Mehcad Brooks Shares His Insight and Mind-Set on USA Network’s New Series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS

From the casting couch to the therapy couch, Mehcad Brooks analyzes what it takes to succeed both on screen and off screen.  Starring as TK, the football quarterback with a hot temper and an unexpected heart of gold, and a soft-spot for his therapist’s family, Mehcad shared in a recent press call what he sees in TK’s soul.
Can you talk about how you became involved with the series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS?
MEHCAD: Yes, I was in Toronto and I got a phone call and a script and (my agent) said, ‘Listen, we’d like you to read this.’ I was really heartbroken after MY GENERATION was cancelled, and I just kind of sworn off television.  But when I read the script I was like, ‘Wait a second. Maybe I spoke too soon.’ I was really drawn to the project because Terrence had so many levels to him. And I thought, you TK was really endearing; also flamboyant and boisterous, but at the same time, I thought, ‘I think he’s a really misunderstood kid.’ And that’s something I was wanting because that’s kind of what I consider myself a very child-like person, but not childish. So I understand that. But he hasn’t quite gotten to that level yet. But, I was kind of routing for him. So it really drew me to him.
What’s your favorite part about playing the role of TK?
MEHCAD: Anything goes. Anything goes. I mean it’s the producers’, writers’ and the director’s job to kind of reel me back in. So that’s a lot of fun — a lot of fun.
What is it like working with Callie Thorne? Can you talk about working with her?
MEHCAD: Callie and I are like kindred spirits. That’s the amazing thing. Callie, she packs a huge punch in a very tiny little package. But she has this sort of intoxicating energy about her. If she’s smiling, you’re smiling. If she gets angry, you get fearful. When she means business, you have to step up to the plate and mean business too. She’s one of my favorite actors in the world, period. And it’s an honor to be working with her. It really is. I learn so much just by watching her.
What else are we going to see with TK as far as his journey with his character? We’ve already seen little bits, and he definitely has issues he’s working through. Is there going to be a romantic interests or anything else like that with him?
MEHCAD: It’s going to run the gamut. I mean, I’m not sure how much I can reveal. I’ll give you little hints here and there. But it always gets worse before it gets better. There’s that as an issue. We’re taking advantage of having a superstar and being able to take an introspective look into his life and some of the things that come along with that, whether they’re funny or scary or timely or topical. TK is going to go through a lot of it. And the thing about TK is — as you guys have probably seen — he really hasn’t met a real woman in his life except for Dr. Dani. So, if and when that does happen, that’s going to be a very sort of comical and sad circumstance. But I believe it’s in the cards for sure.
How do you relate to your character of TK?
MEHCAD:  I’m pretty much the antithesis of TK — and that’s kind of why I like playing him because he’s so different. I get to go to work and just sort of release a bunch of energy and a bunch of anxiety and a bunch of insanity. And when I come home I’m completely different. I think I’m channeling a part of myself from my early 20s. Because we all have those days where — at least men — we all have those days where we do act as pigs, especially in our early 20s. We have this attitude that we’re invincible. We have this attitude that nothing can stop us. And just the problem is, most of us don’t have 80 million bucks when we’re doing it.  So it’s kind of an interesting role to play, but he and I are completely different. I wouldn’t even want to hang out with him — honestly.
What kind of romantic interests do you see for TK in the future? Any dream actresses you want on there?
MEHCAD: Halle Berry. There’s no actress that comes to mind in particular that I would like to play a love interest with TK, but definitely — like I said before — it’s definitely in the cards. And I have a lot of faith in the writers. I think it’s going to be a fun ride.
Are we going see more into TK’s past as the series goes on? Will we see flashbacks of TK’s past to see how it shaped him into who he is today?
MEHCAD: I don’t think so. But you know what? That’s a really cool idea. Maybe I’ll bring it up.
What aspect of the show is the most entertaining for you? Is there something about it that you think makes it easy for audiences to connect with?
MEHCAD: The aspect that really sticks out in the project for me is that it’s the most fun I’ve ever had shooting anything. And I really kind of feel like if we’re having fun.  I’m of the school of thought that people love to watch other people have a good time. And if you’re having a great time and you’re performing it, I really see how people can watch you and have a great time. So that’s our little secret. We’re just having a blast. We’re just a bunch of actors coming to work, being able to do great material and who really respect and have an affinity for each other. We are in love [with the show] and we support each other and we just have a blast — and I think it’s evident when it comes on screen.
How do you usually spend your time between scenes?
