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During Chicago Fire‘s five seasons of deaths, departures and many “Dawsey” breakups, one of the few things viewers could count on was Severide’s eventful love life.
The Firehouse 51 lieutenant has always been known for his playboy ways, moving from one love interest to another at warp speed. Even when he (briefly) tied the knot in season three, it was to a woman he had just met in Las Vegas. (Suffice it to say, the marriage didn’t last.)
However, the fifth season of the NBC drama has seen a major change in Kelly. After a bit of an existential crisis, Severide (Taylor Kinney) decided to donate bone marrow to a nurse named Anna (Charlotte Sullivan) who was battling cancer. The two met, sparks flew, he saved her life and Anna has since relocated from Springfield to Chicago to be closer to him. So are Severide’s bed-hopping days really behind him?
“It’s something that I think will have a foundation and legs,” Kinney tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That bond is pretty intimate.”
THR spoke to Kinney about how Anna has helped Severide “evolve,” how the return of Severide’s father will shake things up and more.
Why do you think the timing was right for a deeper relationship for Severide?
To be honest, I think some of it has to do with Dawson and Casey getting married. He saw what they have and what they’ve been through, the trials and tribulations of a relationship over the years, and he’s always been kind of a ladies’ man and couldn’t settle down. When it’s someone that close to you, he sees, “OK, maybe I should give this a go, like a proper relationship that I can make work.” And the timing was the right. He had a lot of ups and downs and I think he’s done playing the field. It served as good timing and a good catalyst moving forward to try for an honest, intimate relationship.
How has it been for you as an actor to tap into a different side of Severide?
I love it. The writers come up with new things and new ideas for me to play with. I like to differentiate.… Because Casey’s married, I don’t know that if Severide was married and had the same love life, how interesting that would be if we both were on the same path years ago. So I really love it. Just as an actor, to have someone that you’re not just working with for two weeks; she’s been around for a few months now. Getting to know someone and work with them and put good stories on television — that’s what I like to do.
How do you think that character is bringing out a different side of Severide?
She’s keeping him honest. She’s helping him mature and take stock of what it is that he wants in life. Why he does what he does. Severide was propositioned with a career change, a promotion in Springfield, she happened to be there, I think that was part of the allure. In his heart of hearts, he goes, “Chicago is my home, I like being a lieutenant.” It’s not like he had grand vocalized ambitions of being a chief. His heart was in Chicago so he comes back, and it’s his home. It’s where he wants to be and she ends up finding work in Chicago so it was a good way moving forward to evolve in a relationship.
Severide’s dad Benny (Treat Williams) is also making a return appearance. What can you say about that?
Benny comes back, he rears his ugly head. (Laughs.) Honestly, he helps with the Anna situation. It helps resolve Kelly’s resolution saying, “OK, here’s my old man. He comes back to town and he’s trying to give me love advice and look at his checkered past.” He sees in him the things that he doesn’t want. It reaffirms or solidifies his pursuit in this relationship saying, “I want this to be different. I want this to work. I want to evolve and move forward with this woman. I don’t want to keep jumping around like Benny my whole life.”
You talked about the importance of differentiating the character. How big of a concern is that? What are those conversations like with the writers?
Our showrunners, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, and the staff writers, they’re great at what they do. I trust their instincts for what they write and if i ever have a question or a concern or an idea about where the character is going, I have their ear, I have their number. I don’t do it often. I never say, “I don’t agree with this.” It’s usually, like, “Hey, this felt really good, or we could do this here, or what do you think going forward?” I like to be involved.
There’s a new recurring character, played by Kamal Angelo Bolden, coming onto the show. How do you think he’ll change up the dynamic of the show?
My character hasn’t really interacted with him that much. He comes in and he was a squad member at another house. He and Casey are old buddies and they go to a call where they’re both at the same call, he’s still at his other company, and there’s a bit of a tragedy, someone gets hurt from his camp. He goes to Casey for advice about moving forward, and the idea comes up, if a job opened up at Firehouse 51, would you want to come? So I think we’ll see more of his character.
You’re about to wrap season five. How does it feel going into potentially season six with 100 episodes under your belt?
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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