From discovering his love for the theater at 10-years-old to now being a series regular on national television, Daniel Kyri is breaking barriers and sharing why it matters. As a Chicago-native, Daniel stars in NBC’s Chicago Fire playing Darren Ritter, an openly gay rookie firefighter. Having hardly any Black queer role models on television growing up, Daniel is proud to be a champion of representation for his communities and is inspired to seek out parts that are well represented in the intersections of his identity.
To play a black gay firefighter was especially important for Daniel because, “not only can young queer Black folks watch and know that this gay firefighter is a possibility for their future,” he shares, “they see me and know that so am I.” This reality was not always attainable for Daniel, as he did not have exposure to the queer culture growing up.
It wasn’t until he was 15 and joined a downtown arts program that he then began to have positive encounters with queer individuals. Those interactions led to a big discovery in Daniel’s life, “when I found and followed my love of art, I found also love for queer stories and culture.” This is a lesson he continues to carry into his work today.
While the character of Darren Ritter was first introduced in season 7, it was his coming out story in season 8 that had a lasting impact on viewers. Since that moment, fans of the show have embraced and loved Daniel’s character. Even fans within the LGBTQ+ community have reached out to share personal stories with him about how Darren’s storyline has made a positive impact in their lives.
This “warm-welcome and open-arms to embrace all of Darren,” as Daniel notes, from viewers has strengthened his efforts to talk about representation in the industry. Why is this important? As Daniel shares, “until we lean into a paradigm shift and center queer, Black, brown, femme bodies in the narrative, until we pull them from the margins it is not adequate.” As an attempt to continue the conversation of diversity and break-through stereotypes set in the industry, Daniel is learning to produce, write, and direct, with a goal to “contribute to job creation in the arts for folks like me.”
When it comes to reflecting on what he has learned from playing Darren Ritter, Daniel recognizes the challenge this role brought him. “I had preconceived notions going in about who he might be based on his occupation,” he shares, “what quickly became apparent to me as an actor though was/is the sheer humanity of him.”
In recognizing the depth of his character, Daniel learned his power came from the quiet strength of his blue-collar queerness, something he hadn’t considered before. As Daniel looks to what lies ahead, he is currently working on a script that he hopes to get produced once “Covid-19 chills.” Until then he continues taking acting classes and staying busy on set as Darren Ritter. All episodes from all seasons of NBC’s Chicago Fire are now streaming on the Peacock app.