The first season of USA Network’s drama series NECESSARY ROUGHNESS ended with a bang – a literally bang, as a shot rang out. During a recent interview with press from the set, star Mehcad Brooks provided his insight on what his character T.K., a pro football wide receiver, will be going through this next season as he recovers from the near fatal gunshot and what he did to mentally and physically prepare for the role.
Did you do any research into PTSD?
MEHCAD: Yes, I did. I did a lot actually. I got a couple friends who’ve come back from Afghanistan and Iraq with some issues. One guy was actually blown up by a grenade and we knew each other for 17 years; and one of my best friends, he’s like a brother to me and we work together, I got him a job on MY GENERATION as our military coordinator, and he’s just a great guy, just a fantastic guy, and 13 surgeries later (to make a long story short), he’s walking, he’s running, he’s back as part of the population physically. So I’ve seen it firsthand, and I’ve been able to talk to him about it and he’s been strong enough to open up to me about it. I want to portray it as serious as possible and as accurately as possible because it’s a under-discussed subject and it’s something that 2 million Americans are going to have to deal with actively themselves –not to mention the toll it’s going to take on families and friends and so on — relationships and jobs and so on and so forth. The thing is, I think no one really wants to see soldiers going through it because we have this sort of war-fatigue and we have this insulation, we haven’t even paid for the war, taxes. Like we’re completely insulated from it and I think when it’s coming from an athlete or a football player, somebody that we see every day and that we allow into our home every day, it’s different. So I hope that maybe I’ll have athletes who come up to me and say, “Hey, what you did was real, it was realistic.” And I hope that one of these days I’ll have a soldier come up to me and say, “I went through that. My family went through that. Thank you for taking it seriously because it really affected us.” So it’s not something that I make light of. Not that part of it. . . That’s one part of T.K. that I can’t laugh at. This one, I’ve seen it first hand and I’ve been there for guys who have gone through it and I went through it in some ways, in my life. You don’t have to go to war to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I lost a family member, I lost my brother when I was 19 and he was 17. You react in the way that you do. You just react in the way that you do, and there’s no wrong answer for it; there’s no right answer for it. But there’s ways of healing holistically that I think that we can as a nation, that we can embrace our sons and daughters that way, and and have them know that they’re welcome to come back. That’s what they need, they just need love, and understanding and patience. So I hope that we can touch on it a little bit.
Is your character going to face his PTSD head on or fight longer with it in the background?
MEHCAD: Well, it’s real PTSD. You don’t know you have it. So you deny. You go through withdrawal of what the situation was. You have nightmares about it. You start to beat yourself up. You become a hermit. There’s all types of different things that happen. This is sort of several different stages and there’s a lot of debate on it, clinically, what those stages are. But a lot of it has to do with manic depression and bipolar and all these things that start to open up in your brain. So yeah, he goes through the same stages that most people would if they come to this near death experience and they come to terms with their own mortality, which we don’t on a day-to-day basis. Thank God.
Where will T.K. be mentally when the shooter comes back into his life?
MEHCAD: Where the hell is T.K. mentally anyway? [Laughs] When the shooter does come back? We haven’t actually discussed where T.K.’s going to be mentally at that point in time, so I can’t answer that question right now. I know that in real situations that could either cause a relapse or either cause a breakthrough, and since we got 16 episodes to do, I hope it causes a relapse.
Will the show delve into T.K.’s past and will we see some of his family members while he goes through this?
MEHCAD: We do go back to his old neighborhood. He doesn’t really know his family. He was a foster kid at nine years old. He’s an only child. His mom’s passed on, and his father he doesn’t know so, the closest thing to family that he has [is his old neighborhood]. I think it’s episode like 203 to 204 or something like that, but it’s great. He goes back to his old neighborhood and hides out for a couple episodes and gets into some shenanigans, some funny stuff and some not so funny stuff, actually. It’s weird because after almost losing his life, he kind of doesn’t know where he belongs, professionally. It’s almost as if, “Wow, maybe I just catch a ball for a living. Is that important? I don’t know.” He starts to question everything, and it’s, “Maybe I just want to go home and just be around people who love me for being Terry King, not the King.” But he kind of doesn’t fit into either world and doesn’t really know where to go. So he goes through that for a little while, as well, and that’s when you kind of meet the people who are in his past.
Do you base the T.K. antics on anybody in particular, or was that informed solely by the script?
MEHCAD: It’s actually based on Keyshawn Johnson — who I don’t know from a can of paint. So I based it on other guys that I know in the league, T.O. (Terrell Owens) not being one of them ‘cause I didn’t know T.O. all that well before we started working together. And I based it on my dad who was a wide receiver in the 70’s and 80’s when cocaine was a performance-enhancing drug and it was okay. Those were wild times and different times in the NFL and I got to see some of it first-hand as a kid and I also based some of it on myself in my young 20’s. Like: what if I had 85 million dollars and I was that stupid? So it’s kind of, in some ways, it’s like I come into work and just being a dick and getting away with it. But I’m actually kind of nice in person I think at least to myself.
Where do you get your inspiration from for this role?
MEHCAD: It started off, like I said, with my dad — my biological father. I started off with him, and then it kind of had to take its own life on after that only gives you so much information and so much to start with. But it was rooted in that and then kind of sprouted its own life from there. So where do I get my inspiration? What Kanye West actually is – that is somebody that I looked to. I mean, I admire Kanye West, period, because I think that he’s brilliant. His brilliance can’t be denied, for one. But I think he’s been brilliant in business in the fact that he puts up a public persona for everybody to attack while he’s just kind of under the radar living his life the way he wants to while you’re attacking his persona. So you have no clue who this guy is, which I think is amazing. I think it’s really, really smart. I mean, you may not like it, but you got to kind of respect how smart that is. Like you never are actually criticizing Kanye West. You’re criticizing the persona he’s allowing you too. And I thought that was brilliant and I thought that T.K. who’s probably not as smart as Kanye West, is trying to do something like that, but he’s failing. So he’s just kind of an a-hole.
Did you have difficulty keeping the name change for T.K. to K.T. straight this year?
MEHCAD: No, yeah, of course. I was actually the one keeping the K.T. going and the show was like, “Forget it.” I was like, “What you mean?” I’m like, “I like it.” So we don’t keep it for the whole season, but it was kind of strange. At first I was like, “K.T.?” I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” Then I got this new blinged-out chain that says T.K., and I was like, “This is the wrong chain. You’ll ordered this chain like a month before I changed my name.” But props didn’t give a (bleep) about it. They’re like, “So, yeah?” So anyway we don’t keep it the whole time.
How do you get into that mindset of being so arrogant for the character?
MEHCAD: I like to pretend that I’m arrogant. I don’t think I am really. How do you get into that mindset? What it is, it’s actually T.K. and I are really different. Like he’s not even a dude I would hang out with, to tell you the truth. But I’ve known guys like that and it’s just about really taking five minutes to believe your hype and if you thought you were God’s gift to insert noun, then that’s how you act. There’s no boundaries. You’re put on a pedestal by society, so that means you’re above the societal-mirror, which means you can’t even really look at yourself in a realistic light. I know people who are this famous and they read the tabloids and they obsess about what people are saying about them and I’m just like, “God that is tough. That’s got to be really, really tough.” So you just have to accept them and go there and act like — it’s weird — it’s just taking my personality, a piece of it, and injecting it with anabolic steroids. But not literally.
Executive producer Kevin Dowling mentioned when you came back for this season you were in better shape than you were in the first season. Did you do something different with your training in your time off between seasons?
MEHCAD: Yeah, well last season was kind of unfair to me because I couldn’t work out ‘cause I got in a really bad car accident. So I did the best that I could. But I was on a lot of medication, so there wasn’t a lot I could do. I couldn’t even work out. So this year, about two months out, I worked out with some pro guys and some guys who train Olympiads. So I just took it really seriously and because now I have the physical opportunity to do so, I’m not playing around.
Can you talk about actually playing the football scenes? How did you prepare for that and how did you feel about those scenes?
MEHCAD: Well, I pulled my hamstring in the pilot which means I was like, “Man, I am such an actor! This is crazy. Like I’m, I’m just Hollywood as hell.” So there I was sitting on the sidelines rubbing my leg. Like I couldn’t even do all the stuff that I wanted to do. So when I came back and then I got in the car accident, which was bad, I couldn’t really do a lot. So this year when I came back I was like, “I’m going to do all my stuff. I’m going to make my stunt doubles look bad.” And I’ve done my best. Like I said, I kind of had my training camp in L.A. and then every chance I get, I go up to some surrounding states and work out with some pro bowlers. And I know what I’m doing now and it’s fun. It’s really fun. Sometimes they take the stunt double out and put me in, except when I get hit. I mean I am not doing that. [Laughs]
As you’re getting to know your character do you find yourself learning from him?
MEHCAD: Yeah. I mean we’re all learning about ourselves. I mean if you can surprise yourself, you don’t really know yourself, and we can all surprise ourselves, I would imagine. So it is intriguing having a relationship with this guy because I love him, and I hate him, and I judge him. It’s not all fun and games because he’s gone through a lot and you do your best not to take that home with you. But it is what it is, sometimes you do.
Did your role on TRUE BLOOD help you get prepared for some of the darker things that T.K. has to deal with?
MEHCAD: Yeah. Simply put, yes. But every role is kind of like a training ground and it’s sort of a learning lesson for the next one. You’re trying to become better constantly, so yeah. There was a lot of moments and situations that are applicable to this one. What I learned that I can apply here mostly is how do you prep for that. How do you prep to be in that sort of darkness or how do you prep to be in it and not let it affect your personal life. So on and so forth – and really be true to it. So yeah, every role informs the next one. I would hope.
How is it for you to portray such a serious arc after normally playing such an upbeat character from last season?
MEHCAD: Challenging. But it’s that’s what I got into this business for is to be challenged. I love this job because it’s varied in that way. That’s what I love about T.K., one minute you can have him in a scene where he’s on the verge of tears and like not knowing what’s going on in his life and then really sort of losing grip of who he is., and then the next moment he’s having a Twitter-war, like he’s a 12 year old. And that’s fun to play, but sometimes when you’re shooting both scenes in the same day it’s, “Can you put that one first, please?” So it’s interesting, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to be challenged.
Are we going to see more fun stuff with Terrance and Dr. Dani’s kids?
MEHCAD: I hope so. I really enjoy working with [Hannah and Patrick]. I think they’re so talented. They’re really talented, hard working kids — and I shouldn’t even call them kids, they’re adults — so I have a lot of respect for them.
Do you have more scenes with Terrell Owens’ character this year? Does that relationship get ramped up?
MEHCAD: It sort of did, yes. It gets ramped up a lot and then what happens is, it sort of gets rectified all in the same swoop. So it’s kind of nice. He becomes likable all of a sudden. I think it’s good for T.O. I mean that in an actually nice way, because he’s a nice guy. But his public persona is what it is, but if you meet him, he’s actually a very misunderstood. I think he’s very shy, and what happens is he comes off in a protective way and it’s unbefitting of his personality because he’s actually a really nice guy, believe it or not.
For T.O.’s returning role, is he going to act more like a catalyst of change to get T.K. back on track or just dance on his grave?
MEHCAD: That’s a good question. He does a little bit of both actually. I don’t want to get too much into it, but the Twitter-war will obviously be with the character he plays. and there’s some really awful things, at least in T.K.’s world, said about him. And T.K., like a grown man, goes to handle it and shenanigans ensue.
Scott Cohen mentioned that the relationship between Nico and T.K. is going to evolve into something like a father-figure role this next season.
MEHCAD: Yeah, I call it “Teko” – T.K. and Nico. I think it’s cool because its like T.K. finally has a maternal figure in his life and he’s never had that. He does need a positive male figure in his life, and Nico is the only guy with the patience and probably the training to handle someone’s attitude as large as T.K.’s. So I mean the guy doesn’t listen to anybody but Nico really, so there you go.
To see where the tough recovery journey of T.K. takes him, be sure to tune in for the 2nd season premiere of NECESSARY ROUGHNESS on Wednesday, June 6th at 10PM on USA Network.