Daniel Kyri plays as an openly gay firefighter named Darren Ritter on NBC’s scripted drama ‘Chicago Fire.’
As a Queer Black Man growing up, Kyri felt the representation for people within the LGBTQIA+ community was minimal and lacked proper portrayal. Kyri has played in the films The Thing About Harry and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, premiered on the production of Ms. Blakk for President, and the web miniseries, The T. The show. With each role Kyri accepts, he ensures the level of authenticity is maintained for each character representative of the community. He has been recognized by NewCity’s Stage Issue, as the ’50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago,’ Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree, and Chicago Reader’s Best Actor of 2017.
Kyri Spoke with our correspondent Rebecca Eugene about his character Darren Ritter in season 10. He also expressed his goals and desires to break the negative notions that Hollywood has been predicated on when involving racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
The Knockturnal: What can fans expect to see from your character Darren Ritter in season 10?
Daniel Kyri: We’ll get to see Darren in more heroic moments and we’ll get to see more of him and his life outside of the firehouse which is always an exciting opportunity to learn more about who he is as a person.
The Knockturnal: At the end of season 9, it looked like Darren and Eric were possibly getting back together. Will viewers be able to see their relationship develop more?
Daniel Kyri: Yes, there is a great storyline for the two of them that we just shot and I’m excited for fans of Ritter to see it!
The Knockturnal: Growing up, you did not see much of a representation for those within the LGBTQIA+ community. Do you think Hollywood has done a better job in providing proper representation for those within the community when it comes to tv shows and movies?
Daniel Kyri: Growing up I didn’t really have access to the kind of representation I craved. There was maybe Queer As Folk or Noah’s Arc which I would sneak off and watch episodes of those times we could afford to have cable. But once the bill got too high those possibilities ceased to exist for me in any meaningful way. It was like a drive-by representation… there for only a moment. But on what most folks have access to–broadcast television– there was nothing really that I can recall from that time that felt like authentic depiction of queer or Black or queer Black people. And if there were any such humans on screen they were usually the butt of a joke, a hideous stereotype, or a caricature. I think we’ve taken some important, if small, steps in the industry to push for more authentic representation across a broader spectrum of identity. But I don’t think it’s nearly enough. Not yet. I believe when we can have these characters at the center of the narrative and it be a non-event? When a queer Black trans woman can lead her own blockbuster action flick? That’s when we can claim real progress.
The Knockturnal: How important is it for you to be the representation for Queer Black men within the community?
Daniel Kyri: A note: A good friend of mine, Dewayne Perkins, once drew the distinction that we are not Black queer men. Instead, I am a queer Black man… I am not a queer man who happens to be Black, but a Black man who happens to be queer. It’s a small but important distinction for me because I am Black first before I am anything else in this country. It might be a source of frustration if I did not take pride in my Blackness. But I do.
That being said, what I do on Chicago Fire and who I am offset are only a drop in the bucket of the identities, lived experiences, and myriad points of view that exist at the intersection of Blackness and Queerness. My visibility, pride in who I am, and conviction for what I believe in are important, sure. But I am only one person. Living my truth is important for me and embodying a possibility for some young queer Black child growing up is the cherry on top.
The Knockturnal: You play an openly gay firefighter in Chicago Fire, you’ve acted in the films The Thing About Harry and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. Premiered on the production of Ms. Blakk for President and in the web miniseries The T. The show following a trans woman and a Black Queer man who discovers he is HIV positive. What is your thought process when presented with roles such as the ones listed? What do you hope to represent and embody with each character you portray?
Daniel Kyri: The thought process is really rather straightforward: Does this role, this story align with my goals? With my artistic integrity? Is there something new here? Something special? Some aspect of the world in need of illumination and exploration? Does this project help rather than harm the communities I want to serve? If the answer is yes, I do it.
The Knockturnal: You were named one of 2020’s “50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago”, a Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree, and Chicago Reader’s Best Actor of 2017. What are some of the personal and career goals you have set for yourself? Where would you like to see yourself in a few years?
Daniel Kyri: I have many goals and a vision for my career that might hopefully make it more possible for folks who look like me to take on more and more significant roles in choosing and bringing to life the narratives that get told in Hollywood and beyond. I want to help crack the foundation of exclusion, racism, sexism, ableism, queer- and transphobia that Hollywood is built on. Some of that involves being on screen, some behind the camera, some in the writer’s room. I’m on a life-long adventure and I’m damn excited to see where it leads me.