"The Performer" -- Morgan (Shemar Moore) reviews the details in the case of a Goth performer who has become lost in the frightening alter-ego he portrays on stage ? an alter-ego whom the BAU team suspects may be a brutal serial killer, on CRIMINAL MINDS, Wednesday, Nov. 11 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Danny Feld/ABC Studios ©2009 ABC STUDIOS. TELEVISION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Shemar Moore in “Criminal Minds”

*”Criminal Minds” fans were left stunned last Wednesday night when actor Shemar Moore said goodbye to the series after starring in the crime drama for 11 seasons.

His character, FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan, left the bureau to spend more time with his family. Since then, Moore has comforted fans in several interviews about Morgan’s future – assuring them “that it’s not goodbye.”

“Derek did not die,” Moore, 45, told E! News. “Those elevator doors closed. And, yes, I am wanting to see what else is out there for me and what else I’m capable of in my career and also in my personal life.”

In a recent chat with Essence, Shemar further explained his departure and what he hopes to do next as an actor. Below are excerpts from the interview.

ESSENCE: Derek Morgan is no more?! Congrats on a stupendous three-episode arc exit!

SHEMAR MOORE: Yes, it’s been wild. It’s been wild. I’ve been off the show since February 10th, but it’s just been this big secret. People ask me all the time how I feel … friends, people close to me, whatever. I’m like I don’t think it’s hit me, not just that I’ve left, but that it’s been 11 years. It’s taking this leap of faith. Just knowing what I got the opportunity to do for 11 years, and the culmination and the way I was able to walk off into the sunset in the final episode. Feels good!

ESSENCE: Your fans were very upset over your departure on social media.

MOORE: The response from all the fans, it has really been wonderful, endearing, overwhelming, touching, emotional. It’s just a trip. It made me somewhat emotional just because they care that much. That’s just a good feeling because I know what I’ve put into it for the last 11 years.

READ RELATED STORY: Shemar Moore Exits CBS Drama ‘Criminal Minds’: ‘I Left It All On The Field’ (Watch)

ESSENCE: They didn’t kill you off, which I know was a relief for fans. Did you have a part in that decision about how you left the show?

MOORE: I remember around season five just feeling like I’m ready to challenge myself and take another step. I treat my acting career like school. Like Young and the Restless is high school, and Criminal Minds is college, and now I’m ready for grad school. By the time I got to that elevator scene it was kind of closure. I will say I’m excited about my future and possibilities, but if I was invited back to dance and play with those guys again, then the elevator doors might just reopen.

ESSENCE: We love that you and your mom are besties. What does she want you to do next?

MOORE: My mother’s so proud of me, but she hates how dark the show is. “Can you just go fall in love or play a doctor or a teacher?” she’d say. She wants grandbabies, and she just wants to see me laugh a lot. She wants to see me travel. She knows how serious I take my career and how hard I believe that I work. She’s very proud of what I’ve accomplished, but she also wants me to just enjoy life. I just want to keep paying for her beachfront condo.

Read the full interview here.