Some actors have such defining traits that they seem to have "leading man" written all over them, while others, like Terry Kinney, succeed with an uncanny ability to drastically alter their appearance at the drop of a hat. Though his chameleon-like skills have helped the actor land numerous roles on the stage and screen, it's his talent that ultimately formed the backbone of his enduring career. After graduating from high school, the Lincoln, IL, native attended Illinois State University. It was there that he befriended aspiring actor Jeff Perry, who invited Kinney to Chicago to watch his best friend perform in a stage production of Grease. Perry's friend was an ambitious young actor named Gary Sinise, and the three soon began planning to open their own regional theater.
Though it was founded in 1974, the Steppenwolf Theater wouldn't quite get off the ground until two years later -- when Kinney and Perry graduated from I.S.U. The venture was largely unprofitable at first, so its founders supported themselves and their dream through a series of odd jobs before the theater moved from a Highland Park church basement to the old St. Nicholas Theater building in the early '80s. The change of scenery proved to be just what the theater needed to flourish, and it was soon drawing good crowds. In the years that followed, the company moved once again -- this time to a permanent location in Chicago -- and Kinney served as Steppenwolf's artistic co-director alongside Sinise. During this profitable period, Kinney and his co-founders were nominated for numerous theatrical awards, while their productions made headway on Broadway. Kinney, of course, had aspirations beyond regional theater, and, in 1986, made his film debut with a small part in the romantic comedy Seven Minutes in Heaven. The remainder of the '80s found the actor landing bit parts in No Mercy (1986) and Sinise's Miles From Home (1988), in addition to a brief stint on television with thirtysomething. It wasn't until the following decade, however, that his film career truly began to blossom.