MEHCAD:  If it’s not [too hot] — because we shoot in Atlanta — so if it’s not too hot, we’ll stick around and hang out and talk and just make jokes. I mean I came back to the makeup trailer one day and the entire makeup trailer was plastered with my Calvin Klein photos that Callie and the makeup department had done as a joke. So I went around kind of like drawing little faces on them and cutting off Scott Cohen’s head and pasting them on top of my face, because he had a couple of things to say about it. So we took a picture of him and unbeknownst to him, we blew it up to — I don’t know — probably 5 by 3 feet. And it looks like this old, trying to be sexy 1936 picture, like Clark Gable at the background of the movies. And we hung it in front of the makeup trailer, so when we came in, it hit him in the face.  So we just have a good time. We play jokes on each other. We respect each other. We hang out. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.
Since you’re an athlete yourself, what did you draw upon to get into the head of TK?
MEHCAD: That’s a good question. We have a wonderful sports director here on set.  His name is Mark Ellis. I’ve worked with him before. So we had a preexisting relationship.  So that wasn’t too difficult. He held a football camp before the pilot, which I attended. And it’s that competitive nature as an athlete. It never leaves you. You actually learn as a small child playing in athletics or being involved in athletics and growing up through high school, being involved in athletics you learn to work with people that you probably never would, in any other circumstance. That’s what life is about, working with people from all walks of life, working with people that you may not like, working with people who you have to respect for what they do. So those are the lessons that I think can cross-pollinate in anything we do, but also the competitive nature of it. TK is such a winner. He doesn’t take losing very lightly — and I can understand that. I can completely understand what it’s like to really believe in your heart and any manifestations that losing is not an option. He and I just go about it in different ways.
Can you talk about what it’s like to work opposite Gregory Alan Williams?
MEHCAD:  Oh, he’s great. He’s awesome. I laugh because that was the first time that I received that question.  But it shouldn’t be because he’s a fantastic actor, very underrated — he’s a fireball of energy. It’s like he doesn’t stop. It’s like he’ll call, ‘Cut’ and he’ll start doing a monologue on something else. Then he’ll tell you a story about what actors call war-stories – ‘and this happened in this city when I was shooting this’ and so on and so forth. He’s also very well educated and well-versed in a lot of the different arenas. So he’s a very interesting character to talk to. So he’s a blessing.
Since the show is based on the true story of the New York Jets’ psychologist, how does that help?
MEHCAD: The thing that helps, at least for me in particular, is that I know Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, who is the actual therapist that this is based on. I don’t just know her. She’s actually my therapist.  But I’m kind of a kid who’s doing the homework in class, because I probably should have done this beforehand. But really, I got into a bad car accident here in Atlanta and I was sitting at a stop light and somebody hit me going 60 miles an hour, head on. So it was really nothing I could do. I’m lucky to be alive, to tell you the truth. But there’s the traumatic aspect of the whole thing and I wanted someone to talk to. And I trust her and she’s really good at what she does. So I have a lot of insight into how this whole thing works. And I have personal experience with how it works and I wake up every day and I thank my lucky stars for her as well. It’s crazy because it’s like you would say that for the people that this is really based on and all the actors, we’re their family.
You talked about ‘it has to get worse before it can get better,’ so I’m wondering does that mean — that we see TK spinning a little bit more dramatically and hitting bottom and what that looks like for him?
MEHCAD: Well keep in mind that it’s USA [Network] — so it’s not going to be an HBO crash and burn. The thing is talent can take you to the top. The character keeps you there. And I think the issue is TK has to build his character. I can’t tell you exactly what that looks like yet because it’s not completely finished and polished with the writing, as far as that goes.  Also, I don’t know how I’m going to perform it because I do have the freedom to do, like I said, to take a lot of liberties and they pulled me back a lot of times. And sometimes they push me even further.  So we never know what that sort of chemistry project is going to be, but it seems to work.  I’m happy to be in it — if that makes any sense.
Do you find that being able to play lighter and play that comic relief is something that you welcome after having such dramatic roles?
MEHCAD:  You know what? The strangest thing is I forget about the role that I already did. Like I completely focus on whatever it is I’m doing. I live in that moment because I think life is a bunch of moments that lead to certain destinations. And then once you’re at that destination, you have some more moments that lead to a different destination, and so on and so forth. So it’s not like I’m comparing TK to Eggs, or TK to Rolly Marks from MY GENERATION. I just take on roles that I think I like and that would challenge me. And TK is a hard role for me to play in a lot of ways, but I find hard work challenging. So it’s not like I’m sitting at home going, ‘Oh my goodness. He’s so different than Eggs. He’d make it…’ I hope he is. I really hope he is. But I couldn’t tell you the comparison unless I go back and then watch TRUE BLOOD and go, ‘Oh, yes,’ because I don’t even remember what I did.
You’ve talked about wanting to get into producing and directing, and I think you’ve started behind the scenes, but is that something that want to translate into NECESSARY ROUGHNESS and would you ever consider directing an episode?
