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'One Chicago' stars respond to Jesse Lee Soffer's 'Chicago P.D.' departure

Soffer is leaving “Chicago P.D.” after 10 seasons. "There will be a void," Nick Gehlfuss, who plays Soffer's on-screen brother, told TODAY.
Chicago P.D. - Season 9
Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead.Lori Allen / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Last week, Jesse Lee Soffer announced he was leaving "Chicago P.D" after 10 years.

In a series with countless cast exits and entrances, Soffer’s Det. Jay Halstead was a reliable presence on the Dick Wolf-created show since its first season in 2014.

“I want to thank the incredible fans for their unwavering support during the past 10 years and want to express my deepest gratitude to Dick Wolf and everyone at Wolf Entertainment, Peter Jankowski, Matt Olmstead, Derek Haas, Michael Brandt, Rick Eid, Gwen Sigan, NBC, Universal Television, my fellow castmates and our incredible crew,” Soffer said in a statement given to TODAY. “To create this hour drama week after week has been a labor of love by everyone who touches the show. I will always be proud of my time as Det. Jay Halstead.”

Details about how “Chicago P.D.” will approach Stoffer’s departure are not known, but will likely emerge when the show’s 10th season begins. The next season of "Chicago P.D." premieres, along with “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med,” on Sept. 21 on NBC.

Speaking to TODAY, other One Chicago cast members reflected on Soffer's surprise departure.

Benjamin Levy Aguilar, who was promoted to a full time cast member in Season 10 of "Chicago P.D." after appearing in the Season Nine finale, said the announcement was bittersweet, given his character's relationship with Soffer's. After Levy's Dante Torres joins Intelligence as a rookie, Jay provides guidance.

"It's been like art imitating life in a way, because Jesse and I became really good friends and he's been like a mentor for me," Aguilar said. "The same way he took in the character, he took me in as well.

"He's a brilliant human being and I'm gonna miss him," Aguilar continued.

The sentiment was echoed by Nick Gehlfuss, who plays Dr. Nick Halstead, Jay's brother, on “Chicago Med."

“It was not surprising to hear you say that, that he welcomed you in, because that’s exactly what he did for me,” Gehlfuss told Aguilar. “I’ll never forget that. It a little intimidating for me when this all started. He took me under his wing.”

Chicago Med - Pilot
Nick Gehlfuss as Dr. Will Halstead and Epatha Merkerson as Sharon Goodwin in "Chicago Med."Elizabeth Morris / NBC

Gehlfuss said he and Soffer are "good friends," but that he was still caught off guard by the news he was leaving the show.

"It was surprising to hear that he's leaving. There will be a void. But that's the nature of this industry, and that's just what happens. But I will certainly miss him. But we have a relationship to carry outside of all this that we will," Gehlfuss said.

Kara Killmer, who has played Sylvie Bennett on "Chicago Fire" since 2014, also said she was "shocked" to hear he was departing.

"He's done such a great job with that character. I got to do a one-on-one scene when I first started, and he's always been lovely to me. He does such good work," she said.

"The whole 'One Chicago' family is definitely losing a very well loved, very talented actor. And so I feel I feel for the fans," Killmer continued.

As Killmer noted, fans aren't taking the new lightly, calling him the "beating heart" of the show and launching calls to "bring him back."

But for now, the cast is looking back. Gehlfuss remembered moment that he said will always define his relationship with Soffer. Once, they got to channel their roles as first responders in real life.

Gehlfuss said he and Soffer were out to dinner when they heard the sound of screeching cars. "This was the first time I'd ever seen a car accident happen," he recalled. After colliding in an intersection, one car turned sideways into a construction moat around an apartment building and was buried deep on its side.

"We looked at each other and I asked, 'Do we run?' And we start running toward it. Nothing to do with our jobs — it's just the human instinct. I do remember, as we run, thinking to myself, 'This is what it really feels like," he said.

Funnily enough, the woman in the car — who, you can breathe a sigh of relief, was OK — was a fan of "Chicago P.D." and "Chicago Med."

"She recognized me. She said, 'You're that guy from ...' and I go, 'Yeah.' And then (Soffer) is he's helping her get out of the pit and she's like, 'You're that guy?'" he recalled. "She's like, 'Am I dead? What is really going on?'"

Eventually, Gehlfuss said the "real" first responders showed up. "We went and had dinner but it felt heroic, for a split second," he said.

Tracy Spiridakos, who plays Soffer's on-screen wife Det. Hailey Upton, also posted her reaction to the news.

“I guess the word is out…Jesse, what can I say, you’re the absolute best,” Spiridakos wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for your kindness, your guidance and your friendship. You’re the greatest onscreen husband a girl could ask for. I’ll miss being on set with you every day. I can’t wait to see what the world has in store for you next. #upsteadforever.”