If you’ve been following Lieutenant Kelly Severide’s time in Firehouse 51 from the start, you may have a lot of questions over why Taylor Kinney is leaving Chicago Fire and his real reason for exiting the series after more than a decade.
Chicago Fire Shocker: [Spoiler]'s Return in Season 11 Is Set to Shake Things Up at Firehouse 51
Chicago Fire is NBC’s drama series following the professional and personal lives of firefighters, rescue personnel and paramedics of the Chicago Fire Department’s fictional Firehouse 51. Kinney made his debut as Lieutenant Kelly Severide, a lieutenant at Firehouse 51 and an officer in charge of Squad 3, in season 1 of Chicago Fire in 2012.
Kinney revealed in an interview with NBC in 2023 that he did’t have any “anxiety” before his audition for Chicago Fire.“I was in the circuit of auditioning a lot, so I was decent at it”, he said. “I remember never having any anxiety. I was excited about it, and then you kind of leave it up to the powers that be.” He continued, “[The audition] went well, and 10 years later I’m still here bugging you through your televisions while you fold laundry.”
He also looked back on his jobs before his acting career, which included carrying golf clubs.“I carried golf clubs for older women who didn’t know how to play golf,” he said. “It was frustrating, but I would make enough money to buy a medium, thin-crust pizza from Pizza Hut and rent a Blockbuster movie for a Saturday night. Thanks, old ladies!”
After more than a decade as Lieutenant Severide in Chicago Fire, news broke that Kinney was exiting the series in early 2023. So… why did Taylor Kinney leave Chicago Fire and what happened to Lieutenant Kelly Severide? Read on for what we know about why Taylor Kinney left Chicago Fire and the reason for his sudden exit.
Why did Taylor Kinney leave Chicago Fire?
Why did Taylor Kinney leave Chicago Fire? Kinney, who played Lieutenant Kelly Severide on Chicago Fire from seasons 1 to 11, starred in his last episode on February 22, 2023. At the end of the episode — season 11, episode 14 “Run Like Hell” — Severide joins his wife, Stella Kidd, at Molly’s Pub, where she asks him about Captain Tom Van Meter, a commander and arson investigator for the Chicago Fire Department’s Office of Fire Investigation, whom Severide has worked with. When Kidd asks Severide about Van Meter, Severide shows her his phone, to which she appears surprised and asks him, “Wow. What are you going to do?”
In the next episode — season 11, episode 15 “Damage Control” — Van Meter tells Deputy District Chief Wallace Boden Jr. that Severide had left Chicago to train at “the best arson investigation training program in the world,” a last-minute opportunity that was too big to pass on. While Boden tells Van Meter that he’s disappointed, he admits that the training will be a positive for firehouse when Severide returns.
So why did Taylor Kinney leave Chicago Fire? A source close to production told Deadline in January 2023, that Kinney was taking a “leave of absence” from Chicago Fire to deal with a “personal matter,” which suggests that he could return. Deadline reported that the cast and crew of Chicago Fire were informed of Kinney’s leave on January 20, 2023, and that future scripts would be rewritten to accommodate for Kinney’s absence.
In an interview with Us Weekly after the season 10 finale in 2022, Kinney looked back on his decade-plus on Chicago Fire. “It’s never lost on me how special it is to be a part of something with a longevity this has. It’s a testament to Dick Wolf, the team of people he puts together,” he said. He just wrapped season 10. That says something. I’m excited for season 11. I’m not privy to scripts or information of where they’re going with it. No clue, but I’m excited.”
Kinney also reflected on how long he’d been on Chicago Fire in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the series’ season 5 finale in 2019. “It’s tough to see the forest through the trees. Maybe over hiatus I can take a good step back and take it all in,” he said. “But to think that we started that long ago, and especially network shows, most of these don’t even see the light of day from the pilot.”
He continued, “So getting that to go, and then getting a pickup for 13 episodes and then you get a little bit of rhythm and then you start airing and then we were finding our sea legs trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. There’s no guarantees so we didn’t know if we were getting a back-nine pickup. And then we got that. I remember when John Roman, who was our line producer seasons one, two and three, got off the phone and gathered cast and crew and said, ‘You guys, we got picked up for season two,’ and that was one of the prouder moments in my career. It felt like validation that people liked the show and watched it.
Kinney also told The Hollywood Reporter about what it was like to see Chicago Fire, which was the first show in the One Chicago franchise, expand into Chicago P.D., Chicago Med and Chicago Justice, most of which he’s made appearances on. “Going forward with these spinoffs, they get a little hectic but I was looking at a poster the other day on our stages and one of them is the entire cast of Fire, P.D. and Med,” he said. “You see it grow little by little but there’s like 50 characters and it says, ‘One Chicago.’ To see that—and now we have Justice—it’s a lot to take in. I’m really proud and humbled.”
Kinney’s exit came three months after Chicago Fire‘s co-creator and co-showrunner, Derek Haas, announced he was leaving the show at the end of season 10. “Although I am leaving Wolf Entertainment next year to focus on creating new shows, I’m entirely committed to delivering amazing episodes of ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘FBI: International’ through the end of the current seasons,” Haas said in a statement at the time. “I learned everything I know about storytelling, pace, characters, production values, and hiring the best cast, crews, and staffs from Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski, and as hard as it is to leave a place you love and have called home for over a decade, including incredible support from Universal Television, NBC and CBS, I look forward to building my own brand in entertainment.”
Jesse Spencer, who played Lieutenant Matthew Casey on Chicago Fire from seasons 1 to 10, also left the show in its 200th episode in October 2021. In the episode, Casey was written off Chicago Fire after he made the “life-altering decision” to move to Oregon with a three-year commitment. At a press call at the time, Haas said that he had “bittersweet feelings — or just bitter feelings” about Spencer’s exit, according to Variety. He also thanked Spencer for “years of amazing friendship and service and acting and making the show credible,” and acknowledged that, though Casey’s last episode turned out well, it was difficult to write.
On the same press call, Spencer explained that he decided to leave Chicago Fire after realizing he’d been on television for 18 years straight and wanted to focus on his family and other career opportunities. “I hate to leave the show because I do love this show, but when the time comes, the time comes,” he said at the time. Spencer explained that, when he called Haas to tell him about his decision to leave, they mutually agreed for Casey’s last episode to be Chicago Fire‘s 200th episode special. “All of us felt that anything past the first 13 episodes was a bonus,” Haas said. “I just feel like we’ve been on borrowed time for a long time and of course I wanted to talk Jesse into staying and coming back and doing all the things for as long as we could, but I was very happy that he gave us five more episodes instead of just leaving at the end of the [last] season, which led us to be able to bring back a storyline from Season 1 — to bring back the Darden boys.” (Though he left in the middle of season 10, Casey made a short cameo in the season 10 finale when Severide and Kidd get married.)
For more about Taylor Kinney, check out our photo gallery of Chicago Fire stars and their real-life loves.