On USA Network’s hit series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS following the travails of a sports therapist Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) and the out-of-control celebrities she wrangles. During a recent press call, Orlando Jones shared what it was like to play a celebrity life-coach for the show’s resident hothead Terrence King (Mehcad Brooks) and whether he hopes to be a recurring character on the show.
What type of research did you do for the character Laz and to get into the head of a life-coach?
ORLANDO: It’s funny you should ask that. I actually dated a girl many moons ago whose best friend was a life coach and I actually called her. . . I just kind of wanted to understand what the training background was for being a life coach with like a weekend seminar type thing and what it was. And also to know what kind of credentials they had and what most of her clients had been. So that was sort of my first call. And my second call was to a couple of my buddies who were professional athletes. I just wanted to see what their therapy life was like for a lot of the problems they go through adjustment to family or things going on with the team and so on and so forth. So that kind of was the gist to the research, but I got wildly different answers from the professional side.
Can you talk about working opposite Mehcad Brooks and what that was like?
ORLANDO: Mehcad is awesome. I think we are convinced that we were separated at birth. Obviously, he got more of the hormones than I did. So he’s a little bigger than me, which is usually unusual because actors are often like midgets. So it was kind of funny that the onset was I’m 6’1″ and I think he is like 6′ 2″ or 6′ 3″. Mehcad Brooks is I think wildly talented and a really fantastic actor but most importantly to me, I just think his ethic about working and sort of wanting to do everything he can to have all the elements there when you’re doing the scene are really incredible. I love the guy. I really look forward to working with him again.
Since you grew up around professional sports, what was your first impression of your character?
ORLANDO: It actually feels like a lot of times assistant coaches fulfill that role because they’re the ones often that meet the family and sort of know the dynamic of the player before the player comes in to the system. So it’s interesting how much of that and how much the guys who do what Laz does and what their perspective is. Because they all have this sort of very plenty perspective, which is ‘I’m going to go out there and hustle and I’m going to make you some money. And I’m going to make you do the right advice,’ and so on and so forth. But it’s really like, ‘You know, as long as you can put money in my pocket, I’m willing to help you. And if you can’t, I’m not.’ But they don’t see it like they’re being sort of bloodsuckers. They really see it more like somebody who’s going to fulfill this role no matter what and they are sort of doing you a service by virtue of the fact that they put a lot of money in your pocket in the process. So it’s interesting to me that professional sports has this on in its face, but it’s rarely talked about. So it was kind of exciting to me that somebody was delving into that area and talking about sort of what happens sort of off the field as work. So I think that’s most of it.
Do you have an impression as to whether Laz is more like a wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings, like he’s a puppet-master, or if he’s more like a celebrity-whisperer, somebody who kind of manipulates them a little bit?
ORLANDO: Honestly, I would say maybe a mixture of both. I don’t think that he’s much of a puppet-master because I think that Mehcad’s character — he’s already ‘behaving badly.’ He’s already the $100 million superstar of the team and that amount of money often goes to a kid who’s less than 23, 24 years old. So you’re going to expect them to behave the way they behave. So I don’t know that he’s doing that as much as he is indulging the behavior, but he’s taking a different approach. I think the best example I can give is I look at the character like this; obviously, drug use is prevalent both in professional sports and not in professional sports. I once have heard somebody say to a kid who had problems smoking weed, ‘Listen, if you’re going to do it, do it at home. Don’t go out in the street.’ And I turned around and was like, ‘Whose parents are these? This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.’ But the attitude was ‘I’d rather you do it in a controlled environment wherein I can help you if something happens or you won’t get arrested by the police, than you go do it out in the open where anybody can see you.’ And I think that’s Laz’s attitude, ‘If you’re going to behave badly, I want to show you how to behave badly in such a way that can both make us money, but also keep you a little bit out of trouble.’ So I think it’s a little self-serving and I think it’s just a skewed perspective on what his behavior is already going to be.
You are currently doing a two-episode arc, would you relish the opportunity to be a reoccurring arch-nemesis of Dr. Dani and/or Nico?
ORLANDO: Yes, I mean, I love the show. I think it could be a lot of fun to see where that goes. I mean, I think it really changes the dynamic because Dr. Dani’s approach is so clinical, it’s factual, it’s based on something. So I think anything that gives her something to play off of – and as wonderful as Callie is, I think it is great. So that comes about and it would be amazing. Had a great time in the show and it’d be fun to go back.
Is your role kind of adversarial or do you think Laz works more with Dr. Dani’s method of doing therapy?
ORLANDO: It could, frankly, it could go either way. I think the relationship, no matter what, it’s going to have some adversarial element because Laz sees the world so much differently than she does. And she’s a mom and Laz is more interacting with the players on sort of a day-to-day basis. So I think he’s going to be a pain in Nico’s butt to a certain degree. And I think the decisions and the ways that he would approach doing things are so different than Dani. I think she was absolutely questioned: is that the right move and do you want to go with that decision before you do I’?’ Whereas, I think Laz will just jump in and say, ‘Let’s just see where the chips fall.” And it think those two different approaches are always going to create some adversarial relationships.
Do you think Laz’s motivations are more altruistic, like he wants to help people or if he’s just in it for the money — more self-serving?
ORLANDO: I see it very much as both. In the research part of it, I sort of spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the middle ground is and I think Laz is genuine with the fact that he really does think he’s helping and that he is grooming T.K. So I think he’s genuine, but I do think he’s also trying altruistic at the same time. So I look at him like he’s a creature who has these massive audiences and they all love him and they believe him and then he helps his people, but he’s a creature who doesn’t believe in God. So that’s how I see it.
Could you talk a bit about how as an actor you to approach this guest role where you only have two episodes really to create a character versus a series regular character?
ORLANDO: To some degree, the approach is the same and to some degree the approach is different. Most of my career has been in the movie business where you’re going to live with whomever it is for three, four months or longer. A lot of the groundwork I think ends up being done by sort of the writers and you ultimately look at the arc of the episode and try, at least from my perspective, to view the character with as much nuance as you possibly can. And I think in some of the questions I’ve been asked already, that’s really been the challenge. I mean, it’s really easy to play Laz to me as this really sort of sleazy guy who just sort of comes in and takes advantage of T.K. I kind of feel like that’s kind of straight up the middle and on the nose and you should have seen it coming. So what I wanted to kind of get my head around when approaching something is: what’s the reality of it and what’s the best side of the worst guy? So often, when you’re doing something where you have a role, this guy is a lovely person. He’s welcoming. Well, what is he trying to hide? What’s his secret? So, I mean, ultimately I think we’re kind of binary people and there’s two of us living inside all the time that get into [conflict]. So I think the tough part is trying to manage that and then try and find the moment in the scenes that you have in order to give the character some life and some interest and nuance. So that’s generally the approach and it’s difficult primarily because it’s relegated by screen time so you try and deal with it as best you possibly can and look at each scenes and not what the objective is that’s happening in the story, but then how you can make the objective of the story a little bit more interesting than it’s going to be than if you just hit it on the nose.
Is there anything you were surprised to learn about yourself from this character? You’re playing a life coach, so did you walk away with any new life lessons?
ORLANDO: I don’t know that I have time to do that. I definitely have previously not been the biggest impression of the life coaches. I always thought of it sort of like, ‘Seriously, that’s really what you do?’ So I think I definitely gained a little bit more respect for that profession because I think that they really are trying to help people so it’s kind of positive look on people who are devoting their lives to try do better for themselves and do better for others. So that I think I gained a little bit more respect for the profession and that for me, that was because it was something I previously just made fun of.
Obviously Laz spends a lot of time with T.K., but is there a particular character on the show that you would have liked to have shared a few more scenes with?
ORLANDO: Yes. Callie and I have known each other for a while from New York, so I would have loved to interact with her more, as well as Marc Blucas’ character. I like the show very much and the characters on the show. And I certainly was working more with T.K. and Nico and Callie and I a little bit of running into each other, but for the most part, our interaction is through T.K. Out of love who have gotten through the differences in our philosophies and the differences in our approaches to working with athletes, that would have been interesting. I would love to do that.
What can you tell us about your character?
ORLANDO: Well, I definitely can’t give anything away. But let’s see. Let me think. I think he’s a bit of a dresser, I can tell you that. And I’m almost sure that he’s a Corey Hart fan. . . But, mostly, I think I’ve been dancing around the edges. So I think I’ve given you as much as I can give you without sort of blowing the episodes.
How is it working with the cast? Were they very welcoming? Are they a fun group to work with?
ORLANDO: I honestly, I have to settle a lot of guest star stuff and when you do it, you’ll never know what environment you’re walking into. This one is particularly welcoming, inviting. The cast is really, really lovely. And I don’t say that in a sort of the difficult sort of be as an actor kind of way. I mean lovely in the sense that might – you get a call after work like, ‘Hey, we’re going here. Let’s go hang out.’ . . . It’s a lot more like there’s a real family and a real sort of community happening on this show which I think as you’re seeing on screen, it’s really wonderful and it’s really special. It is not the way it generally is. . . It’s really like a theater environment and I think that part of the reason the show is so wonderful is they’re so giving and open and respectful of each other. So it’s really something special going on there.
Did you find there was instant chemistry when you started working with the cast? Or did you need a bit of time to find your footing?
ORLANDO: Well, fortunately I was in good company. Callie and I already knew each other and Marc Blucas and I already knew each other. So really the people I was mostly meeting was Mehcad and Scott. So Mehcad and I sort of immediately hit it off and Scott and I had the same experience. So it was pretty seamless. What I can say is that normally what you’re describing is what happens, you kind of show up and there’s already different kind of groups going on. But because they’re such a close-knit group already I think I kind of was pre-vetted because I already knew two of them so I kind of walked in and was like, ‘Hey, everybody. We know each other from dah, dah, dah.’ We kind of hit the ground running and really had a great time together. So I managed to jump over that hurdle this time and I think it will show up on the screen in fact. So I’m excited about that.
Athletes and actors have a lot in common I think personality wise, when you’re doing a role like this, does that make it a little easier that you’re able to kind of get a little bit in the head of T.K. and sort of know where he’s coming from?
ORLANDO: Well, I think it does to some degree. I think the trick of it is it depends on how sober they are. So I think there’s some symbolic outrageous behaviors that you hear about. I mean, there’s the great story out that Plaxico Burress shot himself, right? And then it’s all over the news that Plaxico Burress shot himself. And so what I thought was interesting about, at least the parts of that story that I heard, is that one of his teammates had go on an anniversary trip with his wife and the limo driver had held them at gun point and that it just happened a week before. So Plaxico Burress having heard that from his close friends, his teammates, was like, ‘You got robbed by a limo driver? Forget that. I’m now taking a gun.’ So he takes a gun out with him and he ends up shooting himself. So the story that we heard was the story that’s looking in some NFL player who shot himself, what an idiot. But from his perspective, it was, ‘Well, wait a second, people are getting robbed in my profession left and right, so I should carry a firearm to protect myself.’ So I think that’s what’s interesting about being able to do this kind of role and this kind of show and I think that’s what great about this show is you get to delve into the underside of what happens the day before in that guy’s life that led to the tragedy and that becomes to me more interesting than just hearing the sound bites in the tabloid story as opposed to actually hearing, for lack of a better word, what would be the ‘real story.’ So I don’t know if it’s easier because the real story generally has a lot more to do with what your hopes and your fears are and what’s going on in your head. So it doesn’t allow you to get that far ahead of this because you’re kind of delving into the truth as opposed to, ‘Oh, it is one that shot himself’ and everybody heard that.
It looks like Laz is not a welcome addition to the T.K. support team. Can you talk about the conflicts that ensue?
ORLANDO: Definitely not particularly a welcome addition, but I think primarily because he’s unknown. And I think there’s always a question when somebody says they’re a life coach, well where did you study? And where does your credentials come from? So a lot of the conflicts that ensue have to do with the fact that he is a complete and total unknown. So I would say he’s a lot more like the guy who shows up the door that you’ve never heard of before who now all of a sudden is chummy with the boss and having a impact on the outcome of your life, but you don’t like know where this person comes from. So, without giving anything away, that’s the first part of the conflict and it certainly begins to evolve from there.
Do you think Dr. Dani is skeptical about Laz being involved with T.K. in a maternal type way? Is she worried that he has some ulterior motives? Has she become that protective of T.K. or why do you think she’s so skeptical of their relationship?
ORLANDO: I think it’s three-fold. I think it is a little bit maternal because she spent some time with T.K. and I think the other is, again, what his credentials where — what is his previous experience and who are his clients and that sort of thing. And I think lastly, it’s just a little bit out of nowhere to be working with someone. I think it’s a little weird when you’re working with somebody and all of a sudden somebody else shows up and you’re no longer working with them. That’s always a little bit of like, ‘Okay, hold on. What happened? You’re doing what?’ So I think all of those things kind of come together that kind of throw her for a loop. But it’s T.K.’s decision. So she kind of has to respect that. So again we definitely interact on the show, but our interaction is sort of bordered by T.K.’s decision. And I think those are the reasons that she’s sort of uncomfortable with it.
Does Laz interact with some of the other characters, such as Matt or Nico? Are they as untrusting of Laz as Dr. Dani is or do they understand a little more about why T.K. would want a life coach?
ORLANDO: Well, I think obviously Dani has a great relationship with Nico and the staff there. So I think that in the world of professional athletes it’s like, if they have identified the person that they want you to help and then the player goes out and gets someone on their own, I think it’s sort of the same reaction, which is: who is this person? And I think their first phone call is more than likely asking her what does that mean. It puts her in an awkward position because she can’t be responsible for me, she doesn’t know me. So I think that he’s disruptive to everything surrounding T.K. the moment he shows up.
Were you excited to jump on that bandwagon and get on one of the most popular cable network? And do you hope that this will lead to a recurring role in future seasons?
ORLANDO: Yes. I mean, it could. I mean, I think it could be really great. And I think your assessment is true on a lot of levels. I mean, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening on cable from BREAKING BAD to JUSTIFIED, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS to BURN NOTICE and the like. So I think USA Network is incredible. You know, I love the network. It’s something that I watch a lot. And I do think there’s some interesting things on [other] networks as well, don’t get me wrong. But I do think that what’s changed a lot is there isn’t a lot of interesting character stuff going on. And I think that’s unfortunately mostly true on the film side. I think that’s really where this cookie cutter is now. So I would say the real actors’ ground which is the theater which is where I’ve been the last couple of years just because it’s amazing to do eight shows a week. I’ve been looking for the right thing on cable to be honest with you for a while. But it’s about finding really what the right thing is. And it’s a tough find for me because there are some things that I think would be great to do for a couple of months. But seven years is just a long stretch sometimes. I also think that it has a lot to do with the writers that you’re going to work with, the executive producer that you’re going to work with. I had a great time when I went and did HOUSE last year. It was a lot of fun. It was a fun role and the whole nine. But again, that role is something that people are like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be recurring.’ And I was like, ‘Man, it was really great to be on this show and I loved it and it’d be nice to go back and visit but I can’t see myself doing that every week.’ This is something that’s a lot more fun. NECESSARY ROUGHNESS is more my kind of show. Not that I don’t love HOUSE but this is more in the real given how much time my family spends in professional sports. So if it’s so, it feels more like home to me. So I have to agree with you, I think the most interesting stuff in entertainment right now is happening on cable irrespective of the venue. More and more money is being spent on the future but I can’t say it’s more entertaining to watch.
Why do you think people tune in to watch Necessary Roughness?
ORLANDO: I think the show is extremely well written. I think it has, in my opinion, one of the more underrated casts on television. I think that people are sort of prone to words thrown around about ‘this person is amazing’ or ‘that person is amazing’ and so on and so forth. And I think they are sometimes true. I think that sometimes that actor has a great pedigree and people like saying good things about them. I think this cast is just really good, phenomenal work. And I think they’re doing it on a subject matter that we previously haven’t seen before which to me just grants them greater kudos. It’s just a show I think that’s compelling and people to want to see. It also humanizes a lot of the people that people think are wildly successful – who have done well for themselves financially or who reign the spotlight. I think what this does is sort of illuminates that, irrespective of what’s happening in your life or what the outcome will be. There are still formidable problems that of course we have to overcome. So that’s what this show is showing me. But I think also I think that the cast — they’re bringing some truth to that. . . I think, for me anyway, that’s reason enough to tune in because sometimes I just I kind of go, ‘Okay, that’s so ridiculous. I just don’t buy it.’ But, on this show, I really don’t need to — the people are going through what they’re going through and I enjoy it very much.
To see Orlando Jones in action as T.K.’s new, unorthodox life-coach and what if any sparks fly out of his new approach on managing T.K.’s volatile public-image, tune in for NECESSARY ROUGHNESS tonight at 9PM on USA Network. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).