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LaRoyce Hawkins: Chicago actor repping his city on and off TV

LaRoyce Hawkins is humble. The 28-year-old actor is firm in describing himself as “just a kid from Harvey”; however, the millions of viewers who tune in to see him play a cop on “Chicago P.D.” see him a bit differently.

Growing up in Harvey, a suburb south of Chicago, wasn’t easy for Hawkins. Like similar areas with high poverty, unemployment and crime rates, expectations for the youth in the area are low, and many residents don’t aspire to a successful life outside of the city. But Hawkins had a knack for the arts that drove him to dream bigger than a life confined to his struggling hometown.

While studying acting at Illinois State University, Hawkins’ interest in comedy, spoken word and music blossomed. He soon began landing roles, such as his spot in the feature film The Express, a true-life story of the first Black American to win the Heisman Trophy. Hawkins’ career picked up steam and hasn’t let up since. He’s starred in television shows such as “Underemployed,” “Detroit 187,” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”

But it wasn’t until 2014 that Hawkins’ breakout role was realized on “Chicago P.D.” The crime spin-off of “Chicago Fire” aired that year on NBC. Hawkins was given the opportunity to play someone cleaning up the very streets he was raised on. He was hired to portray officer Kevin Atwater, a former CPD patrol officer who was promoted to the Intelligence Unit.

With this opportunity, Hawkins is gaining exposure in his industry, and giving back to those who were there for him during his humble beginnings in Harvey.

The series is still going strong in its fourth season, which likely means we’ll get to see a lot more of Hawkins protecting and serving on the small screen. We can also expect the multitalented young man to tap into his other passion as a stand-up comedian more often. But no matter how high Hawkins’ star rises, he’ll always remember to represent the city that made him.

Here, he discusses his success and how he plans to move forward while remaining in touch with his past.

As an actor from Chicago, was it a struggle landing gigs before getting the role on “Chicago P.D.”?

Before I got the opportunity, it was definitely a struggle. I used to get behind on bills a lot, but I never got behind on my dream. I never got behind on the gift, and I think that’s why I was always excited, even within the struggle. It never felt like a struggle. I just understand it as a struggle now because I’m in a different situation. I live downtown now on Lake Shore Drive.

When you decide you want to be an artist and when you allow your gift to provide for you and feed you, you find yourself in positions where you have to sacrifice. It’s been a struggle and I had to borrow a lot of money from my family members. It’s been real, but I think they always knew that it would come back around. Now I’m in a position to give back everything that was given to me, and it feels amazing.

When you got your first “Chicago P.D.” check, what was it like?

I remember being excited for transfers that I was making from one account to the next. I never had that much [money] to play around with and compartmentalize. I’m a kid from Harvey. I have a little brother in college and a little sister who just had a kid. I got to give back. … It’s kind of weird to talk about money, but at the same time, it made me a bigger giver. I’ve always been giving, even when I didn’t have it. I think my heart has always been in the right place, even when I didn’t know where to put it. It’s more than the money — it means that things can be taken care of.

What is it like playing an officer? 

We have some of the best stunt coordinators, in my humble opinion. When we’re not shooting, the guns on our hips are fake. But when we do have gun battles, we pull out the real demonstrations. When you’re in the battle shooting things, it gets [the] adrenaline pumping.

What kind of physical shape do you have to be in for this? I know you work out a lot. I see you on Instagram pumping weight. Is there a goal you’re trying to reach right now?

Yes. I saw myself on season one, and I thought I was a little round in the face. It looked like the vest was a little too small, and I wanted to start working on that. Fitness for me is more a lifestyle than anything. As I started to make life goals, career goals just started falling into place. I think last season I was around 250 [pounds], and I’m in the 240s now. But on camera, that’s a big difference.

Have you ever gotten hurt on set?

No, but I hurt somebody. I ran into a lady by accident on set. It can be dangerous, but I have been fortunate and blessed.

Is there a special woman in your life?

Yes. I’ve known her for a long time. What makes it interesting is [having] this opportunity. Especially as a young man, everything I do is really for honeys. I ain’t on TV for no reason. There’s a part of you that really wants to enjoy fan love. There’s a part of you that wants to really be involved with that and enjoy it. The way the situation works out is being transparent and understanding. I’m nowhere near extra locked down or nearing marriage. She understands there’s growing I have to do as a man before [I can be] there 100 percent. She is special, and I care about her, but at the same time I’m still young.

Who are the people you look up to?

Idris Elba is one that I admire. He’s my mom’s favorite actor. She was very honest with me and told me I’m her close second to him. Understandably, the big homie is definitely doing great things. I look up to Jamie Foxx. When I first started doing comedy, my advice was to look up to comedians that have a style you can build on. Jamie and Steve Harvey were my favorite comedians when I first started thinking about doing stand-up. I thought they had a style that was very much like mine. Steve is one of the greatest conversationalists in comedy. I really appreciate how Jamie incorporated music in his comedy.

What are your career goals?

I can see myself going toward the comedy route. I started off in stand-up. People always say “say something funny,” and I still haven’t come up with a joke yet. I need a standard joke. I would love to do some comedy stuff and some real character-driven work. One of my favorite movies is Ray, so if there’s a role out there where I can emulate a powerful cat in history, somebody who had a dope impact on the world, I would be down for anything. I like to host — I can even see myself with a Nick Cannon type of vibe, like hosting a powerful show.

What does powerful mean to you? It seems like that’s the word that you use to describe a lot of things. 

I get attached to words. I got attached to “powerful” early in college because of a quote my grandfather sent me: “At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water gets very, very hot, but at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water boils. And when you get boiling water, you can create steam, and that steam is powerful enough to move a locomotive, so go that extra degree.” Literally 1 degree more, you’ll be powerful enough to move that locomotive. That “powerful” word just stood out in that quote, and so i just started using that to describe everything, and before I knew it, it became a part of me. 

“Chicago P.D.” airs every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.

Story by Kacie Whaley

Interview by Demi Lobo

Images by Dallas Logan

Video by Darius L. Carter

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