Chicago fire officially has a vacancy to fill on Truck 81 after Wednesday’s 200th episode milestone: Lead actor Jesse Spencer has left the NBC drama after playing Captain Matthew Casey for 10 seasons.
The actor has starred in the firefighter drama since its debut in 2012, and was one of the six remaining regulars from the first season. (The others are Taylor Kinney, David Eigenberg, Eamonn Walker, Christian Stolte and Joe Minoso.) But after eight years at Fox’s House right into FireSpencer needs a break and to put his focus elsewhere.
“I realized I’ve been doing TV for a long time. I added it up and I think this year is my 18th year of network television,” Spencer told reporters at a Zoom press conference. “I called [showrunner] The stretch [Haas] and brought him the news, said I thought it was time to leave the show, and he agreed that we should get Casey to at least 200 episodes. It was a tough decision because I loved the show from the beginning, but there are other things I would like to do in the future, and there is a family I have to take care of, and 18 years is a long time.”
“I naturally wanted to persuade Jesse to stay and come back,” Haas added. “But I was really happy that he gave us five episodes more than just saying at the end of a season, which sometimes happens, like, ‘I’m gone.’ That left us bringing back a storyline from season 1, which I know Jesse was excited about when we pitched it to him, to bring back the Darden guys and really tie the pilot to Jesse’s departure.
In the 200th episode, Casey told his friends and colleagues at the fire station that he was moving to Oregon to care for the sons of his late best friend Andy Darden (at least until Ben goes to college in three years).
The Life-Changing Decision Made for a “Perfect Full Circle” [moment] and a very reasonable way for Casey to leave the show, in an organic way,” especially since the firefighter always wanted to be a father, Spencer said. And after just one phone call from Deputy District Chief Boden, Casey already had a job with the Portland Fire Department.
When he said goodbye to the Windy City, Casey said goodbye to his fire station several times and received a thoughtful speech from Boden (after which the show’s OG firefighters hugged Casey in a group hug). Haas put all his own feelings about Spencer’s departure in Boden’s words, “so that was a really difficult scene to write,” Haas said. “Jesse meant so much to me. I wanted to end the episode with that.”
Meanwhile, Casey means a lot to Brett and vice versa, so naturally he tried to convince her to come to Oregon with him. But his girlfriend wasn’t ready to leave the paramedical program she had just launched. Rather than break up, the couple decided to try a long-distance relationship, with Casey swearing, “Nothing’s going to change.” (Famous last words, many?)
After building up to “Brettsey” for three seasons, Spencer admitted that the timing of his departure was unfortunate in regards to the will/will they romance. “We just got there at last,” he said. “It was hard because I really love Kara [Killmer, who plays Brett]. We have built a very nice relationship. I loved working with her… But it was written very well in the episode because they are trying to make this relationship work, but they know he is leaving. So basically they’re saying nothing’s going to change, but…’
Despite the obstacles against them, Casey and Brett will indeed remain committed to each other even now that Spencer is no longer in the series. “We’re going to keep it alive,” Haas said of the relationship, noting that things like FaceTime, phone calls, and easy flights make that possible. Plus, viewers most likely haven’t seen the last of Spencer, whose voice will be featured in an upcoming episode. “This is a three-year commitment that Casey is making, but hopefully we’ll see him before those three years are up,” Haas added.
Spencer also reiterates the idea that this isn’t the end for him and… Fire: “There is potential for me to come back. I’m still in Chicago now. I’m not running away to Los Angeles or anything, although I might escape the winter for a bit,” he shared with a laugh. “My house here with my wife is in Chicago, so I’ll still be here, but I’m just stepping back for now.”