"I would hope a vacation to Hawaii or something," Kinney tells TVGuide.com with a laugh.
The tropical location would be a nice calm following the storm that has been Season 3. Severide lost his BFF Shay (Lauren German) in the season premiere and has been struggling to come to grips with her death ever since. First, he dealt with his grief through all-night benders. Then he dealt with it by marrying a young woman grappling with her own personal tragedy. But now, thankfully, Severide is doing something a little more productive: working with Dawson (Monica Raymund) to bring down the arsonist responsible for Shay's death on Tuesday's new episode (10/9c, NBC).
"It's the two of us that unearth things because we have a personal agenda so we push through and get the ball rolling in our favor to find out what happened," Kinney teases. "I feel like that story line, that's going to be really, really good for the audience."
The episode will cross over with Wednesday's Chicago P.D. (10/9c, NBC) as the two teams work together to bring Shay's killer (played by guest star Robert Knepper) to justice before he strikes again. "It just raised the bar for story and resolve," Kinney says, "because at the end of the day, we want to find out who did it."
Although the investigation has forced both Dawson and Severide to open old wounds, Kinney is confident his character's darkest days are behind him. "He wants to find out who did this and what happened but as for spiraling back out of control, I think he's past that," he says. "He didn't go about it the best way in dealing with it and coping but I think that's life. People don't always have it all figured out. You make mistakes and then you do your best and hopefully you have enough people around you that care about you to help you get back on your feet and back on track."
Despite the inner turmoil, Severide has also learned an important lesson from losing someone so close to him. "I think that to live in the moment and be present and be grateful for what you have day-to-day, that's been a big lesson. And I think that through her death and then coming to terms with it and coming out of it somewhat in a positive manner, that's huge."
Going into the season, Kinney said he didn't have to prepare much for the emotional story line. "It's a testament to Lauren. She's a really good actor, and a really, really good friend so there was some personal heartstrings there," he says. "She's missed so it wasn't like I had to do some sort of crazy thing to get in touch with going there or playing that."
Ultimately, Kinney hopes that Severide's despair has run true for viewers. "Not to say that everyone watching or everyone out there has an experience [that's] similar but I think you can empathize with a loss," he says. "Hopefully, it spoke to people."
(Her character may be long gone, but German is still in touch with the group. "We'll send her goofy pictures and she'll call to say hello to the gang," Kinney says. "Hopefully she gets a long weekend and she can come out and go kick around town with us.")
Behind the scenes, Kinney has enjoyed Severide's descent into darkness this season. "These characters started blossoming and now we're at a place where we can go into a really dark area with a character and the audience isn't going to say, 'Oh, that's just one color, that's who he is,'" he says. "This is the longest I've ever played one character and it hasn't gotten stale at all. It evolves, and you grow, and hopefully our viewers do with us."
Viewers show no signs on letting up. Chicago Fire is going strong in the ratings and the show has a strong presence on social media. "It's never lost on me that if people didn't watch the show, I wouldn't have a job so if anyone ever comes up and says, hey, hi, hello on an exchange or wants a picture, I'm more than happy [to do it]," Kinney says about fan interaction. "If they say they can't stand my character or can't stand me, so be it, but they're watching the show."
When asked about the future of the hit series, Kinney hopes he continues to play Kelly Severide for years to come."That would be amazing. I remember filming the pilot and then the show getting picked up and I was walking down Michigan Avenue. The four years prior whether it was film or television, they were always arcs and then a film at most is a couple months and so I was always moving," he recalls. "I don't know what the emotion was. I wasn't like scared, but I was like, 'Holy sh--, I could be here for a long time.' Which isn't something that I was thinking was going to happen but it's been great. I love Chicago. I couldn't be in a better place save for the winter. ... I'm a lucky guy."
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC. Are you excited for Tuesday's big crossover episode?