Will Halstead, Chicago Med
Credit: George Burns Jr/NBC via Getty Images.

As one of the last original doctors at Gaffney Chicago Medical Center, it’s understandable why One Chicago fans want to know why Will Halstead is leaving Chicago Med and what happened Nick Gehlfuss’ character to cause him to leave the series.

Chicago Med is NBC’s medical drama following the personal and professional lives of doctors and nurses in the emergency department of the fictional Gaffney Chicago Medical Center. The series — which premiered in 2015 and is created by Dick Wolf, the same mind behind the Law & Order and FBI franchises — is the third spin-off in NBC’s One Chicago franchise, which also includes Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.

Nick Gehlfuss plays Dr. Will Halstead, a former plastic surgeonchi who becomes the Emergency Department supervising attending physician at Gaffney. He is also the brother of Detective Jay Halstead from Chicago P.D. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, Gehlfuss opened up about what it’s like to film on all three One Chicago shows.

“Let’s just say when we have a day off, it’s not really a day off,” he said. “A lot of these shows are ensemble shows and if you have a lighter episode, you have the ability to go over and do a little bit on another episode of [another show]. It’s required, but it’s like, absolutely, we love doing it. That’s what makes this whole franchise so unprecedented. They’re seamlessly intertwined, it’s synergy at its finest. An actor, when they get on a TV show, they’re unavailable because they have no time, but here you get to book other jobs on top of that, like going to the other shows. It’s a dream come true, really.”

Gehlfuss joined as Will on Chicago Med in Season 1 in 2015. After almost a decade, Will said goodbye Gaffney and One Chicago as a whole. So why did Will Halstead leave Chicago Med? Read on for what we know about.

Is Dr. Will Halstead leaving Chicago Med?

Will Halstead, Chicago Med

Is Dr. Will Halstead leaving Chicago Med? The answer is yes. Will left Chicago Med in the Season 8 finale, “Does One Door Close and Another One Open?” which saw him leave the series to be with his ex-fiance, Natalie Manning, who made a surprise appearance in the episode.

“It was a difficult decision, but ultimately, I felt I’d taken Dr. Halstead as far as I can go with him. I think that comes down to a creative part of you, or the energy or spirit you have that you’re either built for a very long time with one person or not,” Nick Gehlfuss, who plays Will, told Variety on May 24, 2023. “I am attracted to the profession for the variety in it, and eight years is a long time. It’s two college degrees! I’m joking now that I basically have a doctorate in television.”

He continued of filming the Chicago Med Season 8 finale, “It’s overwhelming, because of all the emotions. It wouldn’t be that way if it didn’t mean so much. It’s like with love, if you truly love somebody then you’re going to have very high moments and very low moments, because it’s just so important to you. It was important to me to give everyone an advance notice of me leaving so that we didn’t finish cold turkey.”

Gehlfuss confirmed that he filmed the Chicago Med Season 8 finale was filmed in mid-April 2023, a month and a half before he told the series’ creators he was leaving. “The first person I was calling was the reason for all this, Dick Wolf,” he said. “It was very important to me that he heard it from me first. And then I guess it was a trickle effect from that point.” Gehlfuss also told Variety that, while he felt Will and Natalie’s reunion was an “appropriate” way from him to be written off, it wasn’t always the plan for them to end up together. However, once Gehlfuss let the Chicago Med creators know he was leaving, there were immediate discussions to bring back DeVitto. “I’ve kept in touch with her, so it wasn’t as if we hadn’t seen each other since she left the show. But it was great to see her,” Gehlfuss said. “We fell right back in to our work rhythm as if we didn’t have any time off. It was a beautiful moment, and one that I hope bring some closure to the fans. Because this relationship has come full circle for Will and Natalie. I think Will was seeking elements of Natalie in every relationship that followed their breakup. He never really got over her.”

As for what he’ll learn from playing Will, Gehlfuss told Variety, “The name William means protector or protection. He protected his patients as if they were his family. The way in which he was so committed to his work and what he was called to do in this life, the passion he had with all of that, I will never forget. He would take risks for people. Now, there could be conversation about was he putting his personal stuff in the way of his work sometimes? Did that muddy situations? Yes. I will never forget to remind myself that the lesson I learned that Will Halstead may not have learned, which is to leave your personal stuff out of your work! I’ll never forget how he’s also a fighter. He just he just fought for whatever he felt was necessary for himself or his patients.”

