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The real reason Monica Raymund left Chicago Fire

Fans were surprised, if not flat-out shocked, when actress Monica Raymund decided to leave the hit NBC series Chicago Fire in 2018, at the beginning of season 7. After all, she had been on the show since it premiered in 2012, playing beloved paramedic Gabby Dawson, who was married to equally adored Captain Matt Casey (Jesse Spenser). Those who followed the series from season to season wondered at the time whether Chicago Fire would be the same without Raymund's Gabby Dawson. 

Chicago Fire — part of the One Chicago franchise that also includes Chicago Med and Chicago P.D. all on the same night — follows the firefighters and paramedics working at the Chicago Fire Department's fictional Firehouse 51. Each week, the show rides along with the first responders as they put their lives on the line to save and protect the city's civilians.

But Chicago Fire is not just about heroics — it also delves into the characters' personal lives and the camaraderie found at a firehouse. For the six seasons Raymund starred on the series, Dawson and Casey — sometimes referred to collectively as "Dawsey" — were a hot item, finally tying the knot on Chicago Fire season 5. But being a paramedic married to a handsome firefighter wasn't enough for Dawson, and she left her Chicago life behind to help with post-hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

In real life, Raymund's exit had different contributing factors behind it. Here's the real reason why Monica Raymund left Chicago Fire.

Monica Raymund left Chicago Fire to seek new opportunities

After six seasons on Chicago Fire, which actually films at a real firehouse in the Windy City, Raymund's contract was up — and the actress had a life-changing decision to make. Ultimately, Raymund chose to leave Chicago Fire, posting on Twitter in May 2018 that it was time to "move on to the next chapter in life" (via CinemaBlend). 

She later opened up to The Chicago Tribune in a September 2018 interview, discussing her exit and how the desire to take on new projects led her to leave Chicago Fire

"I knew that my six-year contract was coming to an end and I felt like I was hungry to explore a different role, a different story. I wanted to explore a different world," explained Raymund. "I had been in Chicago for five years and just personally where I was in my life, I was ready to create my home and kind of plant some roots in Los Angeles. It's kind of a double-edged sword because on the one hand, it's wonderful to be employed for that long and to have job security — and to be able to delve into a storyline and to flush it out over that amount of time. To get that opportunity is extremely rare and special. [...] But sometimes you have to take a risk to diversify your opportunities."

When Raymund approached Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas to tell him she wasn't going to sign a new contract, he didn't believe her. "I was like, 'Hey, I'm leaving, I'm giving my notice.' And he was like, 'No you're not!' And I said, 'I am.' And he just couldn't believe it!" Raymund told The Chicago Tribune. "You could just see this ... extreme denial. When the season wrapped he called me, like: 'So, you're not really leaving.' And I was like, 'Derek, honey, I love you, but I've got to go.'"

It wasn't a decision Raymund took lightly, saying at the time, "It feels surreal. I've given six years of my life to that show and created a family there, so it was a bit like a dismemberment. I miss them terribly. But I have the opportunity to start the next chapter of my life and I'm very much looking forward to that."

What Monica Raymund has been up to since leaving Chicago Fire

After leaving Chicago Fire, Raymund has starred on the Starz original crime drama Hightown since May 2020. On it, she plays hard-partying federal fisheries agent Jackie Quiñones, who becomes obsessed with a case when a dead body washes ashore in picturesque Provincetown, the popular LGBTQ+ vacation spot in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It's a grittier role for Raymund, whose Hightown character struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Before details about Hightown even went public, Raymund teased to The Chicago Tribune that the series was the perfect project for her to take on post-Chicago Fire.

"I wanted to be a part of something that's topical. Something that was extremely meaningful to the current time, something that was relevant. As a viewer and a consumer of television, I'm very attracted to dark, suspenseful, post-apocalyptic storytelling," she said. "I watch things like The Handmaid's Tale [and] Ozark. I'm very attracted to that. There's a sense of gravity to it, and that's the well I want to dip my feet in."

But when Raymund left Chicago Fire, her immediate future was uncertain. She didn't have anything else lined up — she just felt like there was something else out there for her.

"I had no idea if I was going to land anything," Raymund told Gold Derby. "I didn't know if I was ever going to work again — that's the risk! Then Hightown fell into my lap [and] it was time for me to take a departure. I really wanted to involve myself in grittier shows and I wanted to challenge myself."

Monica Raymund briefly returned to Chicago Fire after leaving

Despite leaving Chicago Fire in 2018, Raymund hasn't been able to completely stay away from Firehouse 51.

After last appearing on the show during the season 7 premiere to end her relationship with Casey, Raymund's Dawson returned on Chicago Fire season 8 for a one-off appearance on the mid-season finale. The episode sees her back in Chicago on business for her hurricane relief organization when she stops by the firehouse to say hello to her ex-co-workers ... and ex-husband Casey. Sparks once again fly between the two former lovers, and they wind up in bed together before Dawson jets back off to Puerto Rico.

"Coming back to the show was a homecoming for me," Raymund told Entertainment Weekly in October 2019. "The cast of Chicago Fire will always be my family, and it was so wonderful to work with them again. Dawson and Casey will always have an unbreakable bond, and their love is a special love that I think will forever stay alive."

The key word there is "alive." Considering Dawson wasn't killed off and there's still a love connection between her and Casey, there's always the possibility that Raymund will return to the show. The actress and Chicago Fire showrunner Haas have remained tight-lipped about that, but the door was clearly left wide open.

Raymund even told TV Line in May 2020 when asked about another possible return, "I don't know. "I think it's an open-ended question. But there's always an open door with Gabby, and I think that's the way it should be."