‘FBI: Most Wanted’ Boss Breaks Down Julian McMahon’s Exit From The Show

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SPOILER ALERT: The following story reveals plot points from Tuesday’s episode of CBS FBI: Most Wanted.

Julian McMahon said goodbye to his FBI: Most Wanted character Jess LaCroix in Tuesday night’s episode of the CBS series, and it was heartbreaking to watch for a multitude of reasons.

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Keisha Castle Hughes and Julian McMahon - Credit: CBS
Keisha Castle Hughes and Julian McMahon - Credit: CBS

CBS

In the episode, titled “Shattered,” Jess and the team are tackling a complicated domestic violence case and are on the trail of the perpetrator, Harley Ross (Toby Hemingway), and the victim, his longtime girlfriend Lucy Carver (Kelly Swint).

Unraveling this particular case was intensive, as the team races against the clock to beat Harley— who is killing anyone who potentially has information on Lucy’s whereabouts— from finding her first.

Lucy ran away from Harley with the help of an underground network that uses an elaborate website scheme to save victims of domestic abuse. It’s worth noting, Harley is a known drug abuser and cannot be reasoned with.

This case was particularly important to Jess, as his girlfriend Sarah (Jen Landon) was also abused by her former husband.

Amid their search, a new clue blows the whole thing wide open: Lucy had given birth to Harley’s daughter and never told him of her existence. Harley learns their daughter Mia exists and is battling cancer, and within seconds of Harley meeting her at the hospital, Jess and Sheryll Barnes (Roxy Sternberg) interrupt the reunion guns blazing.

McMahon - Credit: CBS
McMahon - Credit: CBS

CBS

Cornered, Harley runs away and Jess follows him to the parking lot. Jess finds a distressed Lucy hiding between cars begging for help. Harley emerges through the darkness and fatally shoots Jess, who is shielding Lucy. Barnes and Ivan Ortiz (Miguel Gomez) bring Harley down, but they are too late. Jess is dead.

In the final beats of the episode, a heartbroken Sarah travels with Jess’ father Byron (Terry O’Quinn) to give Tali (YaYa Gosselin) the heartbreaking news.

Executive producer David Hudgins breaks down McMahon’s final episode, how LaCroix’s death will affect the team moving forward, and when fans can expect to see the newly cast Dylan McDermott.

DEADLINE: We’re all sad to say goodbye to Julian McMahon and Jesse with so much finality. How much prep went into the episode, and was killing Jess off always the only option?

(L-R) Keisha Castle Hughes, Roxy Sternberg and Jen Landon - Credit: CBS
(L-R) Keisha Castle Hughes, Roxy Sternberg and Jen Landon - Credit: CBS

CBS

DAVID HUDGINS: As producers, we knew awhile ago that Julian wanted to pursue other creative pursuits. So I got in the room with a writer early on, and we started talking about how Jess would leave the show. We spent a lot of time on it, honestly, exploring every option. Everything was on the table. Ultimately, in the writers room, we kept coming back to this notion that the premise of this show is Most Wanted — we’re chasing the worst of the worst, the most dangerous of the dangerous. Inherently in that line of work, is the constant risk that you can either get injured or killed in the line of duty. And we just decided that true to the premise of the show, this was what was going to happen to Jess— he gets killed in the line of duty. But we also wanted to do it in a way where it was heroic, which is why he dies while trying to save [Lucy]. It’s shocking, it’s tragic. It’s emotional. It’s dramatic. And it was the best story we could do for the exit of this character.

DEADLINE: Did McMahon have any input into the fate of his character?

HUDGINS: Julian did not weigh in. He’s such a pro and such a good guy. He basically told us, “I trust you will do what’s best for the show.”

Jen Landon and Terry O’Quinn - Credit: CBS
Jen Landon and Terry O’Quinn - Credit: CBS

CBS

DEADLINE: What were the emotions like on set when you shot the final moments?

HUDGINS: It was very emotional, as you can imagine, with everybody there, including Julian. We were in a parking lot on Roosevelt Island in New York, in the heart of the city, which is appropriate for the death of that character. It was just extremely emotional for everybody but we all stepped up and got it done in a great way.

DEADLINE: Speaking of emotional, can you share any insight on that final scene where Sarah and Byron travel to tell Tali her dad has died?

HUDGINS: There is a version of this episode that could have ended with just the shooting. But as writers, we were always interested in exploring the emotion, the fallout, the grief, and the reality of that moment — which is why you have Barnes and Hana (Keisha Castle Hughes) telling Sarah. They’re all so great in that scene. And then bringing in Terry O’Quinn so they can go tell Tali at the end — what an emotional punch. It’s still not over. We are going to be exploring those characters and their grief, the team’s grief, and how they’re dealing with his absence over the next couple of episodes.

DEADLINE: Will the team be dealing with the events of tonight’s episode for the remainder of the season?

HUDGINS: We designed Jess’ exit so, in the next two episodes, we could explore the team’s grief. Isobel (Alana de la Garza) is in the next episode, helping them deal with that grief. The reality is, as FBI agents and professionals, they have a job to do, but they’re also human. They grieve and they have emotions. So we decided to take all of that and throw it into the mix. So over the course of the next two episodes, we see the team dealing with the case of the week, but also each other and their grief and their loss and everybody’s processing it differently. And it just makes for a good story.

Roxy Sternberg and Julian McMahon - Credit: CBS
Roxy Sternberg and Julian McMahon - Credit: CBS

CBS

DEADLINE: At what point will we meet Dylan McDermott’s new character? What can you tease on that front?

HUDGINS: He arrives in the April 12 episode. We’re trying to keep some of that under wraps for now. What I can share is when we decided to make this move, not only were we figuring out Jess’ exit but also the entrance for the new character. We started creating the character, coming up with a broad stroke and sketches of this person. During that process, we got word that Dylan was available, and was potentially castable. When he was all in, we were thrilled because it fits perfectly with what we wanted to do and where we want to take the show. It’s invigorating.

We’re looking at it as an opportunity, as this sort of closing of one chapter and starting a new one with Dylan now in charge. I think it’s going to be really exciting and really fun for the fans. It will always be about the manhunt and getting justice — that’s the core of the show. But seeing this new iteration of the team do it this way with Dylan on board, it’s all very exciting. We’ve got, essentially, a six-episode arc that we’re circling for his character to get us to the finale for this year.

(L-R) Keisha Castle-Hughes, Alexa Davalos and Roxy Sternberg - Credit: CBS
(L-R) Keisha Castle-Hughes, Alexa Davalos and Roxy Sternberg - Credit: CBS

CBS

DEADLINE: Will he be feeling he has big shoes to fill?

HUDGINS: I think so because he does. The Fugitive Task Force is the elite squad of the FBI. You don’t get that job unless you know what you’re doing. And that’s part of the story too because hanging in the ether in those two episodes before Dylan arrives, is this idea of who [the new boss] is going to be?

DEADLINE: Can viewers expect to see friction between Dylan and the Task Force?

HUDGINS: Yes, there is some friction. It’s just natural when you’re grieving the loss of somebody. In the absence of Jess, you’re looking at where he used to make his tea and put his little honey bear in it or whatever. It’s emotional. There is going to be some friction and this pending question of, how are we going to do this, and how can we do this? And ultimately, I think it’s going to bring the team closer together.

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