MEHCAD: If they’ll have me, yes. I would love to direct an episode. I think my sense of humor for the show [would fit it].  I mean have the utmost respect for the writers and the producers and the directors that we’ve had — but throughout my career, I’ve been directed by enough people to know what to do and how to talk to actors and what not to do and how not to talk to actors as well. That’s not to say that that’s anything that’s happening now because we’ve had some great directors on the show. But, yes, I would eventually down the road — Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 — I would love to throw my hat into the DGA. That would be awesome.
How do you think TK views Dani? Do you think he sees her as just a therapist, a possible friend, or maybe a substitute mother-figure?
MEHCAD: I’ve long since been embattled with that question inside of me as well — and I keep coming up with different answers. She is the only person that he’s ever opened up to 100%. So whatever that means to someone. I mean there’s feelings of trust there. There’s feelings of respect. There’s feelings of admiration. She’s also the only person who can set some guidelines and some rules that he follows — begrudgingly. But in that, I mean there’s a surrogate mother quality. There’s a, ‘She’s too old’ – ‘She’s too young to be his mother,’ obviously. But there’s the surrogate-mother quality. There’s a big sister quality. There’s a sort of a inkling of a romantic sort of longing in TK that obviously I can’t date my doctor, but I wish I could find a woman like her that I can respect like her, that could put me on the straight and narrow. I think every man looks at a strong woman and, even if it’s not the one that he’s going to be with, he says, ‘Wow, that’s somebody that I can respect and I want in my life.’ And I should say every heterosexual man I think looks at a strong woman and says, ‘That’s something I want in my life,’ whether her in particular or someone like her. So, yes, there’s a bunch of new jumbled up feelings in TK’s head about Dr. [Dani], for sure.
Why do you think TK is reaching out and trying to be friends with Dani’s son Ray J? Is it like a quasi-big-brother mentoring thing or does he see a bit of himself in Ray J? What TK’s angle?
MEHCAD: Well, I think for TK, the angle with Ray J is there’s no angle. He kind of he genuinely cares about Dr. [Dani] and her family.  He really has never had any family of his own. He’s never had any siblings. He never knew his mother beyond him being 7 or 8 years old. He never had a father. He never had a lot of the situations that Ray J has and Dr. Dani and her family. It’s very foreign to him.  Money is not a support system and love is. So I think when he sees that, it’s something that’s hard to like [identify] — like so maybe you show up two hours early for your appointment and you play video games with her son.  Or maybe you stay too long or you overstay your welcome. Or maybe you crash a pizza party or a birthday party. Or maybe you just start to get inappropriate. Actually, a lot of these are true stories where some of the players who’ve never had any family come and come and hang out at the Sweet 16 party — and not for any inappropriate reasons — just because they felt like family. Even though Dr. Dannenfelser was like, ‘This is not appropriate.’ I think it’s more of he wants to be a Santino more than he sees an angle.
What is it like working with Craig Shapiro versus Alan Ball versus Marc Cherry?
MEHCAD: That’s a great question. Well, first of all, I would say all three were very hands-on. They just had very different ways of doing it. Marc Cherry would come up in his golf cart at Universal and hand deliver you notes and critique your performance from the night before. But not like in a way where you really felt critique. He was trying to give you constructive criticism. Almost like a stage director. Then Alan Ball was so brilliant — just absolutely brilliant. The way he handled it was he was very hands-on by hiring the right person to do what they do and allowing you to run with it. And if at any point in time he felt like it was out of line for the character, then he’d speak up. But for the most part, you never really heard from Alan about your character. You may have heard from Alan about a movie or a composer or like a song or a political issue, so on and so forth. But he was very hands-on by being hands-off. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it does when you’re in that situation. Craig [Shapiro], I think he’s got the best of both worlds, and the fact that he is available any time of day. If you have any questions, he’s always reachable. He always gets back to you — Elizabeth and Craig, both. He’s hands-on to the point of where he knows no limits. Like for instance, when we’re shooting in Atlanta, he’s in Los Angeles running the show. So if there’s a character situation going on — say like for instance, there’s other shows that I’ve worked on and if there’s a different choice that you want to make or a different line you want to throw, you have to get it approved. They have to call LA, even if it’s 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock in the morning on the East Coast, like there’s no one awake. . . . Like, I mean, how do you get this line approval? That’s makes no sense. And Elizabeth and Craig are just, ‘Hey, just do it and just give us what we want at least one time,’ and so we have the option. And, once again, they have a hands-off/hands-on approach too. But they’re like doctors, very precise. And if something is wrong, they fix it. And if something is not wrong, they say, ‘Just maintain.’
