The effects of the Black Lives Matter movement in real live has forced a change in how TV shows about police departments portray their characters and handle their storylines, and Chicago PD is among those who are responding to the mood of America.
Interestingly enough, the NBC cop drama had actually aired an episode that dealt with racial profiling by a white cop even before the George Floyd protests began in late May.
Airing on April 15, Silence of the Night turned out to be the Season 7 finale as a result of production being shutdown early by the coronavirus pandemic. It involved Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) of the Intelligence division calling out Tom Doyle for racial profiling when he went after a Black man inappropriately.
Doyle ended up dead when the attempted arrest led to a shootout, but it also resulted in Atwater in career trouble after he crossed the Blue Line and reported Doyle. When Season 8 picked up, Atwater was being harassed by his fellow officers, led by Kenny Nolan (Brent Sexton), and, not just his career, but his life was in jeopardy.
Atwater Crosses the Blue Line and Puts His Career in Jeopardy
“I think that Atwater is still looking over his shoulder, and still being extremely cautious and careful,” Hawkins told Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview. “That was an interesting storyline to take on only because I saw the world creating a space for us to do so.”
Hawkins says he has become a lot more politically conscious than he had been in the past, which helped him play Atwater with the consciousness that he needed to really be able to take on the responsibility of the story.
“One of my priorities was to uplift the image of the Black man under this social unrest in a way that our audience would perceive Black life differently than the way that Fox News or the rest of the media might give it to them, but also reimagine policing in a way that I knew we had to really understand,” Hawkins added.
As a result of the story, Atwater will never be the same. Especially since to regain some semblance of safety on the job, he had to confront Nolan and threaten to call him a racist on national television to get him to back off.
“It doesn’t mean that the story is over,” Hawkins said. “Naturally, he has to live with that choice and walk with that all of the time. He’s a different type now. So, you’ll see that.”
Nicole Ari Parker Debuts as Deputy Superintendent Miller
But that’s not the only change to Chicago PD as a result of Black Lives Matter. There’s a new Deputy Superintendent by the name of Samantha Miller (Nicole Ari Parker) and she is all about making Voight (Jason Beghe) and his Intelligence division toe the line by trying to eradicate the warrior cop mentality.
“Atwater’s proud of where this sister has found herself,” Hawkins says. “He’s looking forward to learning more about her. As for me, I was extremely excited to know that Nicole would be joining the vibes. She’s been a powerful face and name within the Black culture for a while. To see her take this opportunity, I was looking forward to it. I think her character is doing a great job of adding that balance. And I’m looking forward to the moment that they’ll have, where Atwater can learn more about exactly what side she’s on.”
Chicago PD airs on Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC.More: Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., One Chicago