‘Chicago P.D.’: LaRoyce Hawkins Says ‘It Becomes Easier’ for Atwater to Keep That Secret

LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater in Chicago PD
Spoiler Alert
Lori Allen/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Chicago P.D. Season 9 Episode 5 “Burnside.”]

Officer Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) just can’t catch a break when it comes to love on Chicago P.D. His first on-screen love interest went to prison, and now his second doesn’t know he’s a cop — and that’s because of how Celeste (Amanda Payton) blames the officers present when one of her students is killed, not realizing Atwater was one of them.

In “Burnside,” Atwater meets Celeste, doesn’t tell her he’s a cop, goes home with her, then finds out that two of her art students may be responsible for a nearby shooting. They are, with one, Louis, calling her for help. He continues to withhold that he’s a cop as he tries to help her — and Louis, who is shot by the other student while Atwater’s transporting him to prison.

Hawkins takes us inside “Burnside” and previews what’s next.

Celeste doesn’t know Atwater’s a cop. That was so heartbreaking for him to sit there and listen to her. You could just see it on your face, the way you were playing it.

LaRoyce Hawkins: I can’t wait to see that part because you’re always nervous about those moments where you don’t speak and you just have to allow your eyes to speak for you. You never want to do too much, but you also don’t want to do not enough. It means a lot that you said that you felt that moment because that’s the most important one in my humble opinion.

He was planning on telling her who he really is, right?

He went in thinking, “I gotta let her know,” and it becomes easier not to. For both of them, it becomes easier for them to just find the safest space they can with each other because the main thing that I know we’re all as a cast and crew working towards for this season is home. What does home mean? What does home feel like for every character? Home is different. Home isn’t just where the heart is, but where you feel the safest, and in that moment, Atwater decides to choose safety over the secret. They do their best with it from there.

LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater in Chicago PD

Lori Allen/NBC

Before everything fell apart, they really connected and he finds a home with her, but it’s so complicated.

It’s extremely complicated. Atwater admires her mind, the passion that she has for youth, her empathy for what young minds in Chicago have to go through in order to survive, to find safety. That’s her mission. He’s impressed by that. It’s part of his mission as well, to clean the city up and to make it better, to give young minds the opportunity they probably don’t know they have.

How much are we going to see of this going forward?

We’re going to see a little bit of it. We’ll see her again. Hopefully by then, we can see how the relationship or the rhythm of the relationship has developed. …I hope that we notice a difference in Atwater’s energy, a light or peace that he has that he may have struggled with historically because he didn’t really have a safe space or someone to share his life with…We’ll see how long Atwater can hold this secret.

The longer he doesn’t tell her, the worse it’s going to be.

That’s usually how it is. I don’t have the most experience making the best decisions in relationships, so I’m learning a lot through Atwater and how important it is for him to stand in front of the truth, every time he gets a chance, whether it’s against the blue wall or in his personal relationships. That consistency, in my humble opinion, is much to be admired.

LaRoyce Hawkins as Atwater, Patrick John Flueger as Ruzek in Chicago PD

Lori Allen/NBC

Is there anyone he can lean on for this? It’s not like his friends have the best luck in relationships.

Right. Naturally, he will have conversations with Ruzek [Patrick John Flueger]. But I hope even Upton [Tracy Spiridakos] or Burgess [Marina Squerciati] will be down to give him some advice about how to move with a lady, how to lead in an effective direction.

Why I’m excited about the culture of Chicago stepping is what I’ve learned as I’ve had to take lessons in order to just become the most familiar with the art. Ike Smith, who wrote “Burnside” and is hopefully going to help us carry this story farther, told me to take some lessons because there has to be something about the art form that informs the rhythm of this relationship. Stepping is more than just a one-two step that looks real cool and feels magical on the dance floor. There’s an art to the leadership of a man towards a woman, allowing her to move in her lane effectively without getting in her way, but also while giving her a strong direction to go. [There are] the nuances of the pressure between the hands of the two individuals or taking small steps as opposed to big, large steps. All the little things that I was learning about stepping, I think can help us learn about the rhythm in our relationships. If Atwater takes heed, he’ll find himself learning a lot, win, lose, or draw.

Everything with Louis was heartbreaking. How will that weigh on Atwater?

As I talk to cops that are still on the job, especially now, if they’ve been in tumultuous situations, there are always those faces that remind them of their blunders, whether it was a powerful mistake or a situation where they just had to make a last-minute decision that they have to live with. What I’m understanding about this job, what makes it so difficult, is that sometimes you have to make a decision that makes it hard for you to look at yourself in the mirror, to sleep at night.

LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater in Chicago PD

Lori Allen/NBC

That’s the goal, not just getting home, but getting home and also being able to rest easy, because you feel confident in the decisions that you made on the job. Moving forward, Louis is going to be one of those faces for Atwater that he’s going to see every time he goes to sleep, whenever he closes his eyes. As those faces add up, we ask ourselves, how long can we continue to even take this journey?

There was that moment where Atwater told Ruzek it was good to be that guy Celeste met at the bar, not a Black cop, so he didn’t have to defend the badge or prove his Blackness. How is Atwater feeling about the badge?

Atwater’s really doing his best to still be seen and be heard by his unit first and foremost, who he considers family. There are moments where he still doesn’t feel that seen and heard, and there are moments in this episode where I think he feels like Sarge might get it finally, or I was finally able to articulate to Ruzek how the badge actually makes me feel and I don’t always have the luxury of hiding behind it. Sometimes the badge hides him as a person, and it doesn’t feel great, walking around like that all the time. Atwater’s learning a lot.

One of the reasons why he doesn’t want the badge to have anything to do with the properties that he wants to invest in is because he likes the feeling of not having the badge hide him or having to hide behind it. He likes the feeling of being able to just talk to somebody at a bar and getting to know them and them getting to know him without having to defend his Blackness or defend the badge in one way or the other. It feels great to be seen and be heard. That’s what initially attracts him to this young lady and makes him not want to bother with the complications with the badge.

LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater in Chicago PD

Lori Allen/NBC

Especially since he saw the complications with the badge with Leila…

He saw what happened with that and he saw how being a cop got in the way most of the time more than anything. He doesn’t want that to happen this time. But it’s hard for it not to. There are moments we see him try to take matters into his own hands, but no matter how hard he tries, the job still plays interference as we see [with] what the state’s attorney forces him to have to do. As soon as you think you figure something out, they always catch you somehow. The blue wall is still all around you and it’s hard to escape it. These moments definitely teach Atwater. He doesn’t walk away from this episode the same cop or the same Black man. I’m looking forward to the rest of his journey. [It] will inform how he continues to feel, but more than anything he just wants to be seen and he wants to be heard.

When’s Atwater going to find out what happened to Roy?

Atwater’s already thinking. Historically, he hasn’t really seen his unit handle secrets well. There’s always something. He’s just waiting on the shoe to drop. He doesn’t know exactly what yet, but there are familiar feelings of secrecy and intensity that he’s noticing between people in his unit that he doesn’t know how to define yet.

How do you think he’s going to react?

Depending on what he actually finds out, who’s to say? That’s also why you see Atwater doing his best to create separation if he can, separation from the badge, so the things that he’s investing in have nothing to do with that just in case he can’t be seen with these people. We got our dirt. We are not a clean unit.

Chicago P.D., Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC