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Atwater clashes with father in next episode
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
The “Chicago P.D.” showrunners couldn’t have found a better person to play officer Kevin Atwater than LaRoyce Hawkins.
After all, it’s only fitting a character described as “an honorable and trustworthy detective who stands for what is right and always puts others before himself” is brought to life by someone who, NBC noted, “spends his time off screen helping youth from disenfranchised communities follow their dreams and recognize their potential.
“Harvey was a tough place to grow up and Hawkins shares his experiences and knowledge with kids who share a similar background. Through spoken word and speeches, he empowers them to use their stories to grow beyond their environment and avoid getting caught up in the fast life. He has partnered with We Day, Covenant House, the Salvation Army and Kicks 4 the City to make a social impact on both a national and regional level.”
Hawkins has brought his life experiences to this role, giving power and grace to a member of the intelligence unit who’s had many challenges – both personally and professionally.
Atwater grew up admiring his father, but would later come to resent Lew (Erik LaRay Harvey) when the family patriarch is unexpectedly sent to jail – and denies family visitation. With his mother deceased, Atwater takes it upon himself to look after his siblings, Vinessa and Jordan.
When the effects of the job – and the threats of criminals – start to mount, Atwater sends his charges off to live with an aunt.
Things only get worse at work, as Atwater draws the ire of fellow officers upon refusing to turn a blind eye to corruption.
Pressing through, Atwater purchases an apartment building wherein he can provide safe, affordable housing to neighbors in need. … As well as Lew, who’s recently resurfaced with new details on his arrest. The two are trying to reconcile, but it’s a challenge.
In the next episode of “Chicago P.D.,” Atwater is doing handyman work inside his complex when an unspeakable crime is committed. In the process of trying to find out what happened, he learns his father has ties to the victim and the offender.
Hawkins shared more in this edited Q&A.
In the “Chicago P.D.” episode "The Bleed Valve" Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) finds himself in a tricky spot working with his father, Lew Atwater (Erik LaRay Harvey). (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
Q: As a viewer, it's been interesting seeing this additional side of Atwater's backstory. As a cast member – as the person who brings Atwater to life each and every week – what's been interesting to you about this storyline?
LaRoyce Hawkins: The most interesting thing for me about this storyline was what it taught me. I had to learn how to embrace my imperfections. You know, LaRoyce had to learn that, and so did Atwater.
It's funny: Sometimes we can read these scripts, and we admire our character so much that sometimes we expect them to be perfect, right? And then when they're not perfect, I think sometimes the artist can make the mistake of wanting to make them perfect. And I almost went down a dark hole trying to make Atwater as perfect as possible in this episode; and I was thankful for the reminder that humans make heroes – and not the other way around.
Hopefully, in this episode you notice Atwater in landlord mode. You know, he's not the cop. He's the landlord that's doing his best to provide the best service that he can to his tenants. And to improve a neighborhood and a community that he knows can be better. And before you know it, something dark happens. And he's a little thrown off. And we see Atwater have a very human experience before we see Atwater warm up into the hero that he has to be to solve the case and save lives.
This episode, for me, I just want it to feel real, and I wanted that journey to be evident – not to put the cart before the horse or play the end at the beginning. There’s some things that we're still listening to Eriq La Salle, and picking up lessons that he was putting down.
LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
Q: I appreciate you sharing that with me. You mentioned there's something that is very dark and troubling that happens at the beginning of the episode. Tell me about what Atwater encounters. You mentioned the relationship with his father, and the challenge he has as the building owner. Tell us more about what he encounters and what sets this episode off.
LaRoyce Hawkins: Atwater is a little spread thin, doing his best to maintain his building, to the point where we even see him doing repairs himself. We also know that his dad lives in that building, and he can keep an eye on his father – but at the same time, him and his father aren't in the perfect pocket where they communicate that much.
And so, you'll see not just miscommunication, but missed communication over time, that they have to navigate as Atwater learns more about his dad – as he's trying to figure out a case. To learn certain things on the fly can be a little weird and uncomfortable. So, I think there's also a dynamic between the unit and Atwater’s father where he finds himself being caught in the middle, and not necessarily knowing how to communicate one thing one side to the next, in order to maintain balance. I think he struggles with that, as well.