Could you kind of describe for us what your physical transformation was like and how you got your body into the shape you did from DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES to Calvin Klein to TRUE BLOOD to now — because I mean you probably put on, what? 30 pounds of muscle since then?
MEHCAD: I don’t recall what I was weighing when I was like 24 years old during HOUSEWIVES, but Calvin Klein, I can tell you man, that’s kind of a special deal for me. That’s the anomaly. That’s the pinnacle. Because once I found out that I had it, I had about a month to prepare. So what I did was I got on a special diet and I was training with weights twice a day. And I mean, biking 6 or 7 miles a day, while I was shooting a show called THE DEEP END in Dallas. . . I was cutting carbs around 2 pm. So that’s not going to happen again, unless somebody is trying to pay me to get in my underwear again. So I don’t walk around like that. I’m just going to be honest — I’m completely honest about that. I do not walk around looking like that. It’s crazy. It would take way too much work. I would just end up being on a subway somewhere and choking somebody because I would just go insane and be like, ‘I want some carb!’
Can you tell me about what the collaboration is like between you and Marc Blucas and Scott Cohen?
MEHCAD: They are really fun guys. They’re the nicest guys you ever want to meet. Also, I think and they’ll tell you they are actually doing some of the best work of their entire careers and they love it. We are all doing this to make the best work of our careers and we all love it. It’s just nice to collaborate with Marc and Scott. And once again, I learn so much watching these guys work. Keep in mind, I’m the youngest guy out of the four, so a lot of times I’m obviously doing my job, but I’m astounded by how good everybody else is. I’m astounded and I’m lucky to be surrounded by that. I’m so blessed to be able just kind of sit back sometimes and learn. It’s amazing. It’s really amazing. It’s like free school and a job.
A lot of viewers know you from TRUE BLOOD as Eggs and on DOLLHOUSE.  I know that you said that you don’t compare roles, but I was hoping you could compare working on more supernatural shows versus this show, which obviously is based on a true story —  maybe the challenges and the joys that you have going from more supernatural realm to more realistic.
MEHCAD:  Okay, that’s a great question. For me, the supernatural is actually a little more difficult because you are having to imagine something, nine times out of ten to get a reaction. Or you’re put into a situation where this probably never would happen or you would never see it happen and you would never experience it happening. But, at the same time, I’m such a sci-fi buff and such a sci-fi nerd and lover and I romanticize about it. I believe in aliens and I believe in ghosts and I believe in all these occult and extraterrestrial and extra-sensory things. I think that they’re there. So I actually don’t always consider them science fiction. Sometimes they’re science-fact waiting to happen. And I like being a part of that. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun to be able to exercise this sort of sensational muscle that never gets exercised (in your daily life). But I think that there are aspects that are in a lot more difficult areas to play the day-to-day lives of human beings.  Not to say that is true for every episode or true for every film you do, because there’s some people who live really interesting lives. If you don’t have something to draw upon, you have to go there in your mind and you have to exercise that same muscle, just a different part of it.
In the preview where Dr. Dani says, ‘TK, at this point in your career, it’s mostly a mental thing. ’I’m curious if you find yourself also thinking out about being an actor. Are there challenges that come to you that are not about being able to do a sports team, not about being physical, but it’s more of a mental challenge?
MEHCAD:  Well, you know what? If you choose to be an actor the entire thing is 80%  mental.  It’s because the hardest part about being an actor is when you’re not working. You fail and you fail a lot. There’s a statistic that says, maybe you broke 1 out of 18 auditions — and I don’t even think that’s true.  It’s just that, if you take that to heart — if you take that temporary failure to heart — then you’re going to believe that this is something you can’t do. But the fact of the matter is if you fail — and like I said before, I think failing is only temporary.  Because if you choose to win, you’re going to win — no matter what. If you don’t take that failure to heart, it’s mind over body. It’s mind over situation and the fact that you say, ‘You know what? All I have to do is choose to get better. All I have to do is choose to get undeniably good, and they can’t continue not to hire me.’ That’s a lesson that you have to learn on your own time.  But it’s a lesson that you have to learn as an actor, period. You can’t just step into a room and say, ‘I’m great.’ knowing you’re probably not. Probably not yet.  But you could be — you could be.  It’s all mental.
Craig Shapiro said you were perfect from the minute you walked in the room and he knew you were going to be the star of the show, so there you go.
MEHCAD: Craig is a flatterer.  But I appreciate that. It means a lot and I’ll take it to heart. Thank you.
With hard-earned accolades for his work and having a ball portraying a hot-headed football superstar, Mehcad invites you to tune in Wednesday nights for NECESSARY ROUGHNESS at 10PM on USA Network. Missed an episode, catch up on what you missed at

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