'Chicago PD' Season 8: How Nicole Ari Parker's addition to the cast can help address BLM issues on show
NBC's flagship franchise based in Chicago will return to the network in November with the delayed premiere coming due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which had halted production on the previous seasons of all three shows earlier this year. 'Chicago Fire' will begin its ninth season, 'Chicago PD' will begin its eighth season and 'Chicago Med' will begin its sixth season. All three shows will undoubtedly be affected by the events of the year, especially the coronavirus pandemic.
One key event that may or may not be reflected is the Black Lives Matters issue. The United States and the rest of the world erupted in protests in the aftermath of the death of 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd when a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for at least eight minutes.
We had earlier written that 'Chicago PD' needs to revamp its stories, given everything that has gone on. One way this can be done is by bringing Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) to the centerstage. As the only regular Black character, Atwater had mostly been in the back of the room up until last season. Season 7 of 'Chicago PD' saw Atwater getting more storylines and the unexpected season finale also hinged on Atwater.
When Atwater was partnered up with a cop who had racist tendencies for the second time, he found himself in a messy situation. The cop — who died — had pursued someone just because he was Black, but in the process got shot and died from the wounds. With Internal Affairs conducting an investigation, Atwater is pressured to cover up for the officer, who comes from a family of cops. Atwater instead chooses to tell the truth and when he returns home that evening, he finds a group of cars waiting for him, flashing their lights to signal that he will be the target of their intimidation tactics for what he chose to do.
Now, the producers over at 'Chicago PD' have given an indication that they intend to do more. Season 8 of the show will see a new addition to the cast: Nicole Ari Parker ('Soul Food', 'Boogie Nights') was supposed to star in 'At That Age', which could not be filmed because of the pandemic and has been rolled to next season. So she is on a hold deal at NBC tied to the drama pilot. This means that Parker will be present on 'Chicago PD' for at least all of the upcoming season.
Now, Parker will be playing Deputy Superintendent Samatha Miller who comes from Atlanta and is a progressive, ardent proponent of police reform. She wants to help Intelligence Unit's head detective, Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and Intelligence adapt to the new reality but will not tolerate breaches of the new police guidelines and protocols. According to Deadline, Parker’s Miller is expected to rein in that behavior and hold Voight and his team accountable by imposing high professional standards.
Voight has been one of the most problematic characters on television when it comes to the representation of police. Voight is shown to be a violent person, often resorting to underhanded techniques to get suspects to confess. In fact, during Season 7, it was Voight's influence that got Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) lock up a suspect in county jail to get him to confess after a faulty face recognition software gave the man's name. The man was beaten up in prison and died of his injuries and it is only later revealed that the man was innocent. Halstead and Voight, however, get off scot-free, after Voight and the Chief do some manipulation and enact their own justice on the real culprit, raising the ire of viewers.
Hopefully, with the arrival of Parker's Samantha Miller, we will get to see 'Chicago PD' undergoing proper change. The 'Chicago Fire' spinoff is often lauded for its accurate portrayal of police work — this is not, however, shown in reflecting the negative aspects of the police system and 2020 might be the year that it finally changes.
'Chicago PD' Season 8 will premiere on NBC on Wednesday, November 11, at 10/9c.