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It is a dangerous and precarious living working for a local police department, especially in a place as large and sprawling as Chicago. Either directly or not, the cast of NBC's Chicago P.D. has reflected the occupation's uncertainty through their time on the network drama. With the series currently in its seventh season, viewers have seen time and again that not everyone makes it out alive by the end, with several main characters exiting the show during its run so far.
Let's explore the different reasons why each of the main cast members left Chicago P.D., and whether it was directly publicized or not. Some actors' departures from the show are more high-profile than others, while the details related to some of the exits are still left a bit murky. Nevertheless, we'll tell you what we know about each actor's respective exit, and how it ultimately impacted the show following their expected or totally unexpected absence.
Naturally, it should be noted that, since we're diving into the fate of these characters, we will discuss spoilers for Chicago P.D. liberally throughout this feature. You've been warned accordingly.
Archie Kao (Sheldon Jin)
While Sheldon Jin was established as one of the main characters of Chicago P.D. during its abbreviated first season, the character didn't have a long residence on the NBC drama. Specifically, Archie Kao's character was killed off during a cliffhanger in the season finale, which provided a sense of unease and general unpredictability that the producers really wanted to establish moving forward. As co-creator and former showrunner Matt Olmstead explained to TV Guide after the finale:
[Archie Kao] didn't know, nor did we. It's one of those things where the story told was headed in that direction in terms of needing to have a cliff-hanger and a big impact of a season finale and also just show the ramifications of that police work and that unit and street level and no one's guaranteed anything. It started to kind of gain momentum; like this character can't survive this.
It would seem that the decision wasn't the result of any ill-will forming between the actor and writers early on, and nor was it related to any on-set drama. Rather, it was the decision the writers made. It wasn't an easy one, though then-showrunner Matt Olmstead believed it was one worth pursuing.
Brian Geraghty (Sean Roman)
Brian Geraghty's entrance into Chicago P.D. wasn't quite the same as his fellow co-stars. He joined the dramatic series during Season 2, signing a year-to-year contract, rather than the standard seven-year contract. Nevertheless, the producers allowed the actor to stay on the show however long he felt comfortable appearing, but as Season 3 came to a close, Geraghty told the showrunners that he was ready to move on to other projects. As former showrunner Matt Olmstead explained to TV Guide:
He is the most level-headed, decent human being you’re going to encounter, and he’s upfront. He was like, ‘I don’t know if I can commit to a seven-year contract. This sounds great, but I’ve got to take it year by year,’ which Dick doesn’t do very often. But the deal was made... He’s also a producer and wants to get stuff off the ground that he’s been working on and wanted to give us a heads-up and include us in the conversation. It was the most civil, level-headed, mutual fan-fest agreement and departure that I’ve ever been a part of, because he was just very decent about it. I hope that we honored his request. He gave us what we needed — two years of doing a really good job on a character that elevated the show. We shook hands at the beginning, we shook hands at the end, and he’s off to do great things, I’m sure of it.
The producers accepted this decision without contest, finding a way to kill Sean Roman off the show. Unlike Archie Kao, this was a decision the TV actor made himself, not that the distinction helped made it easier for fans.
Sophia Bush (Erin Lindsay)
Undoubtedly, Sophia Bush has been the most notorious exit from Chicago P.D. so far, and it's also unfortunately the most devastating one, given the behind-the-scenes controversy. The TV actress chose not to reprise her role as Erin Lindsay for the show's fifth season, claiming that the work environment became emotionally and physically taxing. The actress noted that she experienced "inappropriate behavior" from co-star Jason Beghe, and that the work conditions on Chicago P.D. were intolerable, causing Bush to work in dangerous conditions.
It was a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior... I realized that as I was thinking I was being the tough guy, doing the thing, showing up to work, I programmed myself to tolerate the intolerable ... I quit because, what I’ve learned is I’ve been so programmed to be a good girl and to be a work horse and be a tug boat that I have always prioritized tugging the ship for the crew, for the show, for the group, ahead of my own health … My body was, like, falling apart, because I was really, really unhappy.
Bush told Dax Shepard on Armchair Expert podcast that she stayed on Chicago P.D. as long as she did because she was concerned about the cast and crew. Bush worried that she would cost them their jobs if she exited. It was shortly after show-runner Matt Olmstead left the program that Bush decided to also call it quits, clearly not willing to put up with the current state of things.
Elias Koteas (Alvin Olinsky)
When it came time for Elias Koteas to leave Chicago P.D. after five seasons, Alvin Olinsky's fate was more in line with Archie Kao's departure. More specifically, it was a decision made by the writers, not the actor, as new showrunner Rick Eid explained. When it came time to draw a resolution for this character, Eid claimed it was a storytelling choice that was easier to make from a creative standpoint rather than from a business perspective. He claimed Elias Koteas contribution was "important," and Eid found this decision to be "challenging," but he felt it was the right call, and Koteas took it gracefully and professionally. As Eid told TV Guide:
From a creative perspective, it was a decision that evolved organically from the ongoing storyline between Voight and Woods. The writers and I kept coming back to this idea that Voight’s decision to kill Bingham should cost him something. Over time, we landed on the notion that Olinsky should be the person to pay for Voight’s sin because Voight admired and loved him so much. From a business perspective, however, this was an extremely difficult decision. Elias [Koteas] is a terrific actor and a good person. He’s also been an important part of the show since the very beginning. So this part of the process was really challenging. But Elias handled the news like a true professional and remained committed to the show and his character until the final shot. We will miss him dearly.
As stated previously, knowing that the exit was amicable does not necessarily mean it stung any less, likely, but it it's always good to know there aren't any hard feelings.
Jon Seda (Antonio Dawson)
Earlier this year, Jon Seda became the most recent, and possibly the most surprising, exit from Chicago P.D. The TV actor is no stranger to the One Chicago world, having spent time on Chicago Fire and Chicago Justice in addition to his work on Chicago P.D. It was revealed that his character would end his time on the show after Season 6, and that he wouldn't appear in Season 7. The reason for why he left the show is still rather vague. Seda reportedly didn't want to say goodbye, but the writers decided it was his time to go.
At the end of Season 6, Antonio Dawson was seen relapsing, and went off-book to a rehabilitation center at the behest Sergeant Hank Voigt, leaving his badge on the desk as well. Unlike a number of other characters mentioned earlier, Antonio Dawson hasn't been killed, which suggests that the character might return for another appearance later down the road. Alas, the character's time on the show is done for now — at least, temporarily. As he wrote on Twitter, Jon Seda considered it "an honor" to play the role of Antonio Dawson. Also, Seda thanked all the fans for their continued support.
Which departure from Chicago P.D. stung the most for you? Let us know in the comment section below, and don't forget to tune into the ever-shocking drama every Wednesday night on NBC at 10:00 p.m. ET.