UPDATE: The Wednesday night “Chicago P.D.” episode noted in a previous version of this story has been preempted by news coverage.
Actor LaRoyce Hawkins’s presence on NBC’s “Chicago P.D.,” a TV series often cited by critics as an example of “copaganda,” a practice depicting police officers solely as heroes, is revolutionary.
Black police characters in TV and film speaking out on police brutality, working conditions and being passed over for promotions isn’t new. But challenging police culture’s “Blue Wall” in a public way seems to be the content many viewers want to see in his moment.
“I knew it was important for us to do a few things, and one of them was to uplift the image of the Black man and allow our audience to reimagine policing as we understand it,” said Hawkins. “I knew that change is something that the world needs. Change was a theme of episodes my character was going through.”
His character, Chicago police officer Kevin Atwater, is at the center of “P.D.,” one of the most-watched series on TV.
TV ratings aren’t the only metric Hawkins’s character is measured by. Chicago’s NewCity last year lauded Hawkins as the “Best Fake Chicago Cop We So Wish Wasn’t Fake.”
He’s juggling his status of being a Black creative while dealing with filming “P.D.” in what he calls an “NBA-like bubble.”
“We see the teams and athletes that took time with themselves with their craft without distractions, and without the external forces you might see in a regular season. I’m going from the crib [home] and back to the team [the set] with the way we’re testing,” said Hawkins. “I was able to get closer to the craft in a way that I tapped in a lot more deeply than I ever had before.
“I think season eight for ‘Chicago P.D.,’ season nine for ‘[Chicago] Fire,’ season six for ‘[Chicago] Med,’ all of the performances elevate because of how we have to trust each other, how we have to be vulnerable and transparent during the [COVID-19] pandemic. I think this taught us how to be vulnerable on a higher level.”
Hawkins’ recent involvement with instilling public art in his hometown of south suburban Harvey via the “Harvey World Wall” is one of the ways where his work life and the goals he aims to accomplish intersect.
“There’s a line that I wrote just for motivation and inspiration I took from the wall, as it relates to one of the episodes: ‘Change can feel strange, but it should never be a stranger.’ ”