What You Don't Know About Taylor Kinney

When Lady Gaga began dating Taylor Kinney in 2011, many fans were surprised. Kinney and Gaga met while shooting the music video for her song "You and I," and the pair quickly fell in love. Though his profile was lower than the pop superstar's at the time, he was making his name as an actor, and he quickly saw his own star rise. He quietly accumulated an impressive acting resume, playing Mason Lockwood on "The Vampire Diaries" for two seasons, in addition to other film and television roles. His big break came in 2012, when he landed the lead role of Lieutenant Kelly Severide on "Chicago Fire." As part of the "One Chicago" NBC Wednesday night lineup, along with "Chicago Med" and "Chicago P.D.," the show has been a hit, and Kinney's character is a fan favorite.

After Gaga and Kinney ended their engagement in 2016, he has laid low, focusing on his acting work and keeping his personal life private. Because of that, he's retained a bit of mystery. He seems to be a small-town guy who's made it big, and he likes to stay connected to his roots. Here are some things that you may not know about Taylor Kinney.

He owns part of an entertainment venue in his hometown

Taylor Kinney was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and he maintains strong ties there to this day. He owns a stake in a small theater downtown called Zoetropolis, which screens a wide variety of movies, hosts comedy shows, and schedules small concerts with local musicians. In addition to a slate of current independent and foreign films, they also run different film programs featuring movies from the past. The Revival Series focuses on older films "with dark themes and strong aesthetics" like "The Vanishing" and "The Night of the Hunter," while the Philosophy-Drink Film Series showcases more recent classics like "The Dark Night" and "Memento" and "combines thought-provoking films, spirited conversation, and expertly crafted cocktails."

Those cocktails and spirits are provided by Lancaster Distilleries, which makes its very own craft gin, vodka, rum, and bourbon. The distillery is part of the theater; they share the same building and ownership team. Lancaster Distillery provides drinks for the artsy venue.

Kinney isn't just a silent investor, though. During the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, local publication Lancaster Online spotted him lending a hand with takeout orders and delivery. The venue was able to depend on food takeout and delivery to help make it through the pandemic, and now thankfully is fully open for business.

He challenges his brothers to grilling competitions

Being an investor for a restaurant isn't Taylor Kinney's only connection to the food world — he loves to grill at home, and he even ropes his brothers into grilling competitions. Kinney explained to Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" that he "grew up on fish sticks and meatloaf." But during high school, he started working as a carpenter and roofer. He was hungry when he got home, so he taught himself to grill. He was excited to figure out that with the right preparation, food didn't have to be dry and bland. Once he got the hang of grilling, he started experimenting with making his own marinades. 

As he got more and more creative with his recipes, he got his brothers, Adam and Trent, into it, too. The family started keeping track of their favorites, writing them down, and then turning them into fun, friendly competitions. Well, as friendly as competitions amongst brothers can be, we're sure.

These days, when his family gets together, they always fire up a grill. Kinney told Architectural Digest, "We lived in separate parts of the country for quite a long time, so when we were all home for birthdays or holidays, the one thing you could count on us doing was lighting up the grill." He said that his go-to marinade is a "flank steak recipe that includes honey, soy sauce, olive oil, and spices," which sounds incredibly delicious.

Even though he was engaged to Lady Gaga, he took someone else to the 2016 People's Choice Awards

Taylor Kinney's date to the People's Choice Awards was special: It was his mom, Pamela Heisler. Kinney was engaged to Lady Gaga at the time, but she wasn't able to attend the ceremony for scheduling reasons. He was nominated for Favorite Dramatic TV Actor for his work as Lieutenant Kelly Severide on "Chicago Fire," and he won. In a heartfelt acceptance speech, he thanked his mom, saying, "[My] mom's here tonight, so thanks for coming out, Mom. Love you!"

He also thanked the cast and crew of "Chicago Fire," saying, "I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing cast, an amazing crew, who have since become family to me." Kinney is clearly a family man — whether it's his biological family or his work family.

Kinney explained Gaga's absence during his speech, saying that she "couldn't be here tonight, but she says hello [and] wishes she could." He added, "I love you babe. Thank you for having my back and supporting me." Sadly, the couple called off their engagement months later.

Thanks to his acting work, Taylor Kinney has traveled the world

Taylor Kinney played the role of Navy SEAL Jared in the Oscar-winning drama "Zero Dark Thirty," which told the story of the years-long search for Osama bin Laden. The film shot for months in Jordan and India, and Kinney used his time off to travel around the Middle East. 

In an interview with People magazine, he explained that he was thrilled to have the chance to see that part of the world, because it was an opportunity he never thought he'd have. Kinney described the shoot as "grueling," but he made it a priority to use their days off of shooting to travel. "Being there, I felt the need to take advantage of it, so I'm really glad I did," he said. 

He also went to Egypt to tour the famous pyramids, and visited Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Red Sea.

He is a lifelong Eagles fan

Taylor Kinney took his older brother to the Super Bowl in 2018 to watch the Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots. As a Pennsylvania native, Kinney is a lifelong Eagles fan. He grew up watching games with his family, and he was incredibly excited to have the chance to watch his hometown team in the Super Bowl. In a red carpet interview the September after the game, he reminisced, "I still remember as a kid ... laying on the floor with a pillow watching football games." Prior to 2018, the Eagles had never won a Super Bowl, though they had made two Super Bowl appearances, losing in 1981 and 2005 (via ESPN). He added, "They had a few really great years with Donovan [McNabb] and they got pretty close but never pulled it off."

