Interview: Mehcad Brooks Has a Thing For Rachel Maddow. Seriously. He's Her #1 Fan.
Mehcad Brooks as Terrence "TK" King
A character named "Eggs" hardly seems the sort to turn an actor into an overnight sex symbol. But that's exactly what happened to Mehcad Brooks when he landed the role of Benedict "Eggs" Talley on the second season of HBO's True Blood.
To be fair to Brooks, he wasn't exactly unknown before True Blood, either as an actor or a sex symbol. After all, he'd already been a fashion model, including working as an underwear model for Calvin Klein. Fans of Desperate Housewives knew him for a season as Matthew Applewhite, and he also had a role on the series The Game, as well as a part in the movie The Valley of Elah.
But few would disagree that it was the role of poor Eggs, caught up in the supernatural clutches of Maryann Forrester on True Blood, that put Brooks on a whole other level. The actor was only supposed to be on the show for three episodes, but TB creator Alan Ball knew a good thing when he saw it, and signed up Brooks for thirteen episodes.
Brooks as Eggs on True Blood
If you feel bad for Brooks over the untimely end met by Eggs, don't. The actor was actually pleased with how that turned out. And don't feel bad for him over the abrupt cancellation of his next series, My Generation, which only aired two episodes. He doesn't feel bad for himself because, well, he's just that kind of guy and he thinks all of this has led him to exactly where he should be right now -- playing NFL star Terrence "T.K." King on USA Network's Necessary Roughness.
AfterElton.com caught up with with Brooks in the bar at the Beverly Hills Hilton where the smartly dressed actor opened up about all sorts of topics including the ups and downs of Hollywood, being a sex symbol, as well as his obsession with ... Rachel Maddow, which he was discussing before I'd even turned on my recorder. Rachel, if you're reading this by chance, Brooks would really like to come on your show to talk politics.
AfterElton: So I take it you’re a Rachel Maddow fan?
Mehcad Brooks: I’m a huge fan. There’s not a bigger Rachel Maddow fan. I’m a Maddowphile. [laughs]I’m a definite Maddowphile.
AE: Why is that?
MB: Cause I think that she is probably the most assertive, politically motivated and accurate voice of my generation.
AE: Wow. High praise.
MB: By far. She’s a national treasure. I think that we need honest voices like that and we need journalism like that. My mother’s a journalist, so I have a high respect for the craft. So I applaud when there are so many opinionated men on television... because there are 24-hour news sites... are really just made for news events. They aren’t made for politics. Somebody’s kid fell in the well. Who cares? I mean, of course we care but really who cares. Really we’re supposed to care but you know what I mean, right?. [laughs]
She really digs in there and she does real investigating reporting, even if it’s not going to get her ratings. And I think we have to support and foster that sort of environment and I really respect her.
AE: Let's start with True Blood. At what point did you realize Eggs was becoming a big deal and was such a fan favorite?
MB: You know what? [laughs] I get embarrassed about that stuff pretty
easily, so I have to get over it sooner or later. But the thing is
literally women sometimes chase me down the street. [laughs] And little
frenzies of 14-year old girls going “Oh my god!” I’m looking behind me
like “What’s going on? Is Justin Timberlake here?”
That’s been an interesting thing to watch, but ... having had to struggle for so long
and worked so long for what I have achieved, it’s not that I buy that. I
don’t buy that. That’s not me. Its Eggs. I really appreciate that I
touched you, and I understand that you love what I did, but you might hate
my next role. [laughs] You might think I suck the next time, so that’s
not for me to own.
AE: When girls started chasing you down the street was that when you were like…
MB: I knew there was a shift. Definitely a shift when women came up to me and said “Please bite me.”
MB: And after I bit them…
MB: We had coffee…
AE: Did you know when you signed up what Egg’s arc was going to be?
MB: I went in and auditioned for Alan Ball for a guest-starring role for
a three-episode arc. I had just finished a film called Fencewalker and it
was my first lead role, and I really wanted to continue in films. [But] Alan
Ball, huge fan. HBO, huge fan.
I went in and there was a guitar scene that they had, so I brought in
one of my guitars, my favorite one, a blue one that was actually the one on
air and her name is Simone. At the time, I had two guitars. One was Nina
and one was Simone. [laughs]
I brought Simone in and I played a little guitar and did the scene, and
we kind of went from there. As soon as I got to my car,, I got a phone
call from my agent and my manager, which was strange, and they said
“They’d like you to join the cast.” I was like “Oh. so I got the role.”
And they were like “No, no, no. They said forget the three episode
thing. They want you to join the cast” and it was great.
I had a really
creative call with Alan Ball and we talked and he said, “Listen, this
guy doesn’t really exist much in the books so we got to just play it by
ear and go from there. It will probably be a one-season commitment. It’s
going to be a lot of fun and something you can really sink your teeth
into. Excuse the pun.
AE: Now what did you think when you got that script when it revealed Eggs’ fate?
MB: I knew a few episodes before, so I knew like a month before. The
original creative call with Alan, he said it was “most likely a one
season character.” That was fine with me because if I stayed on True Blood, yes, it’s a huge success but then I’m just kind of somebody’s boyfriend.
AE: Fair enough.
MB: I didn’t argue. I didn’t want to plead my case to Alan. I was like
you know what “Thank you for the opportunity I appreciate it. I came
here for three episodes and I did 13. That’s fantastic.
AE: It was a great stepping-stone for you.
MB: Yeah, that’s a victory. A huge victory and from that I did a few
shows and now I have [Necessary Roughness] and I’m not somebody’s boyfriend. I’m not
the eye candy.
