If you watch "Chicago P.D." you know it's a show that always leaves you guessing what the cops will be up against next as they fight to serve and protect the windy city. For actor Jesse Lee Soffer, the uncertainty of where the next crime will take his character is what he says makes being a part of the NBC police drama so thrilling for him. On the series by Emmy-award winning executive producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order: SVU”, “Chicago Fire”), Soffer plays Detective Jay Halstead: a young cop on the intelligence unit that fights the city's biggest crimes from high profile murders to drug trafficking and beyond. In trying to solve that vast range of cases Halstead is at times forced to question if doing the job by the books is always the best way to get justice.
On tonight's episode we see how that grey area for Halstead leads him to face a major case that could affect his ability to remain on the force. In a new interview, Soffer, who is no stranger to television dramas with his Emmy-nominated work on “As the World Turns”, discussed why it is both exciting and challenging for him to play someone who is constantly being put in situations that leave him torn between being a good cop or a bad cop. The New York native also shared the value behind the police training process, what's ahead for Halstead and much more!
What are you most enjoying about playing Jay Halstead on “Chicago P.D.”?
Jesse- As an actor it's actually a really challenging job. There's some really fun stuff, and stuff that's been really dynamic and interesting. The way we shoot it we never really know what we're going to get, or where the character is going. So much of it is a surprise and we figure it out as we go; and it keeps me intrigued. That's what I'm really enjoying: the fact that it's constantly changing.
It seems every week the cops are presented with a new set of challenges with your cases. It seems like all the characters are sometimes in gray areas. Do you feel that way with Jay?
Jesse- Absolutely. Everybody is in a grey area. I think that's the kind of realism we bring to our show; you never know how far someone is willing to go to get the job done and where their boundaries are when it comes to doing what they think is right. What they think is right might not be what the viewer thinks is right. That definitely keeps it interesting.
And currently we see Jay caught in a very big grey area with trying to get justice for the murder of a young boy that he knew. He wanted the pedophile to be locked up for what he did. We have seen this storyline develop throughout the season with him, and now the suspect has been found dead. I personally don't think Jay killed him, but what can you say about this case?
Jesse- Well, we'll see on the episode! Yes, for him it's been a real conflict. It was something that was really intense. And it hits close to home, it's someone he knew and I think it pains him because he wasn't able to do something about it. Justice has not been done. It's been a real source of pain, and regret and a conflict for him because as a cop you want to do what is right; you want to follow the law. But in this situation there may have to be laws that are broken and obviously this guy got off and his father was his alibi so it's like what do you do then? Now that storyline is finally coming to an end and he is ready to do something about it.
He seems like he is very torn between either being a good cop or a bad cop in this situation.
Jesse- Yes. I want to believe that all cops they want to do right. They want to do good. But what is that? It's all really just a grey area.
It seems like there is possibly something developing between him and his partner, Erin Lindsay (played by Sophia Bush), what can you tell viewers about that? Is there any romance ahead for Jay?
Jesse- We'll see where that's going. We don't know right now. There's obviously a pretty strong flirtation, and it goes beyond that too. They care about each other. They're partners. They have to watch each others back. That's not always the easiest thing to do if you're involved. That can get complicated. So we don't know where it's going but there's definitely something brewing!
Now that you all have filmed the entire first season, is there a favorite storyline you have had with your character? Is there one that was either the most challenging or most fun for you?
Jesse- Yes, actually this current storyline, the Lonnie Rodiger stuff was definitely the most challenging because it was a far stretch for me as an actor. I have never had to deal with this kind of stuff. And there are some scenes coming up in the next episode with Antonio (Jon Seda) from Intelligence and he is challenging him. And Antonio is not sure Halstead did it or not. And Halstead is fighting back. That stuff has been my favorite.
What was your police training process like?
Jesse- The training process is on-going and so much fun. I really liked it. It started off the first few days of actual training in order for us to look and feel like the police. Whether it be moving together as a team, shooting, learning how to go around corners, all that stuff. Just the tactical technical aspect of it all. There was some driving stuff as well. But then the real training happened on set everyday. We had technical advisers and real cops who were on set everyday. He was our technical adviser. We had a SWAT technical adviser. Those guys were on set everyday; watching every scene, instructing us, helping us to feel the role, what the character might be thinking about. From day to day cop work and filling out paper work to protocol and procedures. And that happened everyday at work. And it will continue.
That must have been invaluable to have real police there with you guys.
Jesse- Oh, absolutely! Absolutely invaluable. We wouldn't have been able to make the show without them.
I know you began acting at a very young age. It was cool to learn that you played the youngest Brady kid in both The Brady Bunch movies. As a child, were you aware at the time of the magnitude of that show and what a phenomenon it was?
Jesse- That was one of my first big roles back when I was ten years old! Yes, I was totally aware. I watched tapes and tapes of the shows to try to act like the character, Bobby. It was in syndication and reruns were on TV all the time so I definitely knew what was going on with it.
I know that followed many different film and television roles for you. With all of your various acting experiences, what would you saw is one specific thing you brought with you to your role on “Chicago P.D.”? Because it seems like it's very different from anything you had done in the past.
Jesse- You bring all of the experiences. With each new role you learn what is going to happen for you and that character, and that's the knowledge you're drawing from. So every role leads up to it and what you're thinking about. But as far as “Chicago P.D.”, we all started out on “Chicago Fire”, it was a whole new thing. I didn't know what “Chicago P.D.” was going to look like or feel like. All of us got introduced a little bit here and there on “Chicago Fire”, but now we were making our own show. It was a whole new experience for me and we were creating it together. I think that's what makes it special.
I like to ask this question to everyone I interview: if you could go back in time and spend a day in the life of anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Jesse- I would want to go and be in the mind of a painter or someone like that. Like a Picasso and see how they saw the world. Before they became famous, before they had any notoriety; someone who saw the world in such obscure different ways that they can make art like that. That would fascinate me.
Any final thoughts you would like to share with the “Chicago P.D.” audience?
Jesse- I'm so grateful and thankful that people are watching and loving the show. We're enjoying ourselves. And I'm grateful to the police in Chicago. We hope that we're doing them right, doing them justice.
"Chicago P.D." airs Wednesdays at 10 pm EST on NBC.
On Twitter: @NBCChicagoPD @JesseLeeSoffer
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