What You Never Knew About Taylor Kinney

Taylor Kinney became a household name when he was cast in a leading role on "Chicago Fire" back in 2012. However, it was Kinney's relationship with Lady Gaga that really thrust his personal life into the spotlight. As much attention as it generated at the time, his years-long romance with his "Yoü & I" costar is but one piece of his story; he's a busy guy and, as far as we can tell, has always been that way.

For his part, Kinney tries to keep his 1.1 million Instagram followers in the know with regular updates about work and his various hobbies, but there's still plenty he likes to keep to himself. If you want to know what Kinney was like before the fame, dig into the wild shenanigans he's gotten into over the years, and find out what he likes to do in his spare time, we've got all the juicy details below. Here's what you never knew about Taylor Kinney.

Taylor Kinney fell into acting

Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Taylor Kinney didn't always want to become an actor. As an administrator from his high school told the Daily Mail in 2015, "He showed no interest in drama while here." But that all changed, when as noted in USA Today, Kinney signed up for an acting class while he was attending West Virginia University. As he told USA Today, he was instantly smitten. "[It] held my interest outside of the classroom more so than any other subject I'd ever taken," he recalled.

It wasn't enough to keep him in school, though. Kinney dropped out after his first year and went to seek adventure in Hawaii. He spent a year in paradise, learning to surf and working in construction, but acting remained on his mind. After he relocated to Los Angeles, he started going to auditions and ended up landing his first gig on a short-lived show from 2006 called "Fashion House." In 2009, he was cast in NBC's "Trauma," but that season didn't last long either. Kinney followed that up with an arc on The CW's "The Vampire Diaries" in 2010, but his real claim to fame came two years later when he got a leading role in "Chicago Fire." A decade later, the show was still going strong and NBC announced it would return for Season 11 in fall 2022.

Taylor Kinney has always led an active lifestyle

Taylor Kinney loves being active. It all started in high school when he was a member of Lancaster Mennonite School's volleyball team. A former teammate told the Daily Mail that Kinney was a standout on their roster, and the school's yearbook listed him as a "volleyball star." However, he switched focus in college, turning to boxing at West Virginia University. As Kinney said in a chat with Assignment X, he developed a love for the sport through his grandfather and wasn't put off by the grueling physicality of it. Recalling how tough his training was, he shared, "I started out doing three-minute rounds and by the end of that third round, you could barely put your hands up."

Even when Kinney dropped out of university to chase adventure in Hawaii, sports remained a top priority. Per USA Today, he learned to surf and skydive, and he's also been obsessed with riding motorcycles since he was a kid. As the actor told Today, "My grandfather had motorcycles and I remember going for a ride and then after that I was hooked." But wait, there's more: Kinney has also participated in the Chicago Polar Plunge multiple times, jumping into Lake Michigan's freezing waters every January to raise money for Special Olympics Chicago.

Taylor Kinney is a baseball stan

Taylor Kinney's love of baseball knows no bounds. As he made abundantly clear when he appeared on "Today" in 2016, he wouldn't let anything stop him from getting to Game 7 of that year's World Series. After his flight to Ohio was canceled, he could've just stayed home and watched the game in his living room. Instead, he found another flight, hurried over to Progressive Field from the airport, and made it just in time for the fifth inning. Despite the rough start, he gushed, "It was the most amazing game of baseball I've ever seen in my life." 

As Kinney told Front Row Features in 2017, baseball actually helped him feel more connected to the Chicago community when he first moved there to film "Chicago Fire." "With the sports teams, I've gotten to know a couple of buddies," he shared. They even invited him to throw the first pitch at Wrigley Field in 2018.

Baseball isn't the only sport the actor loves to watch. As he told "Celebrity Page" in 2018, getting to see his hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, win the Super Bowl in-person was a moment he'll never forget. Then there's his love of racing. In 2019, Kinney hopped onto the NASCAR track with driver Jeff Burton who took him for a joy ride and in 2021, he posed with F1 racer Gino Rosato on Instagram and gushed about getting to attend a F1 race after growing up watching it on TV.