Plus, there’s lives on the line, especially the life of a young kid who he sees great potential in, but also knows that he's on his way down a very dark road, if he doesn't make certain decisions. And it’s up to Atwater to help him figure that out.
I enjoy being able to navigate those different layers of life, because that happens to us all the time. And so, hopefully, Atwater shows enough strength and fortitude so that other people can learn from how to prioritize all this dark information at the same time.
The cast of “Chicago P.D.” includes Patrick John Flueger as Adam Ruzek, Marina Squerciati as Kim Burgess, Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton, Benjamin Levy Aguilar as Dante Torres and LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
Q: It's interesting: In the description NBC sent over – and certainly we're all familiar with your character – they put in that Atwater is “an honorable and trustworthy detective who stands for what is right, and always puts others before himself.”
Now, you mentioned that there are challenges inherent in trying to be good, and there's challenges in trying to be perfect on occasion. But really, we have come to know this character as someone who is honorable and trustworthy. And I imagine that that's very difficult working with this unit, and working with these circumstances, obviously, that he sees day in and day out on the job. Why is it important for Atwater to be honorable, and to be trustworthy, and to be someone who stands for what is right?
LaRoyce Hawkins: Yeah, I think it's important for him for a couple reasons. I think, out of anybody in the unit, Atwater, transparently, feels like he can’t get away with much, as far as mistakes are concerned. We've seen Atwater balance and battle the blue wall in ways that we know that they're not letting him go. Or let him off easy. He probably feels in his heart that he'll be the first person to go down and take the fall almost for everybody, if push came to shove, and the unit was compromised.
So, there's a balance, you know, because he has to be careful in order to protect himself and his legacy, while also complying to the concept that this unit is a family, and we ride together and we die together. What I enjoy about trying to find that balance is that it puts me as an artist in a position to imagine the most authentic way to do the right thing. And sometimes there's a right way to do the wrong thing. You know what I mean? Which is extremely human, as well.
And so, even though we know Atwater to be honorable, even though we understand him to be trustworthy, my job is to make it not look easy. To make it still look real and relatable – so that it doesn't come off as over-righteous, or too good; because I don't think our audience relates to perfection. I honestly think our audience relates to the imperfections, and the things that make it difficult for us to be trustworthy and honorable.
The team does not make it easy on Atwater. But by the end of the episode, it feels good. And so, we wake up ready to fight for another day,
Q: You know, honorable and trustworthy, standing for what is right – the same could certainly be said for you as a person. It's an impressive list of organizations and initiatives that you've lent your time and your energy to over the years. And so, let me ask you, as a person – we talked about Atwater – but why for you is it important to be honorable and trustworthy, and to stand for what is right?
LaRoyce Hawkins: Thank you. Thanks for saying that.
First and foremost, the first person I think about being a great example to is my son, Roman John. And it's hard for me to think about Roman John without thinking about my grandfather, who set the example of just honor, trust, service. Grandpa John has been a pillar – still is to this day a pillar in the community. Someone whose wisdom we look up to and admire.
And so, as I picked up what my grandfather put down, I gotta put it down in a way that my son can pick it up. And so, for me, that's pretty much my passion, is to make sure that my son has a great example to look up to. And so, I do my best. And by the time he can actually watch “Chicago P.D.” and pay attention to what's going on, and by the time he actually hears about the things that his dad has done, hopefully it's something that he can be proud of, and he’ll want to pick up that baton and keep it moving.
Q: Well, in addition to that, I can also verify that you are a very patient man, because a couple of #OneChicagoDays ago, you tried to teach me how to breach a door – and I was terrible at it – but you stuck with me. You were very patient, and I appreciate that. It still makes for a fun story that I like to share to this day.
LaRoyce Hawkins: Man, I appreciate that, bro. First of all, I'm glad you dig the episode.
Appreciate your persistence on that, because it took me a minute, too. I didn't just pull up breaking these doors down, man. It took me a few episodes and a few seasons to get it. So, you did a great job, man.
Q: That's good; it makes me feel a lot better!
“Chicago P.D.” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on NBC, and streaming the next day on Peacock.
“Chicago P.D.” is one of the longest-running primetime shows on network television. The cast recently celebrated the 200th episode. Pictured are Marina Squerciati, LaRoyce Hawkins, Jason Beghe, Tracy Spiridakos, Patrick John Flueger and Amy Morton. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)