 an article published Thursday. "Except I was ready for more."
Soffer, 38, played Detective Jay Halstead on the NBC crime procedural since its premiere.
"Eventually, you know the character so well, there's not much that can shift or transform," he said. "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."
This is sad but true. Just want all the fans to know how grateful I am. You guys are why we do it! It has been an honor. Love you all ❤️ https://t.co/UeQlHYxMMI
— Jesse Lee Soffer (@jesseleesoffer) August 30, 2022
Soffer called choosing to leave the series "one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."
"I love the fans of our show so much, and I love my fans," he said. "I know that they're still grieving this, and to some degree, I am too."
Soffer also addressed fans who were disappointed to see his character written off the show, which was accomplished by having his character sent on an extended task with the Army to take down a cartel in Bolivia.
"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?!’ But, you know, the show must go on,” he said. “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."
He added: “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.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Chicago P.D.' star Jesse Lee Soffer reveals why he left NBC series