WARNING: This article contains spoilers from the Season 8 finale of “Chicago Med” titled “Does One Door Close and Another One Open?”.
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Nick Gehlfuss is putting away his white coat. The actor, renowned for his portrayal of Dr. Will Halstead throughout all eight seasons of “Chicago Med,” has bid farewell to the series, making his final appearance in the Season 8 finale that aired on Wednesday night. As Will departed the hospital amidst the significant changes occurring at Gaffney, he reconnected with his former fiancée, Natalie (played by Torrey DeVitto, who made an unexpected return in this episode after exiting at the conclusion of Season 6).
“It was a challenging decision, but ultimately, I felt that I had taken Dr. Halstead as far as I could. I believe it boils down to a creative aspect within you, or the energy and spirit that determines whether you are suited for a long-term commitment with one character,” Gehlfuss shared with Variety. “I’m drawn to this profession because of its diversity, and eight years is a substantial stretch. It’s like earning two college degrees! I jokingly say that I’ve essentially earned a television doctorate.”
Filming the finale was a profoundly emotional experience for Gehlfuss.
“It’s overwhelming due to the multitude of emotions involved. It wouldn’t be that way if it didn’t hold such significance. It’s akin to love; when you genuinely love someone, you experience extreme highs and lows because they matter so much to you,” he expressed. “It was crucial for me to provide everyone with ample notice of my departure so that we didn’t abruptly cut ties.”
The finale was shot in mid-April, approximately six weeks after Gehlfuss informed the team about his decision to leave. He shared that the first person he contacted was the series creator, Dick Wolf, who was the driving force behind the show. “It was very important to me that he heard it directly from me first. And then, I suppose it had a domino effect from there.”
While the reunion between Natalie and Will “feels fitting,” it wasn’t initially the planned outcome for their relationship. Once he conveyed his decision to depart, discussions about a potential Manstead (Natalie and Will) ending were initiated, and he awaited contact from the producers to approach DeVitto.
“I’ve stayed in touch with her, so it wasn’t as if we hadn’t seen each other since she left the show. But it was wonderful to see her,” Gehlfuss remarked. “We seamlessly slipped back into our work rhythm as if no time had passed. It was a beautiful moment, one that I hope provides some closure for the fans. Will and Natalie’s relationship has come full circle. I believe Will carried traces of Natalie in every relationship after their breakup; he never truly moved on from her.”
Having been a part of “Chicago Med” since its inception in 2015, appearing in all 163 episodes, Gehlfuss will carry a few valuable lessons from his character, Will, with him as he moves forward.
“The name William signifies a protector or guardian. He shielded his patients as if they were his own family. His unwavering dedication to his vocation and the profound passion he had for it are things I’ll always remember,” he reflected. “He was willing to take risks for people. Now, there might be discussions about whether he occasionally let personal matters interfere with his work. Did that complicate situations? Yes. But I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from Will Halstead, which is to keep personal issues out of your professional life! I’ll also always remember his tenacity. He was a fighter, ready to battle for whatever he believed was necessary, be it for himself or his patients.”
Now, Gehlfuss is eager to delve into a new character.
“I wouldn’t mind being a cowboy,” he jests. “I’d love to be outdoors; I have a deep appreciation for nature. Ultimately, I’m excited about creating new and diverse characters. It was a true blessing to explore a single character for eight years. Television offers that possibility, so I’m looking forward to it once more.”
Of course, in the One Chicago universe, the door is never firmly closed, should there be an opportunity for Halstead to make a return. “We were all in agreement on that, thankfully, as I talked with Dick and the writers,” he explains. “Whenever it makes sense again for important moments, I’d love to step back into that white lab coat.”
Before concluding the interview, Gehlfuss requests a moment to address the fans, as he’s not active on social media.
“It’s no secret that without you, we would not have jobs. One of the most valuable gifts we can give to one another is our time. So, thank you all for your time and your support. I’ve been deeply touched by the number of people who have approached me with positive words about One Chicago and my work. That interaction is the best affirmation of the connection between the audience and the storyteller. While Will Halstead is bidding farewell, One Chicago remains. Enjoy the upcoming seasons!”
The One Chicago universe has witnessed several cast changes in the past year, with “Chicago Med” experiencing the most transitions. Guy Lockard, Sarah Rafferty, Asjha Cooper, and Brian Tee, another original series star, all departed earlier in the season.
“Chicago Med” will make its return to NBC in the fall.