Harvey actor LaRoyce Hawkins brings local flavor to ‘Chicago Fire’ spinoff
By LORI RACKL TV Critic December 2, 2013 5:36PM
After growing up where police “don’t have the best rep,” LaRoyce Hawkins is pleased to be playing an officer who treats people right. | ELIZABETH MORRIS/NBC
Updated: January 4, 2014 6:03AM
Playing a cop on TV has its perks — when you’re in uniform.
“I got free fries once at McDonald’s,” said LaRoyce Hawkins, a cast member on “Chicago PD,” the “Chicago Fire” spin-off that debuts Jan. 8 on NBC.
Hawkins is the lone “PD” cop who grew up in the Chicago area in real life. The south suburban actor graduated in 2006 from Thornton Township High School, where he played basketball and was a state champion on the speech team.
“Where I’m from, Harvey specifically, cops don’t have the best rep,” Hawkins said during a recent interview on the show’s set at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. “It’s pretty dope to play a character that’s very positive and treats people the way they should be treated.”
Looking like a natural law enforcer in his blue shirt and badge, Hawkins almost ended up in a different uniform on another Dick Wolf-produced drama, “Chicago Fire.”
“I was originally on hold for the role of Otis,” said Hawkins, who auditioned for the firefighter role last year while studying acting at Illinois State University in Normal. The job ended up going to Northbrook native Yuri Sardarov.
“I was a couple months away from graduating and I was going to have to leave to do it,” Hawkins said. “But the network ended up changing the ethnicity of the role, so my good friend Yuri took over.”
Hawkins’ “PD” character, officer Kevin Atwater, first popped up on “Chicago Fire” in last season’s penultimate episode, a so-called backdoor pilot for the police spin-off.
Many of his cop colleagues — played in that episode by Tania Raymonde (“Lost”), Melissa Sagemiller (“Law & Order: SVU”), J.B. Smoove (“The Millers”) and Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) — aren’t returning as regulars for the show’s 13-episode freshman season.
Hawkins survived the cast reshuffling.
“With me not necessarily being a familiar face or household name like those other guys, I was a little worried,” he admitted.
“Chicago PD” centers on District 21’s intelligence unit, an enigmatic team headed by Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) that investigates everything from organized crime and drug trafficking to high-profile murders.
Atwater and his partner, officer Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati), are a couple of regular beat cops Voight enlists to help the intelligence team.
“He’s able to use the connections he has in the ’hood and his street smarts,” Hawkins said about his character, who shares the same hometown as the actor. “When the producers heard where I was from, what kind of neighborhood I was from, they made the character from Harvey.”
“This is my first big picnic,” Hawkins added about the role. “I’ve day-played a few times, guest appeared on a few shows, but this is the first time a regular. I’m loving it.”