In a recent episode of “FBI: Most Wanted,” fans said their final goodbye to Jess LaCroix, portrayed by Julian McMahon, who had been at the helm of the CBS drama for three seasons. LaCroix met his demise while on a mission, marking the actor’s exit from the show.
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Back in January, Julian McMahon had announced his departure from the series, citing his desire to pursue additional creative endeavors. In his statement, he expressed gratitude to executive producers Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski, highlighting their efforts to ensure a seamless and productive exit.
During the fateful episode, the team embarked on a mission to apprehend an abusive man and rescue his ex-girlfriend, who was desperately trying to escape. Jess LaCroix found the woman in a life-threatening situation and stood in her defense. Tragically, the woman’s ex pulled a gun and shot Jess in the neck, leading to his heroic sacrifice.
Variety caught up with showrunner David Hudgins to discuss Julian McMahon’s exit, the decision to end Jess’s character arc in such a manner, and what lies ahead for “FBI: Most Wanted.”
When did the conversation about Julian leaving the show begin?
The discussions about Julian leaving started as the season began. Once it became apparent that this decision was going to materialize, our writers’ room began exploring how his departure would be handled. We examined every possible option, but we kept returning to the show’s core premise: chasing the most dangerous fugitives. This premise inherently involves risk and danger, including the possibility of getting injured or killed in the line of duty. That’s why we chose this dramatic exit for Jess.
Were there discussions about Jess surviving to leave the door open for Julian’s return?
We considered every option, including that one. However, Julian, being the gracious person he is, ultimately said, “I trust you guys to do what’s best for the show and the story. I’m good with whatever you decide.” So, while we discussed various scenarios, we felt that this emotional, shocking, and dramatic exit was the most fitting. We also wanted to explore the emotional aftermath, hence the scenes with Hana [Keisha Castle-Hughes], Barnes [Roxy Sternberg], and Sarah [Jennifer Landon] dealing with Jess’s departure.
Does Jess’s death mean we won’t see Terry O’Quinn again?
No, we love Terry! He’s a phenomenal actor and a wonderful person. The story isn’t ending. In the upcoming episodes, we will delve into the fallout from Jess’s death—exploring grief, absence, and how the team copes individually. The characters are professionals, but they’re also human beings dealing with a tragic loss. So, we’ll be exploring various responses to grief, which can vary widely among individuals.
Dylan McDermott is joining the show as the new lead. What can you reveal about his character?
I can’t reveal too much at the moment, but Dylan is already on set, and he’s fantastic. When planning Jess’s exit, we spent considerable time in the writers’ room conceptualizing the new character. When we learned that Dylan was available and potentially interested, we were thrilled. We view this as an opportunity to inject fresh energy into the show and give it a bit of reinvention. While the core remains a fugitive manhunt series, Dylan’s arrival brings a different style, background, and approach to the team dynamic, creating exciting storytelling opportunities.
When will we meet Dylan’s character?
Dylan’s character will make his first appearance in Episode 17, scheduled to air on Wednesday, April 12. In the upcoming episodes, we’ll witness the team searching for their way forward without a leader. The question of “Who’s it gonna be?” will linger in the background.
Dylan McDermott is already part of the Dick Wolf universe, playing Richard Wheatley in “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” Were there concerns about potential confusion when bringing him in as a new character?
It was a topic of discussion. However, as writers, our responsibility was to create a character distinct and different from his previous role, ensuring that there wouldn’t be any confusion or overlap. Dylan is such a talented actor and a natural leader. He brings a unique presence to the show, and we believe viewers will appreciate the distinction between his two characters.