Jesse Lee Soffer has returned home to NBC’s Chicago P.D. but not as Jay Halstead. Instead, he’s making his debut as a director in tonight’s episode “Deadlocked.”
The actor announced in late August his 10-season run on the Dick Wolf drama would conclude, making his final appearance on October 5. News followed weeks later that he would reunite with the cast and crew in the director’s chair.
“Deadlocked” is the continuation of “The Ghost Inside Of You” which aired on February 15.
“This was the perfect episode for me to direct,” Soffer told Deadline during a recent interview. “I love this episode because it was like a throwback episode to old-school PD with Voight [Jason Beghe] going off the rails, Man on Fire kind of stuff, vigilante stuff, and living in the gray area off the books. That’s the story we’ve been telling, especially the foil between Halstead and Voight, for so long—it’s something I really know deeply. So to get to do that kind of story with Jason was really fun.”
Soffer said it felt “really rewarding” to be reunited with his “tight-knit” family referring to the cast and crew recalling how much fun they had “goofing off” behind the scenes.
“It was like I never left,” he said. “We were hanging out and we were goofing off, then we’re cameras rolling and we’re working bringing the scenes to life. We have one of— probably the hardest working crew and cast in TV—I feel confident saying that. It was great to be with everybody.”
After working on the series for nearly a decade, it was tough for Soffer to resist appearing in front of the camera but he sure did play with the idea.
“There are a couple of screens where I thought about doing that. Like, what if I just walked through the background with my back to the camera? Would someone know it was me? There are a couple of scenes where I’m literally right around the corner from where they’re filming, watching on the monitors. So, I am sort of there.”
Since his departure, Soffer has been putting in the work shadowing directors Bethany Rooney, Marc Roskin, and Chad Saxon (also one of P.D.’s producers) in preparation for tonight’s episode. “They’re all very different in how they direct,” he said of the trio.
“Bethany said something so smart which is, ’20 different directors, 20 different ways to shoot a scene.’ So, there’s no wrong answer,” he continued. “It’s more about what’s your taste and how you perceive something; what’s your point of view? This was all very confidence-building for me because it gave me the right to say, ‘I have a really strong and clear perspective because I was on this show for so long. I’m going to make the episode how I think it should be and I got to do that.”
Learning this new skill set has not convinced Soffer to reconsider his acting career. In fact, directing has given him a different point of view from which to continue growing.
“No, it’s not a career shift because I love acting. Acting is definitely my passion,” he said emphatically. “I think around midway through PD, like season four, season five, I started going, ‘Oh, I really have an idea in my head about how these scenes should get played or how we should shoot them.’ Jason and I would be working some scenes out and figuring out how to elevate what’s on the page and make it come to life in the location. Tracy [Spiridakos] started doing that, and everybody else there, too. And I was thinking I can do this; I’d like to try. And that just grew until I finally felt like I was ready. I’m grateful to Dick Wolf and everybody there for giving me this opportunity,” Soffer added.
Although Soffer remained mum as to what he believes his character has been up to while away in South America besides ghosting his wife, he is proud of his years on the show and continues to be a big fan. It’s worth noting, he’s also heard those rumblings about the rumored Burzek reunion. *wink*
When asked whether there are any plans for him to follow in Jesse Spencer’s footsteps and bring back Halstead, he was prepared.
“You know, I love Halstead and he’s definitely a part of me. I had so much fun playing him, too, so never say never,” he concluded coyly.
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