Jesse Lee Soffer Covers BELLO mag Fashion June 2015


Cops and Robbers: Jesse Lee Soffer

Featured in BELLO mag Fashion June 2015 issue #72Download BELLO App


It’s hard not to notice police in the media lately…especially when they look like Jesse Lee Soffer. Soffer stars in Chicago P.D. as Detective Jay Halstead, a charming tough guy packing heat. I spoke with Soffer about his career and what it means to portray a cop on television today.

Bello: So you’ve been acting for a while now, right?

JLS: Yeah, I started really young. I started when I was six.
I noticed you were in The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel in the ’90s. I’m a ’90s kid, so I think I saw the movies before I ever saw the show.
Which is sad, because the show is so different from the movies. The show is so wholesome and all-American, and the movies were grotesque and brutal and just a satire.

But I love it. It’s so funny.

They’re great. We had so much fun. I was very proud of those when I was younger; that was kind of my first big step into the industry and into the film world. And working with Gary Cole and Shelley Long, it was a real trip, and a great learning experience for an eleven-year-old.

Now you play Jay Halstead on Chicago P.D., Chicago Fire and Law & Order: SVU. Does that ever get confusing with three different storylines?

It gets so confusing sometimes. Shooting a television show is like guerilla warfare; it’s like, one day, you’re here on this set [and] the next day, you’re maybe filming on this set. And the storyline you filmed the day before actually takes place like two weeks later…so it makes no sense. It’s a complete free-for-all, and keeping track of it can be exhausting. But it’s a lot of fun, and we love playing with the SVU cast when we get to go to New York and obviously when our brothers and sisters on Chicago Fire come hang out with us. But yeah, keeping track of storylines when things are being shot out of order and you’ve got three different shows going and now a fourth, Chicago Med, I don’t know how we’re going to pull it off. But we’re doing the best we can. I know we’ll do a good job.

For your role, have you been able to research with other police officers and get to know the job?

We did a lot of training. You know, all the cops you see on our show that are extras, they’re real cops on their day off. And that’s one of the things that makes our show so authentic, and I think that comes through and the viewers love that. From the beginning, we were working with a guy named Brian Luce and another guy named Walt Smith who are our technical advisors, and both have probably combined 50 years on the force and have done all sorts of different jobs from intelligence to narcotics, and they are hanging around with us all day every day, giving us tidbits here and there about what someone might be thinking in a situation. That just enhances the performance for us.

I assume you’ve noticed all the animosity toward police in the news lately. How does it feel to portray someone in a position that’s coming under fire from a lot of society right now?

I’m actually glad you asked that. It’s an interesting position to be in, and it’s frustrating at times. I work with men and women that I have the utmost level of respect and gratitude for because they’re so heroic and so good at their jobs and have found ways to deal with the trials and tribulations and the trauma and the things that they keep seeing day in and day out. They’re some of the best people I know, and for every story that you see in the news because it’s such a hot topic, there’s probably a hundred where police officers saved a life or stopped a crime, and those aren’t the things they televise. It is an issue. It’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. You know, there’s body cams and all sorts of stuff like that coming out, but I feel for the men and women on the police force that are doing a good job and that maybe sometimes, they aren’t getting the respect they deserve because of what’s going on in the media.

Do you feel like the show has a responsibility or an opportunity to imitate reality with some of these stories, but also show the good side of the force?

Yeah, absolutely. There is a responsibility to portray what’s going on in the current times. Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the country, and there are bad cops. That’s a fact. Actually, one of the most recent episodes deals with a crooked cop. There is a responsibility to do that and there’s an authenticity to that, but what I love about our show so much is that we also get to portray the heroic side and put them in a light that I think is deserved of our first responders.
photography TEREN ODDO


About The Author

Stephane Marquet
Creative Director

First of all, excuse my French! … I was born in the South of France. Lived in Paris for 10 years and travelled the world until I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, because obviously recession was a great time to move to a new country! I also arrived around Halloween and was greeted at the Social Security offices by a nurse who directed to the window Number 6 so a witch could hand me my social security number. Welcome to America. I am a painter, a photographer and the creative director of BELLO mag.

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