LaRoyce Hawkins has portrayed officer Kevin Atwater on NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” for nine seasons. During that time, Atwater has only had one love interest on a show that frequently involves storylines around the love lives of the officers in the special intelligence unit.
That changes in episode five this season! EURs’ Jill Munroe talked with Hawkins about Atwater venturing into a relationship showcasing “Black Love,” how growing up in Harvey, Illinois has shaped the character and his on-set influences.
Jill Munroe: It’s about time we see Atwater in a relationship, we haven’t seen him in one in a few years. What was your reaction to Kevin venturing back into that experience?
LaRoyce Hawkins: That was the first time we saw the show experiment with Black love and what it could feel like. I’m thankful for Christine Swanson and Milauna Jemai for playing that scene long ago. We still reference that experience. Even as I started with this one as a character, I learned a lot of things from that. Hopefully, you can tell that he’s trying to make better decisions. It feels a little different, even though it can feel the same in some moments because of the case that we have to navigate through. But I’m very excited about it. LaRoyce Hawkins and Atwater have grown since then.
Jill Munroe: How did growing up in Harvey help to shape Kevin as a character.
LaRoyce Hawkins: That was the greatest gift they could’ve given me, especially as an actor. I didn’t really know how to create a character that people would love and come back for weekly. I grew up loving television, falling in love with characters from shows, and learning from some of my favorite people on TV. So the first time I heard action on “Chicago P.D.,” all that anxiety hit me at the same time. I thought, how do I create a character that people care about all of the time. We have some characters out there that people hate or just strongly dislike. They can’t wait until the character’s gone, or I’m just not feeling that person. So I never wanted to experience that because I’m sensitive. The way it’s grown has genuinely shocked and surprised me in a lot of ways. The biggest thing was when one of the creators told me that my character is from Harvey. Had they not said that my character was from Harvey, I would have had less confidence walking into this experience because I wouldn’t have had an inherent understanding of who the character is and where he comes from. I would have gone just as hard if he was from anywhere else. I would have committed to that. But they gave me Harvey as a gift.
Jill Munroe: You recently launched a community wall in Harvey. What is the significance to you, and why did you choose this to honor your home?
LaRoyce Hawkins: The Harvey world wall to us was extremely important. If you’re familiar with Harvey or from there, Harvey world is what we affectionately call our city. But sometimes, it can have a negative connotation behind it, simply because there’s little to no light that comes from Harvey anymore. When I was younger, there used to be a publication called “The Harvey Star,” it used to end up on my grandfather’s porch, and we used to read that. The first time I made “The Harvey Star,” you couldn’t tell me anything. I was hood famous. But then it disappeared. And as I got older and came back to my city, some things didn’t happen anymore. On some blocks, the street lights don’t come on. So the wall is a way to try to add balance and maybe sage the city. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if a kid can walk outside and see art, instead of a burnt-out building, trash on the ground, etc. That can do something different for the community. So it’s a first shot at adding light.
Jill Munroe: When was the moment you knew acting was a career choice for you.
LaRoyce Hawkins: When I got my first show, and it happened right here. I went to college to study acting as a comedian, I had my own band, spoken word poetry, hosting baby showers and bachelorette parties, but then acting happened. And when I saw that I could take care of my family and provide for them with this. So acting never gave up on me. It’s honestly a lot more complicated than anything else. But it gives you the grace to grow into the art of acting. I’m grateful for the patience of my castmates and the directors. Eriq Lasalle and Jason Beghe. Mykelti Williams, who has come in and taught me so much, Wendell Pierce. I learn a little bit more from acting every day.
Chicago PD airs Wednesdays at 10PM on NBC.