AE: Speaking of eye candy, thanks to your days in fashion, and being a
Calvin Klein model, and, of course, Eggs, you’ve got quite a gay
following. Are you aware of that gay fan base?
MB: I was made aware of it about a year ago actually and I appreciate it.
AE: And how were you made aware of it?
MB: A gay reporter told me.
AE: Oh really.
MB: He said, “You realize you have a huge gay following?” I’m
aware of it now. I grew up with a gay uncle who I was very close to and
my parents are very liberal and there was a time where … I think every
young person questions what their sexuality is. And I did the same
thing. I had questions in my head and I realized that I was straight and
I thought "Well, why is that any different for anybody else?" If I woke up one day and realized that I like women, why is that
different than a woman who wakes up and realizes she likes women or a
guy who wakes up and realizes he likes men?
I’m a human rights activist
and it doesn’t make any sense not to treat everybody the exact same way.
It just doesn’t make any sense, it’s counter intuitive, it’s inhuman and
it has to stop.
AE: That's great. Now you have a show to talk about so let’s talk about TK on Necessary Roughness. He's kind of got attitude.
MB: TK, he’s an interesting guy. He and I are probably the antithesis of each other.
AE: I can tell that already. [laughs]
MB: [laughs] In some ways. We have a similarity in common, the fact that we’re both big kids. But I’m child-like. I have not lost my child-like zebras and he’s childish, and there is a difference, you know? He hasn’t gained character or perspective of life that I think that I’ve been lucky enough to have gained.
When TK first meets Dr. Dani Santino she’s the first person in his life that challenges him. The first person in his life that says “no” in a long time. The first person that makes him look at why he is who he is and why he’s acting the way he is. And that’s a difficult place for anybody to be in if they’re not used to hearing the word "no" or not used to losing, or not used to not getting their way.
AE: Do you think TK has avoided this for so long because he gets treated so special for being a gifted athlete? Sort of what way we often do with actors?
MB: The thing that I think it is... athletes and actors very true. I think anyone we sort of put on a pedestal in society, we have a dangerous dichotomy to that due to the fact that you can’t put someone on a pedestal and then tear them down while they are on that pedestal. It doesn’t work that way. For instance, no one can see who they are if they are above the mirror. Right? Because the societal mirror is on the ground and we’ve lifted them up above it, then how can you blame someone for their actions, you know?
That’s the interesting thing about TK is that I can’t judge him. It’s not my job to judge him. I’m playing him and I can’t judge him. I can’t take the things that I like about him and accentuate them because that’s not fair. I can’t take the things that I don’t like about him and try to play those down because that’s not fair either.
I have to make him come off like who he is, without judgment. And so in doing that I almost see his side of it. I see that okay you have a lot of growth because you haven’t been looking in the mirror for a very long time but perhaps it’s not particularly all your fault. I know some guys like this and I think you could use a Dr. Dani in their life. [laughs]
AE: Since we’ve mentioned athletes and actors and how they sometimes get that special treatment, you’ve had quite a run the past couple of years.
MB: Thank you.
Actors Chace Crawford, Ryan Phillippe, Kellan Lutz and Mehcad Brooks
attend the Calvin Klein Men's Collection
Fall 2010 Fashion Show during
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
AE: In talking with you it seems clear that despite your success, you’ve avoided having a big ego. How have you avoided that?
MB: For me it’s very easy. Actors have a different kind of existence because they blow up over night into superstars in their early 20s. Let’s say you were a superstar in your early 20s and somebody gave you millions of dollars, I mean come on. Let’s be honest here, we don’t know anything in our 20s.
MB: And actors make a bunch of money and they are superstars and then all of a sudden they are 35 and they are an old man and then you never hear from them again. So they basically live like a king for a decade and then they are done. And as an actor you do have a lot of overnight success stories [and] a lot of times those overnight success stories are the ones that believe the hype, you know? Who are wrecking their vehicles at 4 o’clock in the morning with drugs in their car and just acting out in ways that most of us don’t understand, including me.
But my road, and I think that a lot of other actor’s roads, I think are such that you work really hard while we’re young, so we can have this longevity later in life. So it hasn’t been an easy road for me. And there is no way I can believe the hype because I remember when I was worried about “Where’s my next meal going to come from and where’s my next month’s rent coming from?” And "Oh my god, I have three jobs and I’m circulating because I know I’m going to lose at least two of them in the next couple of weeks because I’m going to skip them for auditions."
So I remember those days. They weren’t that long ago. That’s how I can keep really grounded because I know that all of this can go away. [laughs]
AE: You’ve had enough career ups and downs between True Blood and My Generation. How do you keep from getting down? This is a tough business.
MB: Yeah, it’s a tough business but I don’t really look at it like that. I look at it from the standpoint of “I’m doing what I love to do and I’m going to go as far as I allow myself to go and I’m just going to stay positive.”
In the long run, what’s so bad about the success of the learning experience that I’ve had on My Generation? That’s a huge success. The success of what I learned about myself as an actor. The success of the friendships I made and the perspectives I gained and I got to shoot in my hometown. These are all wonderful wins and someone can look at it as defeat in the end because the show was cancelled…
AE: Wow, great attitude!
MB: It is very fragile. You hit the nail on the head. It is just very fragile here in Hollywood. It’s a facade that can easily be cracked. All this success is quite temporary if you don’t work hard enough to maintain where you are. Talent can get you somewhere but character keeps you there. You have to build character along the way and know when and know how to take the victories from situations even though they might seem grim.
AE: Your mom did a good job of raising you. You have a good head on your shoulders.
MB: Thanks very much.
Necessary Roughness airs on USA Wednesdays at 10 PM