There's one thing Taylor Kinney doesn't love about Chicago

Taylor Kinney first moved to Chicago for work when he was cast in "Chicago Fire," but in the years that have followed, it's really become his home. Speaking about his love of the Windy City, the actor told Front Row Features in 2017, "I feel each year, each season, I become more and more a part of the community." He became so smitten in fact that he actually invested in a local restaurant with co-star Monica Raymund and even bought some real estate. As Extra learned, the actor spent a cool $1.2 million for a two-bedroom condo because, as he explained, "I wanted to put roots here and I've come to love this city and feel a part of it and part of the community." It's something he doesn't see changing anytime soon. "I'll probably keep it after the show ends," he told Front Row Feature.

There is one thing he doesn't like about his adoptive hometown, however, and that's deep-dish pizza. Kinney made the revelation during a 2017 interview with New York Daily News during which he admitted his pizza preferences lay elsewhere. "I'll have a piece but I prefer thin slice," he said. As for why he dislikes the Chicago staple? "You have a slice and you feel like a concrete cinder box. It's heavy, there's a lot of cheese going on," Kinney said.

Taylor Kinney is a BBQ master

If acting didn't work out for Taylor Kinney, he could have opened his own BBQ joint. As he shared with Jimmy Fallon, his love of grilling runs deep. The "Chicago Fire" star first started cooking for himself towards the end of high school — but his culinary ability wasn't exactly something that was passed down to him. As he told Architectural Digest, "Momma was never much of a cook." Taking matters into their own hands, he and his siblings decided to give the grill a whirl, learning how to prepare various meats. "Soon, my brothers started in on it, and we would have contests [about] who could make the best marinade," he recalled. "We could have a hell of a cooking show!"

To this day, his love of BBQ hasn't diminished and he still makes sure to have a grill anywhere he lives. As for how he develops his recipes? "It's mostly trial and error. I enjoy watching 'BBQ Pitmasters' and some cooking shows, but you can only take away so much," he told the mag. But it's not just about delicious taste. "Cooking in general brings people together," he enthused, which would explain why he loved making dinner for then-fiancée Lady Gaga. In 2015, he said in Cosmopolitan, "I like to cook for her. I'm a meat eater and a griller — I do steaks, I do chicken, I do fish. I have a broad palate."

Taylor Kinney invested in a distillery slash theater

Taylor Kinney may have put roots down in Chicago, but he'll never forget his hometown. In 2018, he invested in a cinema-distillery hybrid in his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania after searching for the right opportunity for several years. Called Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse, the space is a cinema, restaurant, and micro-distillery — all in one. While the theater plays everything from action classics like "Road House" to international films like 2021 comedy "Official Competition," the restaurant offers hearty fare (think chicken wings, burgers, and pizzas), and the in-house distillery, Lancaster Distilleries, serves locally made spirits.

It's a project Kinney is extremely proud of. As he told Jimmy Fallon in 2021, "It's helping a lot of people who are in between jobs and in and out of work." He's so passionate about it, in fact, that he was around during the pandemic; as managing partner Chelia Huettner told LancasterOnline, he's been totally hands-on since the beginning. "He didn't just invest money, but time and ideas," said Huettner. "He's given us branding feedback; He's given us ideas for the grand opening; He's been to the space a lot of times; He's been to a chef tasting; He's given us feedback on our spirits."

Taylor Kinney's personal connection to fire safety

In addition to playing a firefighter on television in "Chicago Fire", Taylor Kinney has made it a point to advocate for fire safety off-screen. Teaming up with safety product brand First Alert, the actor has been helping to promote fire safety tips, including the importance of having smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. However, his connection goes far beyond the character he portrays on the small screen. As he told "The Jam" in 2019, he was in his house in San Diego when a passerby let him know that the place had caught fire. Kinney rushed outside and, sure enough, saw that the entire roof was in flames. "It was ridiculous," he recalled.

Having such a personal connection has made Kinney a passionate spokesperson and he continued his partnership with First Alert in 2020. Noting that people were spending more time at home than ever before due to the pandemic, the actor stressed a number of important hands-on tips, like proper placement of alarms, the need to check batteries every six months, and more.

