Jesse Lee Soffer can’t seem to shake Jay Halstead. The New York-born actor has played the young detective on no less than three TV series, but perhaps never with so much excitement as on NBC’s Chicago P.D., now in its third season. Here, Soffer explains what keeps the character interesting, how he’s coping with Chicago winters and why nobody’s letting him do all of the stunts himself.
Are you getting ready for another winter in Chicago?
You know what, yesterday it was 75 degrees out and we had this beautiful blue day, and then today it was like someone hit a light switch and now it’s fall. It’s 50 degrees out, it’s cloudy, it’s cold. We’ve got another two weeks of this and then it’ll probably drop below 30.
You’ll be filming until June. Despite the impending cold, are you having fun?
Oh yeah, we’re loving it. The scripts just keep getting better, and we have some new writers in the room and they have a great storyline coming for us. It’s more action, more drama, I’m doing more of the crazy stunts I like to do—it’s great.
How crazy are you willing to get with stunts?
I would pretty much do anything as long as they let me. If someone was like, “We’re doing a car chase, you’re gonna flip a car,” I would do it. But there’s no way we would really do that, so it’s kind of up to the network and the producers as far as safety goes. I always say that we’re like a pro sports team, there’s always somebody in the infirmary, somebody who got banged up, someone is like getting an MRI or getting over a sprained knee. We have such an action-packed show that someone is always getting a boo-boo.
What’s the wildest thing they’ve actually let you do?
It wasn’t even a stunt, but I actually used live ammunition in a scene. I don’t know if it was sanctioned by anybody, but we were blowing the hinges off of a door with a shotgun. We were rehearsing it, and then we got to the real thing, we had SWAT guys there and they were like, “You know, Jesse’s been trained, he knows what he’s doing.” So I got to shotgun a door off the hinges.
You’ve played Jay across a few TV shows, including Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. What keeps you interested in him?
It’s always challenging. I’m always trying to find the character and trying to change the character and figure out what he’s going through and what he’d be experiencing in a given moment or something like that, but on top of that we’re always learning. We have cops with us all day on set, we have our technical advisors constantly teaching us new tricks of the trade and putting us in scenarios that we haven’t been in before. So the job is always challenging and there’s always a new experience. I think that keeps us on our toes.
And what’s in store for him as the new season rolls out?
I think Jay becomes more mature, he comes into his own. Our show is kind of dark and gritty as it is, so our characters always have to walk the line of doing things that are morally questionable if they’re done for justice. And I think Jay is figuring that stuff out for himself.
Is there anything you’d like to see happen for him?
Jay was in the military and he was at war, and he’s kind of like a badass. I like it when someone’s imperfect, when the good guy doesn’t always win or when he makes a mistake and screws up. There have been a couple episodes so far this season where we’ve gotten to see more of an emotional side to Jay, and you know to see his compassion and that hasn’t been something that’s been there in the previous season. It’ll be cool for the fans to see.
Main image by Melis+Dainon