The Stunning Transformation Of Chicago Fire's Taylor Kinney

A ladies man-turned-husband, Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) once owned Wednesday nights, not only for his ability to keep his friendship with Matt Cassey (Jesse Spencer) afloat but also his commitment to each mission. Oftentimes, Severide put his own life on the line. In one episode of "Chicago Fire," he audaciously rescued a construction worker despite having an injury of his own. In another, Severide made a twenty-five-floor leap to save the life of a little boy.

When he answered a casting call for "Chicago Fire," actor Taylor Kinney was excited. There was not a trace of anxiety in his bones, as he shared in a conversation with NBC. He got the part, and reprised it on "Chicago Med" and "Chicago P.D." Year in and out, the show kept its audience on the edge of their seats. In a 2021 chat with Stage Right Secrets, Kinney maintained that the cast and crew members' ability to bond played a huge part in the show's triumph that clocked ten years in 2022. "There's no bad apples," he said. "For an audience to have our backs, watch our show and keep coming back for a decade or more, I think that speaks volumes to the leadership [from] the top down."

Although Kinney never wrapped up the 11th Season of "Chicago Fire," he's still undoubtedly a fan favorite. His real life story is one of impressive transformation from an active childhood, a brush with popularity in high school, to dominating the small screen. Keep reading to learn more about the actor.

He grew up with three brothers

Taylor Kinney was raised alongside three siblings; an older brother and two younger brothers. According to Kinney's conversation with Assignment X, their relationship with one another was mostly chaotic, which made good practice for his future role on "Chicago Fire." "It's just kind of busting each other's balls. You talk s*** and you get into fights and you do all that at a firehouse. It's the same thing," Kinney told the publication.

The Kinney household wasn't lacking in a good sense of humor, either. Following the 1989 release of the beloved sci-fi flick "Back to the Future Part II," Kinney's older sibling tried his hand at hovering above ground in his own unique way.

"I had this skateboard, and I loved this skateboard, and he took the trucks off, took the wheels off," the actor explained in an interview with NBC News. "I don't know what he put, like, microwave plates or something on the bottom, and I go, 'What did you do to the skateboard?' He's like, 'It's a hoverboard now.'" Safe to say, the one lacking ingredient in his brother's make-shift hoverboard was good old big screen editing, which made the attempt an epic fail.

He was a high school sports star

Taylor Kinney attended Lancaster Mennonite School. He was supposedly well-known, according to Mr. Miles Yoder, who was the school's stand-in superintendent in 2015. Mr. Yoder told Daily Mail, "Taylor was a very likable young man." According to the educator, Kinney didn't take a liking to drama. He however spent a good chunk of time attending religious lessons and studying the bible. Additionally, he thrived in sports, particularly volleyball. It goes without saying that the administrator was happy with how far the "Chicago Fire" actor had come.

An alumnus of the school, Eric Kennel, who happened to be part of the Volleyball team at the same time as Kinney, corroborated Mr. Yoder's revelation. "Taylor was one of our best volleyball players," he said. "I remember he took the team to district playoffs. He had a great senior year." His demeanor, Kennel stated, was laid back even though Kinney also had a number of girls in his circle. The pair apparently didn't stay in each other's lives after high school. For that reason, Kinney's subsequent stardom came as a shocker.

He had a short boxing stint in college

Growing up, Taylor Kinney was a motorsport enthusiast. Kinney played the Sega Genesis console, and, in particular, the game "Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II," as he shared in an interview with La Gazette de Monaco. It was therefore a wholesome moment when he first visited Monte Carlo and felt as if he were in the video game.

Another aspect of his childhood that played out when he was much older was boxing. "My grandfather was a big boxing fan," Kinney revealed in his chat with Assignment X, adding that he'd root for fighters on television who were worn out after many rounds without the slightest clue on what it was like at that stage of the game.

Kinney would eventually take up the sport in college, and only then did he dissect how tough it was in the boxing ring. "I started out doing three-minute rounds and by the end of that third round, you could barely put your hands up," he recollected.

Taylor Kinney's passion for acting was by chance

In addition to boxing shows, Taylor Kinney spent his childhood watching "Married...With Children." His first celebrity crush was Peggy Bundy (Katey Sagal), Al Bundy's (Ed O'Neill) indolent wife with a rare taste for finer things. "I never understood why Al didn't want to sleep with her because I always did," Kinney quipped in an on-set chat with TV Guide

Unknown to him at the time, his own acting bug would bite in college. While he barely took an interest in the arts when he was in high school, the same could not be said for his time as a business major at West Virginia University. In his second year, Kinney chose an elective theater course that would birth a love for acting.

