Taylor Kinney leave of absence timeline: Everything we know

Taylor Kinney has always been a big part of Chicago Fire. As Severide, he was involved in the show’s core stories and romances. He’s managed to maintain this importance even though he’s no longer on the show. When it was announced that the actor would be taking a leave of absence, the response from fans was a mixture of sadness and confusion: why? when would be come back?

Well, it’s been several months and we are still asking these questions. It’s kind of surprising how information has been released about Kinney’s decision to leave the show (however momentarily), and now that the season 11 finale has aired, we have months to ponder whether or not he will be back for the season 12 premiere. With that in mind, here’s a timeline of Kinney’s absence and what it means for the future…

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 24: Taylor Kinney attends NBC’s Chicago series press day on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

Jan. 20, 2023 – Kinney announces leave of absence

A source close to the show’s production tells Deadline that Taylor Kinney will be taking a “leave of absence.” No specific return date is mentioned, but the source does give the impression that the decision was somewhat last-minute.

It’s specified that cast and crew were informed of Kinney’s decision the same day the news broke, and that writers would be tasked with having to rewrite already-scripted episodes to accomodate for his absence.

CHICAGO FIRE — “A Guy I Used to Know” Episode 1111 — Pictured: Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide — (Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

Feb. 22, 2023 – Kinney makes his last appearance on Chicago Fire

Kinney appeared in the season 11 episode “Run Like Hell” on February 22. The episode looked to be a standard one for his character, but the final scene revealed that he had contacted about an arson investigation training program in Alabama. He tells Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo) about the program, and the episode ends without them clarifying whether or not he will go.

We didn’t realize it then, but that would be the last time we saw Kinney in season 11. The next episode revealed that his character had decided to attend the program offscreen, and had already left between episodes. In retrospect this sudden approach makes sense, as the writing team was tasked with having to make last-minute changes to pre-existing scripts.


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April 9, 2023 – Kinney resurfaces on his girlfriend’s Instagram

Kinney was notably quiet in the months following his Chicago Fire exit. He didn’t post anything on his social media accounts, and he didn’t release any statements providing context for his “leave of absence.” It wouldn’t be until April that he resurfaced, and when he did, it was on his girlfriend’s IG.

Ashley Cruger (who made a cameo in the season 11 premiere) posted a photo of her and Kinney sharing a kiss on Easter Sunday. On April 17, Cruger posted a video of her and Kinney riding on a motorcycle on a race track. While it was nice to see Kinney enjoying himself, it did lead some fans to question what the cause of the “leave of absence” was in the first place.

CHICAGO FIRE — “How Does it End” Episode 1112 — Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide, Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd — (Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

April 13, 2023 – NBC announces budget cuts for Chicago Fire cast

NBC renewed Chicago Fire for an additional season on April 13, but there were some notable strings attached. In an effort to cut down on the budget of each episode, the network revealed that it would be limiting the appearances made by cast members. In other words, actors who appear in every episode of a season will be missing 3-4 episodes to limit costs.

While it was stated that there would be exceptions for a handful of cast members, it did raise a few questions about Kinney’s status within the show. It’s possible, with this in mind, that the Fire writers will decide to push back the actor’s return so that they don’t have to concoct a new reason for him to miss episodes in season 12.

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CHICAGO FIRE — “Nemesis” Episode 1109 — Pictured: Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide — (Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

May 2, 2023 – Chicago Fire confirms no Kinney for S11 finale

The latest Kinney update came at the beginning of May. Variety announced that Jesse Spencer would be returning to Chicago Fire for the season 11 finale, while at the same time confirming that Kinney would not appear.

Many had hoped (us included) that Kinney’s return would be a key story during the finale, but outside of a passing reference to what his character has been doing, there was little mention of him. We will update this post with new information as it becomes available, but as of right now, Kinney’s future with the show is unclear.

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