On the hit freshman drama Necessary Roughness, actor Mehcad Brooks plays Terrence “TK” King, the New York Hawks’ star wide receiver and his own biggest fan. Wild, confrontational, charismatic and stubborn, TK is a gifted player who is something of a loose cannon with a violent temper and no regard for authority. In an attempt to have him clean up his act before he gets booted from the team, he is sent to Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) to help him work through his issues, which is a big task for anyone to take on. Luckily, Dr. D seems up to the challenge.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, Mehcad Brooks talked about his hesitancy in signing on for another television series after his last one was abruptly canceled, how playing TK is the most fun he’s ever had on set, how inspiring it is to work with his co-star Callie Thorne, that anything is possible when it comes to his character, how even he wouldn’t want to be friends with TK, and that he believes that it’s going to take a lot of time to heal TK’s wounds. He also talked about his time playing Eggs on Season 2 of True Blood, and his experience making the feature thriller Fencewalker with writer/director Chris Carter (The X-Files), which still has no definite release date. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
MEHCAD BROOKS: I was in Toronto, visiting my girlfriend. My ABC show, My Generation, had been canceled and I had sworn off television. I was like, “No, I don’t want to do it,” because I was upset about it and I was being fairly irrational. My team – my agent and my manager – was like, “Listen, there’s a great script that USA wants you to read,” and I was like, “Fine!” I read it and I still wasn’t sure. My main concern was, “Where does this guy go? He corrects his main problem, which is forgiveness, in the pilot, so where does he go from there?” So, I took a meeting with the creators, Liz [Kruger] and Craig [Shapiro], and the meeting is what sold me on the show. They were so open to ideas and so collaborative, and they spoke as much as they listened, which is hard to find when you’re meeting somebody for the first time, who is telling you about their show. They were confidant that whatever I brought to the table is what they wanted. I really enjoyed that trust, before we ever stepped on set, and it made me trust them in a way that I was later vindicated for. They’re fantastic writers and the situations that they put TK in are always interesting and realistic, so I’m elated. In a round about way, I’m glad I came to my rational senses.
Didn’t the track record of USA help with that?
BROOKS: The thing is that I’m such a nerd that I just watch MSNBC, so I didn’t really know. I knew that USA had Monk and Psych, but other than that, I didn’t really know too much about the shows. I’d heard of Royal Pains and White Collar, but I hadn’t really seen anything. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I knew the “Characters Welcome” thing, and I was really excited to be a part of a cable network, in particular, and one that focused on character and took the actors and said, “We want you to be these distinct characters that are discernable from anyone else in the world, that we can really base our show on.” That’s such a great responsibility, and so much fun.
BROOKS: So much fun. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on set, period. There’s such an arc, that runs the gamut of emotions. What he goes through is limitless. He has dark days. He has loud, boisterous, funny days. He gets himself into ridiculous circumstances. Later, as he starts to build character, he becomes more of an adult. It’s a really interesting thing to play, over time.
Is it interesting for you, as an actor, to play a character that is introduced at his worst, and then has little bits revealed about him that make him more likeable? Did you have to come up with your own backstory to figure out where he was coming from?
BROOKS: A lot of that was on the page. In the pilot, it said that his mother passed away, when he was eight years old, from a drug overdose and he was raised in several different foster families. What you learn throughout the first season is that football is what saved his life. Football is the only outlet that he had that anybody gave him any support system or love or praise for. That’s tough. There are a lot of kids out there that don’t have a support system and they’re not made to feel important or appreciated in anything that they do, until they find that niche. TK found his niche in football, and then probably didn’t hear the word no for a good 10 years, and now he’s finally coming to terms with what adulthood is, in that you don’t always get your way, all the time. That’s interesting to play too.
BROOKS: She’s absolutely amazing! She was already one of my favorite actress in the world, and when I heard that she got the show, I was elated. The opportunity to work alongside Callie Thorne was a big sell for me. She’s even surprised that expectation. Scenes that we’re in, and scenes that I’m not in that I watch, I learn from her. I steal, learn and absorb, and that’s a great energy and wild talent to be around. I love it. She’s so open and free and just inspiring, as an actress. And, she makes you bring you’re A-game. There are some actors you work with that are great, but sometimes you’re like, “Are you awake? Are we doing this here? What’s going on?” Callie really, really cares. Everybody on this show really cares, but Callie is just a very special talent.
How do you see their relationship?
BROOKS: At first, she’s forced upon him. And then, he realizes, early on, that she’s actually helping him, and he’s got an infinite number of problems, some of which we haven’t even discovered yet. TK has lived a crazy lifestyle and is a champion. He does not hear the word no. He doesn’t understand the concept of losing, at least not personally. He doesn’t help the team win all the time, but he doesn’t understand losing personally. But, he realizes that even things he considers to be victories in his life sometimes aren’t. I think Dr. D is the one that has really shown him that, so that’s a hard person not to come back to, that’s a hard person not to respect, and that’s a hard person not to give kudos to and make exceptions for. Maybe he wouldn’t put up with a bunch of stuff that she says, from anyone else, but it’s this woman who has made him realize that his existence is not what it is.
