'Blue Bloods' Star Abigail Hawk Plays 'Fierce' LGBT Icon Louise Pearce in New Show 'Distemper' (Exclusive)

Abigail Hawk is known for playing the tough Abigail Baker on CBS' Blue Bloods, but fans will get to see a new side of the star in Distemper. The pilot tells the true story of LGBT icon Louise Pearce, an American pathologist who helped develop a treatment for African sleeping sickness. Although the story is set 100 years ago, Hawk told PopCulture.com now is the perfect time to introduce Pearce to a new generation.

Pearce was born in 1885 and became the first woman to take a research position at the Rockefeller Institute in 1913. She is best known for her work to solve the African sleeping sickness, and traveling to the Belgian Congo to treat patients. She also studied cancer and syphilis during her career. Although her career sounds fascinating, she has never been the subject of a show or movie until now. Hawk plays her in the new series.

"I think there's a lot of similarities between 1918, 1919, and where we are today," Hawk told PopCulture.com. "I think we are poised to really view all human beings through this wonderful equality lens and she remains an LGBT icon. And I think that it's very important to keep diverse voices at the forefront, and especially because she's not only an LGBT icon, she's also a female scientist."

Hawk said she nicknamed Pearce "Fierce Pearce" because she did not care about breaking down doors and class ceilings to achieve her dreams.

"I just think it's amazing when you think about a woman not caring about the parameters that have been established for her and just pushing down doors and breaking the glass ceiling before that was even a thing to do, but I think today we still find ourselves needing to continue to push doors," Hawk said. "I mean, we just celebrated Women's Equality Pay Day and we're still so far behind with that. So it's just kind of celebrating how far we've come, but also the fact that we need to keep going."

The new pilot also came into production as the U.S. marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, a fact not lost on Hawk.

"I'm so appreciative for my forebearers in that sense because I think we just as a woman... sometimes we tend to take for granted the rights that our ancestors fought so hard for. We just had no idea what it really meant to be part of the Women's Rights Movement [in the early 20th century]."

It could be awhile before Blue Bloods fans get to see another side of Hawk's talents in Distemper. The series' pilot will be shown at the North Fork TV Festival on Oct. 4, where executives might show interest and "we get some money thrown our way and make it happen," Hawk said.

Maxwell Pitango, who wrote the script, also won the Science + Technology Script Competition presented by the North Fork TV Festival and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The pilot was directed by Elias Plagianos.

There is no reason to worry about Distemper forcing Hawk to leave Blue Bloods. She explained that she gets an extra two weeks of time during the season thanks to Tom Selleck's schedule, so she has plenty of time.

"I'm sure we'd figure it out. I'm very good at juggling. I'm very, very good at juggling," she said.


Blue Bloods Season 10 debuts on Friday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Photo credit: ESP Films Ltd.