Taylor Kinney's fame got him out of a police ticket

It pays to be famous. Taylor Kinney experienced the perks of celebrity firsthand when his acting credentials actually got him out of a speeding ticket. On a 2021 episode of "The Kelly Clarkson Show," the actor shared how he managed to avoid a fine after he pulled an especially bold move while riding his motorcycle in a traffic jam. "I hopped off onto the median to the right side and just started passing all the traffic, all the cars, in what would be either a bus or service lane," he said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he got pulled over. And perhaps surprisingly, "Chicago Fire" kept him out of trouble. "[The cop was] like, 'Oh it's you, the fake firefighter.' We kind of laughed and had a chuckle, I think he made fun of me for a little bit, which is fine because then he let me go," Kinney recalled. The police officer did have one important thing to say before he left, though: "Get home safe, don't do that again, and I like the show."

While Kinney is indeed a "fake firefighter," his admiration for firefighters and the work they do is very real. He told Glamour,"[G]oing on ride-alongs with real Chicago firefighters and wearing the heavy suits they wear [to prep for the role] raises your appreciation. It's a selfless job."

Taylor Kinney's relationship with Ashley Cruger

In 2011, Taylor Kinney began dating Lady Gaga. The pair got engaged on Valentine's Day 2015, but called it quits in 2016. While they initially kept mum about what happened, the singer later blamed her career for having a negative impact on her personal life. As she said in her documentary "Gaga: Five Foot Two" (via People), it wasn't the first time one affected the other. "I sold 10 million [records] and lost Matt. I sold 30 million and lost Luke. I did a movie and lose Taylor. It's like a turnover," she shared.

After their split, Kinney reportedly enjoyed his bachelorhood. In September 2019, the Daily Mail reported he was spotted kissing a mystery woman in Pennsylvania; a source claimed, "He often brings beautiful girls into town but he met this one in the bar that night." That seemingly changed in April 2022 when he made his red carpet debut with model Ashley Cruger and they packed on the PDA. That March, Kinney posted two photos of Cruger to his Instagram: a closeup portrait and a snap of her staring him down at a nail salon. Jump to June 2022 when Just Jared reported the two lovebirds are not only still going strong, but vacationing together in Lake Como, Italy. As far as we can tell, this is Kinney's first serious relationship following his split from Gaga.

Taylor Kinney's first celebrity crush will surprise you

Taylor Kinney has made a habit of keeping his personal life under wraps as much as possible, but he has no qualms opening up about his on-screen crushes. When TV Guide asked the actor in 2016 to reveal the first-ever celebrity he was ever smitten with, Kinney didn't waste a second replying, "Peggy Bundy!" Not Katey Sagal who played her, but the fictional character from "Married... with Children."

Sagal starred opposite Ed O'Neill on the hit TV show, which premiered in 1987 and ran for a decade. As the wife of shoe salesman Al Bundy (O'Neill), her mission throughout all 11 seasons appeared to be spending all of her husband's money, or what little there was of it — all while doing as little work as possible. As Sagal said of Peg in the Chicago Tribune in 1989, "She makes the most of what's going on and has a thrilling time. She hates cleaning house, and so do I. But I'm in a position where somebody can do it for me. Peg just lets the house rot."

Evidently, this resonated with Kinney. As he said in TV Guide, "I never understood why Al wouldn't [want to] sleep with her because I always did!"

Taylor Kinney's impressive net worth

If you think network TV is dead, think again. As Taylor Kinney's bank account proves, starring on a hit network show can be seriously lucrative. Indeed, "Chicago Fire" didn't just give him his big break in Hollywood, it also turned him into a multimillionaire. According to Audacy, he's tied with co-star Jesse Spencer for the title of wealthiest "Chicago Fire" cast member and, per Celebrity Net Worth, has an estimated net worth of $8 million. That impressive sum should come as no surprise, given the success of the series, which has been going strong since its 2012 debut. In fact, its Season 10 finale, which aired in May 2022, brought in 6.81 million viewers, making it the most-watched show that night, per Deadline. While we don't know Kinney's exact salary, he'll still be bringing in the "Chicago Fire" money for at least another year, as NBC announced in May 2022 that the show was picked up for an eleventh season.

Add to that the returns Kinney likely earns from his various investments (like being part-owner of Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse), as well as his $1.225 million Chicago home, and his side acting gigs in movies like "The Other Woman," which had worldwide box office earnings of $196.7 million, and the Pennsylvania native is certainly not strapped for cash.