Why Taylor Kinney Left Chicago Fire After A Decade Playing Kelly Severide

Taylor Kinney recently departed from "Chicago Fire." But was this a temporary hiatus or a permanent career pivot?

Back in 2012, producer Dick Wolf promised audiences that "Chicago Fire" wouldn't be a procedural which focused on the "fire of the week." Instead, the characters would inspire the plot. "There are very few franchises or areas that give you the opportunity to really explore character," Wolf said during a panel (via Deadline). "It's a character study about people who do things that you can't pay people to do. You can't pay people to run into burning buildings. So it is a canvas for good writing." Eleven years onward, it's clear that Wolf and his creative staff succeeded at creating dynamic, root-worthy characters. 

Kelly Severide, played by Taylor Kinney, is a shining example of Wolf's efforts. Even though Kelly had a disastrous love life (in the beginning), he was super dedicated to making his friendships and familial relationships work. Kelly was also a loyal, unwavering friend to Matt Casey (Jesse Spencer). In fact, their bond had become one of the most appealing aspects of the NBC drama. Unfortunately, fans recently learned that Kinney wouldn't be appearing in the remainder of Season 11.

Taylor Kinney's reason for leaving Chicago Fire isn't clear

In January, Deadline reported that Taylor Kinney would be pausing his work on "Chicago Fire" because of a personal matter. This announcement came weeks before Season 11 returned with new episodes in February. According to the insider, the show's writers learned of Kinney's departure just days before the article was published. The report also mentioned that the writers would likely have to rewrite the scripts to remove Kinney's Kelly Severide character.

Kinney wasn't present in the last string of episodes. However, the writers did briefly address his lack of screen time during a March 2 episode. Kelly was on a side quest to get "the best arson investigation training program in the world" — not just the best, though, but also the longest. At this time, it's unknown just what personal matter tore him away from the screen, or when he'll return. However, Kinney hasn't completely gone M.I.A. In April, Wide Open Country reported that Kinney and his girlfriend, Ashley Cruger, attended a charity event for MotoUp, a non-profit based out of Austin, Texas, which serves veterans. The charity posted about Kinney's involvement, but the actor didn't acknowledge the event on social media.

Taylor Kinney was 'excited' for Season 11

Given the abruptness of Taylor Kinney's exit, it's likely that he really did have to put his personal life first. But even if he does return, his storyline may shrink a little. According to Deadline, most of the series regulars on Dick Wolf's shows will appear in fewer guaranteed episodes in the upcoming season. While Season 11 boasted 22 episodes, their new contracts may only guarantee them 18-20 episodes. It's estimated Kinney could be making $24,000 an episode, which means that, under this new contract, his yearly salary will be reduced by $48,000 to $96,000. So far, there have been no reports to suggest his absence is tied to these contract negotiations.

With that said, Kinney was very excited about his future with the show back in 2022. "It's never lost on me how special it is to be a part of something with the longevity this has," Kinney shared with US Weekly. "It's a testament to [show creator] Dick Wolf and the team of people he puts together." He continued, "I'm excited for Season 11." However, "I'm not privy to scripts or information on where they're going with it." So we'll just have to wait until the next season unfolds.