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The Surprising Inspiration Behind LaRoyce Hawkins' Chicago PD Character - Exclusive

As Officer Kevin Atwater, LaRoyce Hawkins brings charisma, authenticity, and unapologetic Blackness to "Chicago P.D.," which airs on Wednesday nights on NBC. As part of the Intelligence Unit of the fictional 21st District in the Windy City, Officer Atwater looks to serve his community while changing the system from within, particularly when it comes to race relations and the police force.

Beyond that, Hawkins and his co-stars — including Jason Beghe, Patrick John Flueger, Jesse Lee Soffer, Marina Squerciati, and Tracy Spiridakos — bust bad guys week after week while dealing with interpersonal relationships and individual issues. It's a gig Hawkins calls "layered," and he admits he feels a deep connection to the role because he was born and raised outside of Chicago. But what exactly inspires Hawkins when he steps behind the make-believe badge as Officer Atwater?

During an exclusive interview with Looper, the actor revealed who — and what — motivates him when he's on the "Chicago P.D." set.

LaRoyce Hawkins' basketball coach taught him 'integrity'

LaRoyce Hawkins admitted he draws inspiration from a few places for his "Chicago P.D." character, including "some of our ancestors whose lives have been taken at the mercy of police brutality, [and] the lack of empathy in this uniform."

But his main inspiration, he said, comes from a more unexpected place. "I'm just as inspired by my basketball coach, who [during] my freshman and sophomore year, I know was an active police officer while he was coaching us," Hawkins shared. "He always coached us with an integrity, with a character that I know is the reason why, later on in his career, he became a detective. He was the same detective that fought on the case for my little cousin, who ... was taken by gun violence."

Those personal connections to his "Chicago P.D." character fuel Hawkins' desire to bring Officer Atwater to life. "I'm connected to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and in ways that I'm honestly grateful for, because I have a lot to offer the role and a lot to pour into it," he said. "I'm also grateful that I've been around long enough to keep on pouring into that cup, because I know it's not going to last forever. I'm having more fun than I ever have because I'm finding new ways to layer these stories that we're given with that real connection."

Season 9 of "Chicago P.D." airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.