Chicago P.D.'s Jesse Lee Soffer Explains How His Directing Debut's Original Ending Changed, Plus Perks From Playing Halstead

Spoilers ahead for Episode 16 of Chicago P.D. Season 10, called "Deadlocked."

Jesse Lee Soffer made his triumphant return to Chicago P.D. with the latest episode on March 22, although not in the role that longtime viewers are used to. Instead of reprising his role as Jay Halstead, Soffer stepped behind the camera to make his directing debut for an intense and action-packed hour of television. The episode came to about as happy an ending as could be hoped for when it came to the case of the week, and the actor-turned-director spoke with CinemaBlend about the change to how the case ended in the original script, and how playing Halstead “for so long” has paid off. 

Voight took the stand in “Deadlocked” with ASA Chapman trying to put drug kingpin Arturo Morales behind bars despite all of his connections to criminals on the outside. Unfortunately, Morales’ people got to one of the jurors by attacking and kidnapping his wife, promising to kill her unless Christopher voted to acquit. The complication for Intelligence? As a witness in the trial, Voight wasn’t allowed to lead the Intelligence Unit into an official investigation. 

The unit did ultimately save Christopher's wife with enough time to spare for him to vote to convict, but ASA Chapman found out about Voight’s secret interference, and was not happy that he went rogue to make the conviction happen. The verdict was read in a scene that played music over the dialogue rather than any words spoken between the characters. Speaking with Jesse Lee Soffer about “Deadlocked,” he shared how the ending of the case changed from the original script: 

There was scripted dialogue in the verdict scene, and then when we were editing it, Terry Blythe – who was the editor, who's fantastic, and a total master of editing, he's been doing it for so long – he had the idea. He was like, 'I kind of feel like this could just play with no dialogue.' And I was like, 'Yeah, you're right. It's awesome.' And then we watched it like that, and I loved the idea and so I gotta give Terry all the credit for that one.

The verdict scene could have come across very differently if Soffer and editor Terry Blythe hadn’t settled on a finished version with music rather than dialogue. It’s just one example of the kinds of decisions that Soffer was responsible for as a director, and he previously explained what was “tricky” about returning in this new role. So, how many times did Soffer watch the episode to make adjustments? The actor/director said:

That's really tricky because I've watched every take of every frame a few times [laughs], while we were filming it too, so like, hundreds!... The full episode completed, probably like four or five because while you're editing it, there's a director's cut, then an editor's cut, and then they do the studio and network notes and stuff, so just a handful once it was totally completed.

Of course, a lot happened in “Deadlocked” leading up to the dialogue-free verdict scene, including sequences that surely would have showcased Halstead once upon a time: Intelligence in action to chase down a suspect with time short, and Voight fighting his way through bad guys to get to a victim. Back when he was a series regular, Jesse Lee Soffer was often the one hopping fences, jumping from roofs, and going after the bad guys. This time, he directed his co-stars in doing it. 

Jesse Lee Soffer BTS directing Chicago PD

(Image credit: NBC)

In light of Jesse Lee Soffer coming into a directing gig with much more experience in performing stunt and action sequences than the average director, I asked what it was like for him to approach that kind of scene from the other side of the camera this time. He shared that it was “really fun” and explained what he jokes about in hindsight:

Eventually you open some stunt or some fight sequence on the page and you're like, 'Oh, god, I gotta roll around in the mud with this guy today? Great.' So it was nice to just get to relax from a warm chair somewhere [laughs], and put Jason [Beghe] through hell. But he was a trooper and a champ. It was really cool because I love that aspect of the show. I love the action on the show, and I would say I know it better than anybody because I played Halstead for so long. So I got to do that with Voight's character a little bit, and I think we got to make him look pretty capable still, even ten seasons later. And that was a lot of fun.

If any One Chicago alum knows about rolling around in the mud to try and take down an actor playing a criminal, it would be Jesse Lee Soffer! He could enjoy a more comfortable approach to action scenes for this episode, complete with directing his co-stars and enjoying a bit more warmth than if he was in the middle of a stunt sequence during a night shoot during a Chicago winter. 

Jesse Lee Soffer did make sure to compliment Jason Beghe for his work! The “Deadlocked” director confirmed that he was indeed dealing with the challenges of a Chicago winter, saying: 

Oh yeah. The night sequences in this episode were in the middle of February. It was zero degrees outside, like negative 10 wind chill. We were working at like 2AM. It was brutal. It was totally brutal. Thank you to the cast and crew for making it happen with me, because holy crap.

TV magic may be able to make some scenes filmed indoors look like they were produced outside, but that’s not always the case when it comes to One Chicago on location! Like when Tracy Spiridakos’ stunt double had to go into the Chicago River for the big Upton episode that filmed in January last year, sometimes the P.D. team just has to brave the cold to pull off the best shots. Plus, Marina Squerciati was truly in some very cramped quarters in the 200th episode, even if she wasn’t actually trapped down a well in the forest like Burgess. As Jesse Lee Soffer says: holy crap! 

Soffer also shared that he’s “definitely open to the experience” of directing again in the Dick Wolf universe, saying that he thinks “doing this can also make you a better actor” and it’s “all about storytelling.” Only time will tell if and when he steps behind the camera again (or in front of it to reprise his role as Halstead, if fans are lucky), but for now, viewers will be able to revisit “Deadlocked” streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription

You can also look forward to new episodes of Chicago P.D. on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. and Chicago Med at 8 p.m. The three One Chicago shows have not yet been renewed for the 2023-2024 TV season (and have not delivered a good old-fashioned three-show crossover in some time), but the future seems bright for them as some of the network’s biggest hits. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.