Jess LaCroix, FBI Most Wanted
Credit: CBS via Getty Images

Since his shocking death in Season 3, fans of the FBI franchise have had questions over why Julian McMahon left FBI: Most Wanted and what happened to Special Agent Jess LaCroix.

FBI: Most Wanted is CBS’ procedural drama following the personal and professional lives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Fugitive Task Force, which tracks and captures notorious and dangerous criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. The series — which was created by Dick Wolf, the same mind behind the Law & Order and One Chicago franchises — premiered in 2020, is a spinoff of FBI and FBI: International. McMahon played FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jesse “Jess” LaCroix, the Fugitive Task Force’s Team Leader, from Seasons 1 to 3 of FBI: Most Wanted.

McMahon left FBI: Most Wanted in the middle of Season 3 in 2022. Dylan McDermott — who is best known for starring in shows like American Horror Story and Law & Order: Organized Crime — replaced him as the lead of the series and made his debut as FBI Supervisory Special Agent Remy Scott later in the season. Still, McMahon’s exit has led to countless questions from fans. The first: Why did Julian McMahon leave FBI: Most Wanted? Read on for what we know about his exit.

Why did Julian McMahon leave FBI: Most Wanted?

Jess LaCroix, FBI Most Wanted

Why did Julian McMahon leave FBI: Most Wanted? McMahon starred as Jess LaCroix from Seasons 1 to 3 of FBI: Most Wanted. His last episode was Season 3, Episode 14, “Shattered” in which Jess died.

McMahon announced he was leaving FBI: Most Wanted after three seasons in January 2022. “Over the past few months, the producers of ‘FBI: Most Wanted’ and I have had discussions about my departure from the show in favor of additional creative pursuits and the transition of my character Jess LaCroix,” he said in a statement at the time to Variety. “These ongoing conversations have given us an opportunity to orchestrate a seamless and productive way for me to leave the show. I would like to express the gratitude and admiration I have had working with Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski. I’m extremely proud of the work we have done together and put the development of this show, and my character Jess, at the top of my professional experience list. I wish the show, and its cast and crew, the greatest success in the future. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play Jess; he is a good man.”

In his own statement, Dick Wolf, who created the FBI franchise, told Variety that he was “saddened” to see McMahon and Jess leave the series. “We are saddened to see Julian leave. His portrayal of agent Jess LaCroix has been a key factor in the success of FBI: Most Wanted. We will miss him, and we wish him the best in his next chapter,” Wolf said.

In an interview with Variety after McMahon’s last episode in March 2022, FBI: Most Wanted‘s showrunner David Hudgins explained why the series decided to kill Jess off. “The conversation had been going on as the season started. Once it sort of reached a place where, ‘OK, this is going to happen,’ we started, in the writers’ room, trying to figure out what this would look like, how would he leave the show?” he said. “We had multiple conversations about it with every option on the table, and we just kept going back to this idea that the premise of the show is that we chase the worst of the worst — the most dangerous fugitives that are out there. And inherent in that premise is the idea that it’s risky, it’s dangerous and there’s always the chance that you could get injured or killed in the line of duty. We felt like that was the exit we wanted to have for Jess.”

Though Jess died in the end, Hudgins admitted to Variety that the series also discussed the “potential option” of having him survive. “We talked about everything, every potential option,” he said. “At the end, Julian being the very gracious person that he is, said, ‘Look, I trust you guys to do what you think is best for the show and best for the story. I’m good with whatever you guys decide.’ So we did consider all those options, but we felt like this was just a very emotional, shocking and dramatic way to do it.

He continued, “We also decided that we’re not just going to have him get shot and killed in the line of duty. You want to keep playing out the emotion of that, which is why we have the ending where Hana and Barnes go to tell Sarah. Then we get to dad, and we end up having to go tell Tali. We just felt like that ending of them having to knock on the door and tell Tali was so powerful.”

Hudgins also described filming McMahon’s final FBI: Most Wanted episode as “bittersweet” and “extremely emotional.” Bittersweet is a good word — extremely emotional. It was a night scene; it was the last scene up for the day. Julian was a total pro,” he said. “It was emotional is what I will say, and I thought everybody did a great job with it, and I was happy. The fact that it happened literally in the heart of New York City was something that I thought was perfect for the character. It’s like he died saving the town he loved.”

In an interview with Deadline at the time, Hudgins also confirmed that McMahon left FBI: Most Wanted to “pursue other creative projects,” which he informed the creators of early enough for them to properly write Jess off. “As producers, we knew awhile ago that Julian wanted to pursue other creative pursuits,” Hudgins said. “So I got in the room with a writer early on, and we started talking about how Jess would leave the show. We spent a lot of time on it, honestly, exploring every option. Everything was on the table.”

He continued, “Ultimately, in the writers room, we kept coming back to this notion that the premise of this show is Most Wanted — we’re chasing the worst of the worst, the most dangerous of the dangerous. Inherently in that line of work, is the constant risk that you can either get injured or killed in the line of duty. And we just decided that true to the premise of the show, this was what was going to happen to Jess— he gets killed in the line of duty. But we also wanted to do it in a way where it was heroic, which is why he dies while trying to save [Lucy]. It’s shocking, it’s tragic. It’s emotional. It’s dramatic. And it was the best story we could do for the exit of this character.”

Hudgins also confirmed that McMahon didn’t have any input into how Jess was written off. “Julian did not weigh in. He’s such a pro and such a good guy. He basically told us, “I trust you will do what’s best for the show,” he said. Of filming McMahon’s final episode, Hudgins told Deadline, “It was very emotional, as you can imagine, with everybody there, including Julian. We were in a parking lot on Roosevelt Island in New York, in the heart of the city, which is appropriate for the death of that character. It was just extremely emotional for everybody but we all stepped up and got it done in a great way.”

What happened to Jess LaCroix on FBI: Most Wanted and how did he die?

Jess LaCroix, FBI Most Wanted

What happened to Jess LaCroix on FBI: Most Wanted and how did he die? Jess died in Season 3, Episode 14, “Shattered,” which saw the FBI’s Most Wanted unit investigate a man named Harley Ross, who killed an entire family at the start of the episode. As they investigated Harley, the FBI learned that he was in an abusive relationship with a woman named Lucy Carver, who left him with the help of an online domestic violence service. After Lucy left him, Harley sought revenge on everyone that helped her, including Dr. Johnson, the father of the family Harley killed earlier in the episode, who worked at the hospital that Lucy went to after Harley abused her and gave her advice on how to leave her relationship.

The episode continues with Harley learning that Lucy had a daughter named Mia, who is sick with leukemia and whom she gave up for adoption while she was still with Harley. The episode ends with Harley learning which hospital Mia was at in order to kidnap her. Before he could take Mia, however, the FBI and Lucy stop him. As his plans are halted, Harley pulls a gun and shoots at Lucy, which Jess prevents by jumping into the bullet’s path. Though he saves Lucy’s life, Jess is fatally injured and later dies from his wounds.

FBI: Most Wanted airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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