‘Chicago P.D.’: LaRoyce Hawkins Says Atwater’s ‘Sympathetic Reflex’ Is Why He Could Become Detective Soon

LaRoyce Hawkins in 'Chicago P.D.'
Spoiler Alert
Lori Allen/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Chicago P.D. Season 10 Episode 6, “Sympathetic Reflex.”]

It was not Officer Kevin Atwater’s (LaRoyce Hawkins) day in the latest Chicago P.D. episode.

In “Sympathetic Reflex,” Atwater responded to a call only to sit with a young man who died of his injuries as a result of carjackers dragging him for blocks. Later, a carjacker manipulated the situation, leading to a teen caught in the middle to panic about going to jail. (He’d been trying to help his friend get out of trouble.) During his ensuing fight with Atwater, the officer’s gun went off. The teenager died of his injuries, and his parents wanted Atwater to pay. One of the options presented is alluded to in the episode title: Atwater would say he accidentally shot the teen, and his body betrayed him. He refused. Intelligence was eventually able to retrieve video footage that proved Atwater wasn’t at fault.

Hawkins takes us inside the latest Atwater-centric episode and reveals why it may be what puts him on track to finally getting that detective badge.

There have been some rough Atwater-centric episodes. Do you think this was the worst one yet for him? Especially when you look at how much was out of his control.

LaRoyce Hawkins: Yeah, this one is up there. At least this has to be on the Mount Rushmore of Atwater’s issues and problems, when it comes down to it, only because of how different it is. I don’t think we’ve ever really experienced the narrative where the inverse has happened, right? Where we see a white kid allegedly killed by a Black officer. And we are unfortunately extremely conditioned to that narrative the other way around. Atwater finds himself in a very, very difficult, rare circumstance that I think he does a pretty good job of navigating along the way. And my approach was to really exemplify a vulnerable Atwater, an Atwater that we haven’t seen as vulnerable but just as strong. And I hope that came across.

It did. We see that in the beginning with the guy who was killed during the carjacking, and Atwater comes across him in the street. It’s just one loss after another for him.

Yeah, it was one of those days. The bodies [are] stacked up. I think Ike Smith did a great job of unpacking a narrative that Chicago authentically suffers from poor leadership from figures in the community that we should trust. It was very true the bad news is that there are a lot of carjackings happening right now in Chicago. Certain engines are worth a lot of money, and the way that you can chop ’em up and sell ’em later for more money, that’s a business on a black market. And young kids and young minds are being influenced and manipulated to pull off these crimes. But they’re being led by somebody. They’re not waking up wanting to do the wrong thing necessarily. So I think this episode does a great job at unpacking a little bit [of] the “why” behind the what.

LaRoyce Hawkins in 'Chicago P.D.'

Lori Allen/NBC

How does Atwater feel about how the CPD handled the situation? Because we saw how against their plan he was, but was he at all surprised at how they wanted to handle that?

I think I had an idea of how bad this could be as soon as it happened. I think that’s one of the reasons why I really did my best to walk into the situation with as much empathy as possible. Because I think Atwater knows that for officers that look like me, there is little to no room for excuses, for mistakes and mishaps, which is why you have to lead with so much love from the jump in order for it to work out in the best case scenario toward the end. And no matter how much light and love you throw into the situation, life is gonna happen every time, right? I don’t think he expected CPD to really have his back, which is why he had to stay as ten toes to the ground as possible and really stand on what he believed in that moment.

Atwater is really taking on a mentoring role this season with Torres (Benjamin Levy Aguilar) and the patrol officers at the beginning of this episode. Does he enjoy that?

He does. For a long time, Atwater has been considered something like the little brother of the unit, being the youngest with the least amount of experience. But he’s definitely done his best to learn and absorb as much as possible from his constituents. And we’re a real family on and off set, so I’ve been able to pick up what everybody’s putting down. I’m blessed to be a part of one of the most talented casts in television right now, and we’re 10 seasons deep, and I say that humbly, but I’ve had a long time to grow, and I’ve had a long way to go.

And so to be able to pass some of that knowledge down now and that wisdom down to somebody who comes from humble beginnings, who’s had a life that has informed him just as much as my life has informed Atwater, because of where we come from and our references, it’s been dope being able to help him navigate that because it’s all new for him. From the attention that he gets off-screen to the attention that he gets on-screen to the way that we have to deal with that light as it comes at us, I think he and I have enjoyed that camaraderie and where we’ve been growing with that.

Speaking of the 10 years, I feel like it’s about time that there’s a promotion for Atwater, that we see Detective Kevin Atwater this season. Is that possible?

I think it is possible. And to be honest with you, I think that’s the goal. I’ve been saying this for a while: Atwater wants to serve and protect at a higher level, at the highest level that he can, as long as he’s within this system. And so, obviously, detective is the next step. But you don’t get that just for no reason. You can’t skate into that opportunity. That’s something that has to be earned. And I think “Sympathetic Reflex” is a great example of an episode that shows that Atwater is strong enough to earn that, based on the decisions that he makes, based on how he responds to the issues and based on how he handles himself.

There’s the open case involving Sean O’Neal (Jefferson White), and Upton (Tracy Spiridakos) and Voight (Jason Beghe) aren’t reading the rest of Intelligence in on that yet. When’s Atwater going to become privy to that?

Atwater’s gonna become very privy to that soon. I don’t think they can keep it away from him for too long. And as soon as he does, he’s going to, similar to how Atwater found his role in how to take down Los Temidos, find his role in how to take down Sean O’Neal if that’s the case. If everybody does their part, then once again, Intelligence will serve justice in a powerful fashion.

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