Luckily for Kinney, the game went the way he wanted: The Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41-33. After cheering for the Eagles his whole life, he was thrilled and in shock, and he described the experience of being at the game as "a little bit of an out-of-body experience" (WPXI-TV News Pittsburgh).

He loves Formula 1 and NASCAR

Taylor Kinney's love of sports doesn't stop with football. He also grew up a fan of Formula 1, and he still attends races. In 2021, he even got to meet Ferrari team member Gino Rosato. He was so excited he took to Instagram to document the moment. Sharing a photo of them together, he wrote in the caption, "Being a kid watching #formula1, then growing up to be the same kid watching the damn thing! Lots of love!"

In a 2019 "Joyride with Jeff" segment for Fox Sports at the Chicagoland NASCAR race, Kinney got to ride along in a Toyota race car with decorated NASCAR driver Jeff Burton. Burton and Kinney went around one lap while cameras rolled inside the car. As Burton drove, Kinney laughed and was at a loss for words to describe just how fast the car was. When they finished the lap and slowed down, Kinney joked, "It's way faster than my mom's station wagon."

He's an accomplished athlete, which helped him prepare for Chicago Fire

Taylor Kinney is clearly a big sports fan, so it's not surprising that he's an accomplished athlete himself. In high school, he played volleyball, and he was such a good player he won Section Two Volleyball Player of the Year (per TV Guide). 

Later, as a college student, he started boxing. His grandfather was a big fan of the sport and would watch matches with Kinney. Those matches inspired Kinney to try boxing himself, and he was immediately struck by how difficult the sport is, telling Assignment X, "When I started boxing, I started out doing three-minute rounds and by the end of that third round, you could barely put your hands up."

Kinney's background in sports influenced his training and preparation for "Chicago Fire." He and the cast participated in ride-alongs with first responders and trained at the firefighter academy with fire simulations. He watched firefighter training, and he felt confident giving it a go himself. However, it wasn't until he put on the 65-pound gear that he understood just how difficult it was — just like his experience watching boxing matches hadn't entirely prepared him for how difficult it was to box. He explained that with "the first onslaught of an experience training, you realize how difficult it is and how much training [the firefighters] have."

He learned how to surf in Hawaii

Taylor Kinney attended West Virginia University for two years before dropping out as a junior. That's when he moved to Hawaii and learned to surf, according to USA Today. While he only lived in Hawaii for a year before moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, the time he spent there ignited a lifelong love of surfing. Even though he lives in Chicago, he still makes time to get to California and to surf in San Diego.

In fact, he enjoys surfing so much that, for a time, he owned a house in San Diego. But in an eerie incident, the bungalow caught fire. Kinney told the scary story in an interview with "The Jam TV Show." Apparently a man walking past his house noticed the blaze and knocked on the window, telling the actor that it was on fire. Kinney didn't believe him at first, but when he got outside, he saw that the roof was engulfed in flames. Luckily, no one was hurt. That experience, coupled with his time on "Chicago Fire," inspired him to do PSAs for First Alert, encouraging people to equip their homes with fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Playing Lieutenant Kelly Severide got him out of a ticket

On "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Taylor Kinney told host Kelly Clarkson a story about how playing a firefighter on TV got him out of a ticket. 

A longtime motorcycle rider, Kinney was riding his motorcycle one day in terrible weather, and he found himself totally stuck in Chicago gridlocked traffic. He cut over and started riding in the bus lane to pass the traffic jam. A police officer saw Kinney on his motorcycle, turned his lights on, and pulled him over. When Kinney took his helmet off, the officer immediately recognized him from his work on "Chicago Fire." The officer called him a "fake firefighter." The officer and Kinney laughed, and after talking for a bit, the officer told the actor, "Get home safe, don't do that again, and ... I like the show." 

Not too bad for a fake firefighter!

Taylor Kinney's future with Chicago Fire seems uncertain

Taylor Kinney returned to Season 10 of the series, which began filming in 2021 after a prolonged break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per Deadline, Kinney and co-star Jesse Spencer signed two-year contract extensions in 2019.

The current status of Kinney's contract appears to be unknown, although he, of course, has continued working on the show. Notably, Spencer left the series in the middle of Season 10, after the 200th episode, saying (via USA Today), "It was a difficult decision because I've loved the show from the start." He added, "But there's other things I'd like to do in the future and there's some family I need to take care of. And 18 years is a long time, that's a long stretch." Spencer had been working on network television for 18 years straight with his run on "House" immediately preceding his work on "Chicago Fire."

By all accounts, Kinney enjoys playing Lieutenant Kelly Severide. In 2021, he shared (via Hollywood Outbreak), "I don't feel like there's a lack of stories to tell with this character ... he's a resilient guy." Fans of the show will just have to wait and see what happens!

He keeps his romantic life quiet, but has dished on his first celebrity crush

After his public relationship and breakup with Lady Gaga, Taylor Kinney has kept the details of his dating life out of the public eye. But in an interview for TV Guide with his "Chicago Fire” co-stars, he confessed to his first celebrity crush — and it was a surprising choice. When Jesse Spencer asked Monica Raymund and Kinney, "Who is your first celebrity crush?" Kinney immediately responded, "Peggy Bundy!"

Peggy Bundy was the fictional wife of Al Bundy on the popular Fox sitcom "Married ... With Children," which ran from 1987 to 1997. Played by Katey Sagal, the mom from "Married ... With Children" is a bit of an unconventional choice for a first celebrity crush, given that the character's bad habits were being lazy and spending too much money. But Kinney stood by his charmingly odd choice. While Spencer and Raymund laughed at him, Kinney joked, "I never understood why Al didn't want to sleep with her!"