"[It] held my interest outside of the classroom more so than any other subject I'd ever taken," the "Least Among Saints" actor said in an interview with USA Today. Unfortunately, Kinney dropped out in his junior year. Instead, he set his sights on a Hawaiian adventure.

He learned how to surf in Hawaii

In Hawaii, Taylor Kinney was on an exploration phase whose details he relayed in his interview with USA Today. "I wanted a life experience of my own," he said. In the island state, he delved into surfing, skydiving, and roofing houses; activities that went on for a year.

Just like most of the things Kinney picked up in his adult life, roofing was an experience he was familiar with. "I did a lot of carpentry work growing up," he let Assignment X know. "I spent a lot of summers on roofs and framing and I like to see my work, I like to sweat, I like to use my hands." The manual work he did would eventually make his role on "Chicago Fire" even easier since it was just as strenuous. 

Kinney eyed Hollywood afterward. He moved to Los Angeles and began attending an uncountable number of auditions.

Taylor Kinney's first job was as a caddie

Taylor Kinney's very first on-screen job was on a Foo Fighters music video. He was cast in a marriage proposal scene which included a first kiss on camera. Kinney would later learn that a majority of the parts he shot didn't make it to the final cut. He had a hunch that it was either because the kiss was terrible, or his sunburns got in the way of good videography. Per his narration to NBC, Kinney had traveled to the location on a shoestring budget. He had to walk in the scorching sun and beg for a ride.

Just as his inaugural assignment on-screen hadn't been a walk in the park, Kinney's first job as a golf caddie was underwhelming. "I carried golf clubs for older women who didn't know how to play golf," he shared with the broadcaster. "It was frustrating but I would make enough money to buy a medium, thin-crust from Pizza Hut, rent a Blockbuster movie for a Saturday night."

He landed his first acting role on Fashion House

Taylor Kinney's first time on the small screen was as Luke Gianni, Maria Gianni's (Bo Derek) child in the soap opera, "Fashion House." Speaking to My Fanbase, Kinney said of being Derek's co-star, "It was great working with Bo Derek ... she was like a mom to me for the first six months." Admittedly, he hadn't registered how much of a celebrity Derek was until they were on a media tour and her fans lost their cool. "Radio hosts and celebrity journalists would start sweating when she walked in the room. Most of them said they grew up with posters of her on their walls," Kinney recollected.

Back home, his own claim to glory had begun to take shape. Up until then, his mother hadn't had a grasp of what career path he'd chosen. He'd often kept the finer details of what he was doing away from her just in case he didn't make it. She started to take note when "Fashion House" aired on television. "It was on every night. And that's when my mom, she's like 'What are you? Are you?' [And I was like] 'Yeah, this is what I wanted to do,'" Kinney shared on NBC Universal's 2017 Summer Press Day.

Taylor Kinney lost money and made it back

After Taylor Kinney got his first major acting paycheck on "Fashion House," he went on a splurging spree. "I think I spent $90,000 on sushi ... I was just spending money like an idiot," Kinney shared on NBC Universal's Summer Press Day. Then, in his early to mid-twenties, Kinney hadn't grasped money management just yet. No sooner had his Benjamins flown out of his pockets faster than they came, than he was right back where he began. 

"And then I was broke, and then I started auditioning again," he revealed. His efforts to pick himself up coincided with a writer's strike, which made his financial situation even worse. Kinney made appearances on episodes of "What About Brian" and "Bones" before landing a consistent role as Glenn Morrison in the NBC medical drama "Trauma." He eventually made the money he lost back, enough to purchase a two-bedroom Near West Side condominium at $1.2 million, per The Chicago Tribune.

He was a Vampire Diaries breakout star

Unlike the long dry spell Taylor Kinney had before he was on television regularly post-"Fashion House," landing the role of Mason Lockwood on "The Vampire Diaries" was as easy as pie. "It happened really quick," Kinney revealed in an interview with Collider. "I met with people on Tuesday and then I flew out on Thursday and was shooting by Friday."

A werewolf was the kind of character he'd looked forward to playing since his childhood. However, Kinney's initial day on the job wasn't a smooth sail. It took him a while to fully understand his co-stars' roles. "I remember my first day on set, looking around and having pretty awkward questions about who's a vampire and whether I would know if they're a vampire and if they have any powers that I don't know about. It was trial by fire, but I got so into it," he told the publication.

With an overall audience of 3.4 million glued to the screen at the time Kinney's first episode aired in September 2010, per Deadline, he tapped into a teen drama audience that grew his popularity.

