Jesse Lee Soffer on His 'Cathartic' Return to 'Chicago P.D.' After Season 10 Exit (Exclusive)

The actor makes his directorial debut on Wednesday's episode following his departure earlier in the season.

Jesse Lee Soffer returns to Chicago P.D. following his departure as Detective Jay Halstead earlier this season -- this time as a first-time director. Soffer exited P.D. as a series regular after the Oct. 5 episode. Though this marks his first time back in the OneChicago family since then, he called his homecoming a satisfying one. 

"It was a great experience. I was really excited to do it and very grateful to everyone at Wolf [Entertainment] for giving me the opportunity," Soffer told ET over Zoom. "We had a great time. It was really nice to hang out with everybody. It was very cathartic. And get to be with the fam again."

The 38-year-old acknowledged that he "totally" missed sharing scenes with his former P.D. co-stars and left the door open for a potential return in front of the camera down the line.

"As far as that, never say never," Soffer said. "Halstead's always going to be in my blood. It was 10 years as that guy. I love that cast and that crew so much because you have to be a family. You're working in rugged conditions in the winter and you're trying to crank these episodes out and there's 20 of them or 22 of them every year. And you go through all the blood, sweat and tears together. So it was fun to get to be on the other side of things and to play that game with everybody."

The actor helms Wednesday's intense episode, "Deadlocked," which picks up on an earlier case from the season and sees Voight (Jason Beghe) taking the stand for ASA Chapman (Sara Bues) in a murder trial against drug kingpin Arturo Morales (Robby Ramos). When a juror becomes compromised amid the case, Voight and his team work behind the scenes to ensure justice prevails.

"I was very nervous leading up to the episode," Soffer shared, revealing he found out he was assigned this episode just a few days before beginning prep. "It was definitely nerve-wracking."

"But once I got the outline and I got to see that it was this old school P.D. episode where it's Voight going off the rails and he's a man on fire, doing his Voight thing, I was like, 'Oh. Well, this I know. This thing I got in spades,'" he recalled. "So it was very confidence-building once I got that. And then we just got to have fun. We just got to do a throwback to the early days of P.D."


Soffer credited Beghe, who he primarily directed this hour, for bringing his A-game during the eight-day shoot. 

"It was great. I think people watch the show and they have this perspective of who we all are and it's really the farthest thing from who we actually are. Jason's a huge teddy bear. He's not some mean raspy voice, rough and tumble guy. He does have a raspy voice, but he's not mean," he said. "For a long time, he and I, and everyone else too for that matter, has directed each other in scenes or given an idea or a different point of view or thought about something that would elevate a scene. So we've been playing that game for a long time together, directing each other, I would say. It was pretty seamless and there's a lot of trust there."

Still, Soffer maintained he still prioritizes acting when it comes to his career -- even if this experience behind the camera left him with a desire to direct more in the future.

"I'm an actor first and foremost, and I love acting. And that'll always be a passion for me. But it's definitely something new that I'm interested in and I think is fascinating," Soffer elaborated. "And I've had a growing itch to do it and to learn more about it for a while. So I'm grateful that I'm getting to scratch that itch."

He said of his episode of P.D.: "I've seen the episode; I've seen it a lot. And I'm really happy with how it came out. I'm excited for everyone to see it. And yes, I'm probably going to live-tweet. Hopefully, everybody likes it as much as I do."

Since Soffer's departure earlier in the season, the cracks in the marriage between his character, Halstead, and his wife, Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos), have gotten bigger and bigger as time has passed -- to the point where their relationship seems to be all but over.

"To be honest with you, I don't think I really have a right to an opinion about it because I'm not there anymore. I'm not on the show anymore," Soffer said diplomatically when asked about his thoughts on the narrative direction for the couple. "And the writers have a responsibility to the characters that are there to make their storylines work and to make everything seem realistic. We're on a pretty dark show. So I don't think I get to have an opinion."

As for what's next, Soffer is leaving that up to fate. "I'm back to the drawing board," he answered honestly. "Could be more directing, could be a new show. Who knows? I don't know right now. But I'll let you know when I do."

Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.