Titus Makin Jr. as Jackson West on The Rookie
Credit: Getty Images

The death of The Rookie’s Jackson West hit us hard. As one of the original police officers on ABC’s hit crime drama, why did Jackson West leave The Rookie after almost four seasons? Keep reading to learn more.

The Rookie, ABC’s successful police drama, follows the story of John Nolan, a recently divorced man in his 40s who pursues a career as a police officer at the Los Angeles Police Department, after inadvertently helping the police stop a bank robbery. The Alexi Hawley-created series is based on the true story of William Norcross, a real officer with the LAPD who moved to L.A. in 2015 and also joined the department in his mid-40s. The show premiered in October 2018 and is currently in its fifth season, but has not yet been renewed for a sixth. The Rookie has one spin-off, The Rookie: Feds, which debuted in 2022 and follows Simone Clark (Niecy Nash), the oldest rookie in the FBI Academy.

Actor Titus Makin Jr. played the role of Jackson West, a police officer assigned to the Mid-Wilshire Division. He trained under multiple LAPD officers, including Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz), Doug Stanton (Brandon Routh) and Quigley Smitty (Brent Huff). West first appeared in the pilot episode of The Rookie in October 2018 and was a main character until his unfortunate death in season 4, episode 1.

In an April 2021 interview with Smashing Interviews Magazine, Makin Jr. spoke about his audition process before joining The Rookie. When asked if he interviewed for the role of Jackson West, he replied, “I sure did, yeah. I was technically up for a show called The Boys, which is on Amazon, and I didn’t get that one. It was between me and Jessie (Usher),” he explained. “In that same casting office, they said they were casting another project called The Rookie and asked if I would be interested. I said, ‘Yeah,’ so they threw me in the process of the auditioning where they were, and it worked out.”

Makin Jr. also talked about how his character, West, has evolved since the show’s first season when he was memorizing penal codes and was afraid to fire his weapon. “I’ve loved it personally. It’s one of those things where at first, Jackson was just as annoying to me as he was everybody else. I was like, ‘Come on, man. Step it up. Do something now.; I loved to see that he is finally coming into his own,” he said to the magazine. “He’s finally speaking up, and he’s finally doing all the things that we essentially expected him to do anyway based on who he was in the academy and how he was raised in the family he’s in. So, it’s really nice to see that coming-of-age story and him coming into his own.”

So, why did Jackson West leave The Rookie and why did the writers kill off Makin Jr.’s character at the beginning of season 4? We’ve got the inside scoop, below.

Why did Jackson West leave The Rookie?

Melissa Oneil and Titus Makin Jr. on The Rookie

Why did Jackson West leave The Rookie? Makin Jr.’s left the Rookie on his own terms but has not publicly stated why he left in season 4. What we do know is that Makin Jr.’s almost departed the series a season early — back in season 3 — following the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police. “I woke up one morning and I was watching the news, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t go play a cop on a show and not talk about the fact that I’m a Black cop.’ My character hadn’t addressed any of that,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2020.

Makin Jr. decided to have a conversation with the series showrunner, Alexi Hawley, about the important issue and what could be done on the show. “He was extremely gracious, and he totally understood everything I was saying. I did come to that point where I was like, ‘If you want to write me out, I politely receive that. I would rather be written out than ignore the reality and not be able to tell the story.’” The Rookie ultimately touched on systematic racism in the police force in season 3, episode 3, “La Fiera.”

After Makin Jr. left The Rookie, Hawley told TV Line in September 2021 that West was gone for good: “What I can say is that Titus [Makin] was not coming back to the show,” he told the site. “So, we needed to do the best that we could to honor the character who’s been so primally a part of the show.”

How did Jackson West die on The Rookie?

Titus Makin Jr. as Jackson West on The Rookie

How did Jackson West die on The Rookie? West’s demise started in the season 3 finale during Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz)’s and Wesley Ever (Shawn Ashmore)’s wedding. Sandra “La Fiera” De La Cruz’s men came for Lopez and Jackson, and we learn in the season 4 premiere, “Life and Death,” that the two are captured via security cam footage. When Jason resists, he is fatally shot in back by Armando (Jose Velazquez) and killed. It’s rumored that Makin Jr. left before the fourth season and a body double stepped in to film his death scene (which is why he was shot in the back rather than the front and you cannot see West’s face).

Makin Jr.’s exit marks a string of departures on The Rookie over the years, including Mercedes Mason, who played Commanding Officer Zoe Andersen, and Afton Williamson, who played Police Officer III Talia Bishop. However, Jackson West’s death remains the most shocking.

The Rookie airs at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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