BROOKS: It’s interesting to see that, with Dr. D being a newly single mom, and TK coming in as a role model. I wouldn’t say he’s a good role model, in any sense of the word, but I think he wants to be. I don’t think there’s an angle there. I think he really cares about the Santino family and their well being, and he definitely cares about Dani’s son. There’s also a sense of longing for his own childhood, that he didn’t have, and the support system that Ray Jr. does have. Rather than manifesting itself in a form of jealousy, it comes out in absorption. He wants to be around it and take that in and see what it’s like. It’s a fish out of water element for him and he’s trying to understand it because one day he wants to have his own family and raise them in a way where there’s love and support in the house, which is something that he never had.
What can you say about what’s still to come for your character this season?
BROOKS: Expect anything. It surprises me, sometimes. I’m given free rein and I’m allowed to do pretty much whatever I want, and then they just wrangle me back in, which is a dream, as an actor. There’s a woman that comes into TK’s life, who is his equal and superior, in many ways. He finally has to start treating a member of the opposite sex with respect, other than Dr. Dani, or at least his form of respect.
BROOKS: No. That’s a simple answer. I’ve met people like this, many times, and I have enough friends. I have plenty of friends. I don’t really like to get into trouble. I have my days. I’ve been in my early 20’s. We all know what that is. To carry that through life is for some people, just not for me.
What has the physical aspect of this role been like? Is that something you have to be constant with?
BROOKS: It’s no different than my normal lifestyle. I train all the time, anyway. I really believe in being health conscious and trying to eat in a way that makes you feel comfortable. I’ve been working out since I was 17 or 18 years old. It’s just a way of life for me. If I don’t work out, I feel weird. It’s just about what your routine is. It’s very close to what TK’s routine is, although pro-athletes are in a completely different type of shape than most people because they have to be. I actually started doing the football training camps that we had in Atlanta for the show, and I started working with a guy who trains Olympic athletes in L.A. Talk about being dizzy and wanting to throw up, having to put ice on your wrists and your neck, and literally stumbling out of the gym and laying on the sidewalk. There were a couple times I had people driving by, honking their horn and going, “True Blood!” I looked dead on the sidewalk. I was literally laying on the sidewalk. It’s been bananas, trying to get into that shape. I was derailed because I got in a bad car accident and I haven’t been able to work-out since then, but if you adjust the diet, it comes out the shape.
What do you think it will take for TK to get control of his life and become the man that you can tell he really wants to be?
BROOKS: A lot of time. Time heals everything. Time corrects everything. Time is the solution to every problem, I believe. A lot of things can happen with time. All that has to be there is the intention. If he wants to get better, he wants to be a better man and he wants more character, then I think it’s going to take a lot of sessions – hopefully, six or seven seasons with of sessions – to get to be the man that he wants to be. In some strange way, he’s such a lovable guy, even though he’s a jerk, that you actually root for him. At least, I do. I really root for the guy and I hope that he’s going to be okay, but there’s no guarantee. That’s the cool thing about it. I like playing characters that are true to life, and there’s no guarantee that any of us are going to be okay, but we intend to be and we take the time to try to be. I don’t think it’s any different for a character.
BROOKS: It goes back to the sports mentality. I’ve played sports pretty much my whole life, and that teaches you how to work with anyone, whether you like that person or you don’t, and whether you get along with them or you don’t. The circumstances don’t matter. Team work is part of life. True Blood was no different. There are always going to be people that you click with and some that you don’t particularly click with, and there’s nothing personal or impersonal about that. You go to work and you do your job. If you make friends, great. If you don’t, that wasn’t the purpose of it. And, I made friends there, so that’s good. I played basketball my whole life. I was all-state as a junior, and as a senior in high school, I got a lot of basketball scholarships. The reason I quit was because I didn’t want to be Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. I wasn’t going to work that hard at something I didn’t love as much as I love acting. Now that I’m acting, I want to be Will Smith or Denzel Washington, so I want to work with people who push my game and make me better. I want to take roles that challenge me, every time. I don’t want to do something that I know I can do. I want to be afraid. Every time I take a new job, I want to be like, “Oh hell, can I do this?” And then, I take the time nad make sure I can.
What was the experience of making Fencewalker and working with Chris Carter like?
BROOKS: It was the most incredible experience of my life. It taught me so much about myself as a person and as an actor. I was in 130 scenes out of 131. It taught me that stamina is actually the most important thing you can have, as a lead actor. I can’t wait to see it. I can’t wait until it comes out. It just taught me so much. And, I respect Natalie Dormer so much. She is phenomenal, and just one of the hardest working young actors I’ve ever seen, in my life. She was such a pleasure.
Do you have any idea when it will finally come out?
BROOKS: We have soft dates, but nothing you can quote me on.