His role on Chicago Fire came full circle

He may have graced the small screen as a firefighter for years, but during a time Taylor Kinney lived in San Diego, he needed to call the fire department when his 1940s cottage caught a fire. Kinney happened to be inside when he got the alert. "This guy comes rapping on the window in the kitchen and he bangs on the window. He's like 'Your house is on fire!'" he recalled in an interview with The Jam TV Show. "I go outside and sure enough the whole top [was burning] ... it was ridiculous!"

Kinney would later become a fire safety advocate, urging people to ensure their homes were fitted with smoke alarms. He poured knowledge on alarm installation, positioning, and frequency of use as a precaution in the event that a fire occurred. It was a match made in heaven, given his own personal mishap and how synonymous his image had become with fire rescues, thanks to "Chicago Fire."

Taylor Kinney appeared in many movies

When Taylor Kinney's acting trail on television briefly went cold soon after "Fashion House," he took to the big screen. Kinney portrayed Frank in the little known U. Wolfgang Wagenknecht-directed "White Air" and played the role of Bill Jamison in "Furnace." And when his small screen career took off again, Kinney took movie roles in between. 

"Zero Dark Thirty," an account of the capture of al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, took him on a trip across the Middle East and North Africa. "We shot in Jordan and India," Kinney disclosed in an interview with People. "[We] made a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids, we went to Israel ... spent a night in Tel Aviv, went to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, down by the Red Sea." Despite having made no initial plot to explore different countries, Kinney said he made good use of the opportunity.

"Zero Dark Thirty" came under fire for its storyline, but it made a financially successful box office debut. Kinney had another box office hit with "The Other Woman," starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton and Leslie Mann.

He became an award winner

Taylor Kinney was consecutively nominated for a People's Choice Award for his portrayal of Lieutenant Kelly Severide on "Chicago Fire" three times. In 2016, he was up against "Grey's Anatomy" actors Jesse Williams and Justin Chambers, Scott Foley from the multiple award-winning hit series "Scandal," and "Empire" star Terrence Howard in the Favorite Dramatic TV Actor category. Kinney won. 

In his acceptance speech, he recognized the genius of the show's creator, the cast and crew's industrious nature, and its legion of fans who tuned in. "Although having Dick Wolf at the helm of your ship is huge, it doesn't guarantee success," Kinney said. "We work our tails off but what makes the show a success, what makes it work, is you guys."

Kinney went on to recognize his mom, who was in attendance. He acknowledged the work done daily by real life firefighters, without whom the show wouldn't be possible. His then partner Lady Gaga was absent, but she received a nod, as well. 

Taylor Kinney was engaged to Lady Gaga

In an ironic case of what happens on screen mimicking real life, Taylor Kinney — whose first job on screen was a music video proposal — met his would-be fiancée Lady Gaga on the set of her "Yoü And I" video shoot. More bizarre was the fact that Lady Gaga smacked Kinney for unexpectedly giving her a kiss, as the latter narrated on "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen." Despite an unwelcoming start, the chemistry between the duo afterward was undeniable.

In February 2015, Lady Gaga announced her engagement to Kinney in a brief Instagram post that read, "He gave me his heart on Valentine's Day, and I said YES!" Later that year when Kinney talked to Cohen, he revealed that they were yet to find a suitable wedding date or location. "We're so busy. We've been engaged for less than a year, so we've been talking about whether it's New York, Los Angeles, destination place, so we don't have an exact date yet," he said.

Sadly, Kinney and Lady Gaga never made it to the altar. In her documentary "Gaga: Five Foot Two," the celebrated singer revealed she was single again soon after securing a place as the lead in "A Star is Born." Nevertheless, Gaga and Kinney maintained a cordial relationship.

He reportedly left Chicago Fire for personal reasons

Taylor Kinney reportedly took an indefinite sabbatical from "Chicago Fire" in January 2023 and wasn't likely to return for the show's 12th season. Kinney stepped away from the small screen for private reasons. His last appearance was on the 14th episode of Season 11 dubbed "Run Like Hell," where Kinney's beloved character Kelly Severide and Mouch (Christian Stolte) joined forces to crack yet another arson case. Kinney's absence on the show was presented as departure to attend an arson investigation program on a March 2023 episode dubbed "Damage Control." 

While Kinney made no public comments about the state of his comeback, he paid homage to his co-star Treat Williams who unfortunately died in a June 2023 motorcycle accident. "My thoughts and prayers are with Treat's family," Kinney's statement to People read in part. "He played my father on "Chicago Fire," and was a father figure to everyone on set. I'll always relish our conversations and his uncanny ability to light up a room. We all send love, he will be missed."