SPOILER ALERT: The following reveals major spoilers from NBC’s Chicago Med’s Season 8 finale.
NBC’s Chicago Med is saying goodbye to another original cast member, it was revealed tonight in the Season 8 finale. This person’s departure follows that of Brian Tee whose character Dr. Ethan Choi rode off into the sunset earlier this season after marrying the love of his life, April Sexton (Yaya Dacosta).
Similarly, our mystery original cast member also exited tonight.
After 8 seasons on Chicago Med, Nick Gehlfuss portrayed Dr. Will Halstead one last time after reconnecting with the woman he was always meant to be with, Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto). Yes, Natalie and her son Owen returned for a fitting goodbye to two fan-favorite characters who will be missed dearly.
One Chicago will now officially be Halstead-less. Jesse Lee Soffer played Detective Jay Halstead on Chicago P.D. for 10 seasons before announcing he was leaving the series. Jay, the younger brother of Med‘s Will, took a job with the Army and is stationed in Bolivia where he’s running a full squad of guys tracking down the worst drug cartels.
Gehlfuss spoke to Deadline on April 14 about his decision to leave One Chicago, reuniting with Devitto and whether or not he could be back one day.
DEADLINE: Nick, say it ain’t so!
NICK GEHLFUSS: It is. We have done 163 episodes of Chicago Med today. And I have done 21 Chicago Fire episodes and 18 P.D. episodes, which makes a grand total of 202 One Chicago episodes. This is wild; it’s an emotional transition. I got a phone call in November 2014 to be a part of a medical drama from Dick Wolf, and it was the second attempt. If they had told me at the time that I’d end up doing 202 episodes of it, I would not have believed them. Up until that point, I had done 6 episodes at most for one gig. I was still building dining rooms, tables and furniture that I was delivering around Los Angeles. After that, I became a working actor who no longer needed a side job, which is a milestone for any actor. It was just a huge moment, this show changed my life.
DEADLINE: What was behind your decision to leave now?
GEHLFUSS: This year was going to be the last year of my second contract, so I was going to have to make a decision about starting a new one or not. A few months ago, I made that decision. It was important to me to let everyone know as soon as I could in advance so that the writers could figure out storyline and I could have time to make that transition away from all these 8 year relationships. It was a difficult decision but I felt I had taken Dr. Halston as far as I could take him.
An actor is attracted to the profession for variety and I suppose it was time for me to try something different. People have been saying, “You’re off to bigger and better things.” I’m not saying that; that’s not the goal. I’m trained to do many different things and there were certain muscles I wasn’t using, and I didn’t want those to atrophy.
DEADLINE: Did you and Jesse speak early on about your departures? We have no more Halsteads on One Chicago.
GEHLFUSS: No, I had not talked to Jesse about this before. These decisions were completely independent of one another. There was no planning of this happening in the way it did.
DEADLINE: How did you feel about Will getting his happy ending with Natalie? As soon as I heard you were leaving, I immediately hoped this is how their stories would wrap up.
GEHLFUSS: It makes so much sense. I’m glad that you had that instinct because I did as well. I didn’t have any. I wanted them to create the story on their own, but I had a hunch they might do it and I’m really glad they did. I think that the relationship has come full circle but of course, it wasn’t the only reason Will decided to leave Med. I think Will had been seeking elements of Natalie in every relationship; I don’t think ever really got over her. It was really so great to see Torrey, too. She called me to let me know she was coming. But you know, you never know how things can play out. They could have the idea but maybe someone won’t be available or we wouldn’t be able to make it work but she was open to coming back. We fell right back into our work rhythm as if we hadn’t had any time off. It was a beautiful moment at the end of the episode that I hope bring some closure to the fans.
DEADLINE: What can you share about shooting that final moment?
GEHLFUSS: Part of what Will always had to decide was if he wanted to be a stepdad. I think that’s something that goes through your head if you’re going to be involved with someone who already has a child. When Owen shows up at the airport in Seattle— I loved playing that moment, realizing he was going to be this kid’s father officially. The actor named Ari Morgan who plays Owen has grown up on the show, literally. It was wild to see this kid because he’s now stringing along sentences and he’s a little man in a way. He’s got a personality and everything. As I said, the relationship wasn’t the only reason Will left Med, but if he was going to leave, it’s so comforting to know that he was able to go and make this happen. It was really emotional saying goodbye to the entire ED [emergency department] and overwhelming in a way because everything means so much.
DEADLINE: Will is leaving behind a legacy that continues to evolve with new actors coming in and some OGs still holding down the fort. How does that make you feel?
GEHLFUSS: I have no negative feelings about this departure as an actor or character and that’s what makes it so hard. But if it wasn’t hard, then it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. So I will always take that as opposed to the other. I’ll never forget, this moment in my life or the people that I work with because I learned a heck of a lot. It’s such a powerful experience to grow with a group of people and to see new people come in and jump aboard and see their growth and how it changes with each new member. And there’s still a bunch of people still here from the very beginning that during the last day of shooting, it was really hard to keep my composure. I didn’t think I was gonna make it through the scene that I had to do without wailing but I did. These people are family. My real family was jealous that they get to see me more than them. [Laughs]
DEADLINE: Most actors who leave One Chicago often find their way back. What are your feelings about maybe reappearing or even directing in the future?
GEHLFUSS: We’ve actually talked about that and that was part of the decision in how we exited Will. I wanted that to be the case but of course, I would have been okay with whatever the writers felt necessary for the story. So I’m glad that they preserve that possibility. They said outright, ‘You know, we’d be happy to have you come back whenever you want.’ And it’s really touching.
DEADLINE: Any parting words for fans?
GEHLFUSS: Yes, I’m not on social media or anything so I’d like to speak directly to them.
Look, it’s no secret that without you we wouldn’t have jobs. One of the most important things we can give to one another is our time. Thank you all for your time and your support. I’ve been so flattered by the number of people that have come up to me to say something positive about One Chicago and my work. That is the best confirmation of the contract between the audience and the storyteller. While Will Halstead is leaving, One Chicago is not. Enjoy the seasons to come.