He also told the magazine about the next character he’d like to play after starring as a doctor for almost a decade. “I’d love to be a cowboy,” he said. “I’d love to get outdoors. I love being outside. Ultimately, I want to develop new, different characters. It was a real gift to be able to explore one character for eight years. TV allows that possibility of course, and so I look forward to doing so again.” Gehlfuss also confirmed that he’s open to returning to Chicago Med and that Will’s exit was left open-ended for that reason. “We were all in agreement on that, thankfully, as I talked with Dick and the writers,” he said. “Whenever it makes sense again for important moments, I’d love to don the white lab coat once again.”

In a message to One Chicago fans, Gehlfuss told Variety, “It’s no secret, without you, we would not have jobs. One of the most important things we can give to one another as our time. So thank you all for your time and your support. I have been so flattered by the amount 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 audience and storyteller. While Will Halstead is leaving, One Chicago is not. Enjoy the seasons to come!”

Before the Chicago Med Season 8 finale, there were several clues that hinted at Will’s exit from the series. In Season 8, Episode 2, “Might Feel Like It’s Time for a Change,” Will broke up with Dr. Grace Song because he didn’t think it was a good idea to pursue a workplace romance with her. That same episode, viewers also learn that Will has been in contact with Dr. Natalie Manning, Will’s ex-fiancee, who left Gaffney Chicago Medical Center (and Chicago Med) in Season 7 to move back to her hometown of Seattle. Will has also been in contact with Natalie’s son, Owen Manning, with her late husband, Jeff Manning.

The episode made One Chicago fans wonder if Chicago Med was using Will’s relationship with Natalie as a way for him to leave the series and Gaffney to be with her in Seattle. Chicago Med also confirmed a cast member will be leaving the series in the Season 8 finale in the trailer for the episode, which includes the statement: “Someone. Will. Go.” Many One Chicago fans believe the statement could be about Will given the emphasis on “Will” in the sentence and how the word was shown over a black screen instead of over a clip from the show like the other words. Other One Chicago fans, however, believed the statement could be about a different character, such as Maggie Lockwood or Dr. Dean Archer, who have also hinted at their exits from Chicago Med.

Gehlfuss also hinted at Will’s remaining feelings for Natalie in an interview with TV Line in 2022. “Will wants to settle down in a way,” he said. “I think he was ready to be a stepfather to Dr. Manning’s child. And I think he’s ready to commit to someone if that is the case. But I think you have to start out dating no matter what so it’d be interested to find out how he gets to that point of settling down. I think it’s a whole journey.”

He also told Hello in 2021 about his hopes for Natalie and Will to reunite. “You can’t avoid all that history so the writers… Well, you never know what may happen in the future, if a character is not dead they can return in some form,” he said. “But he will be affected — if and when he gets into a new relationship.” Gehlfuss also confirmed that he didn’t know Torrey DeVitto, who played Natalie since Season 1 of Chicago Med, was leaving until the end of filming. “I did not know she was leaving until the end of filming so maybe it happened in the best way so it wasn’t more difficult,” he said. “Torrey is a great friend and I do miss her.”

Will’s exit rom Chicago Med also comes less than a year after his younger brother Jay Halstead — who is played by Jesse Lee Soffer — left Chicago P.D. in Season 10. In an interview with TV Line in 2022, Gehlfuss about what it was like to continue on in the One Chicago franchise without his on-screen sibling. “I hope so. I really do,” Gehlfuss said about the possibility of a reunion between Will and Jay in the future. “I really enjoyed working with Jesse. I’ll never forget how he welcomed me into the whole franchise.”

He continued. “This show changed my life, and Jesse really took me under his wing, and I’ll never forget that because that’s the type of guy that he is. He’s done a fantastic job with his role. And the fans have always said they enjoyed seeing the Halstead brothers together. We loved working together. And so I guess it’s just a testament that when you’re really enjoying something, the fans are experiencing that.”

As for how Will felt about Jay leaving Chicago, Gehlfuss told TV Insider that he thinks his character will be “extremely lonely” in Chicago without his brother. “I think he’ll be extremely lonely,” he said. “Because at this point, both of his parents aren’t alive. And as far as we know of the Halstead family, that’s all Will has left.” “That’s why I think maybe a relationship would be good for Will, to have someone else around,” He continued, “I mean, he has his colleagues, of course, but something a little more intimate to go home to and be with.”

Chicago Med airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

For more on the One Chicago franchise, check out our photo gallery on the most shocking exits on Chicago Med.