Glory Road: An Interview with Mehcad Brooks
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Glory Road: An Interview with Mehcad Brooks
By Wilson Morales
Playing the role of Alfre Woodard's son on TV's hottest show, "Desperate Housewives", has done wonders for Mehcad Brooks. After being cast as one of the ballplayers in his first big film, Mehcad Brooks probably had no idea that when the film came out, he would already be a household name, at least to some. Coming out on January 13th, Brooks will be playing the role of forward Harry Flournoy Jr. in the film, "Glory Road". In speaking with blackfilm.com, Brooks talks about his background, the film, and some insights about "Desperate Housewives and the women he works with.
What came first "Glory Road" or "Desperate Housewives"?
Mehcad: Glory Road came first then Housewives came on about four and a half months after that.
Mehcad: Yeah, well I guess it's all in the family. The Mouse has been good to me. Before that I did a Disney television movie ("Tiger Cruise") in '04. I went in for "Housewives" like nine times. Pretty boring process.
What's the big secret of the family on that show?
Mehcad: They keep me in the dark so I can't tell you. For instance, we find out more as they write it. We're shooting episode fourteen at the moment. I only know what's going to happen through fourteen.
You really played basketball.
Mehcad: I did. I hung my gym shoes up a long time ago but I had to dust them off. I played in high school. I was all-state in high school.
Were you familiar with this story?
Mehcad: Completely familiar. It was a bedtime story. My dad grew up in West Texas and was thirteen years old when the celebration happened. Some kids grew up with Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel or Pinocchio. I grew up with the exploits of the Miners. I knew the final score, 72-65. I knew about Haskins. I knew about the players. I called my dad when I got it. He said 'Oh, you got it, you got it! Who're you playing? Flournoy? He's a great rebounder!'. This is like his favorite team of all time so it meant so much in my household growing up. It's strange how it manifested itself in my life.
Did your parents come to the premiere?
Mehcad: Yeah, they loved it. They're very proud and I'm very happy about that.
What did your father tell you about how this changed his life and the lives of his friends?
Mehcad: It was like the Ali-Frasier fight for a lot of people then. It meant so much. It kind of said ‘we're here. We've arrived. We can play on a National level. We can play at the highest level and beat you at your own game. This street basketball can beat your [SOUNDS LIKE: Naismith] basketball. We're here in a new era'. I think it brought national basketball that we see today to life. It was the first time. It was amazing that Haskins is as much of a civil right leader as a coach even if it is unbeknownst to him, even if he didn't mean to, he opened the floodgates for minority recruitment within large universities on a large scale. In doing so, not all of these athletes were able to go pro to get national championships but they did get an education, a degree, when this wasn't happening in 1964. This wasn't happening in '65 before this game. So, years later, you had a whole demographic of people who used to be disenfranchised who now had the tools of a higher education, who now had a degree so you couldn't keep them out of society like to used to. That's amazing. That's why this story means so much.
Did you get a chance to meet him? (Flournoy)
Mehcad: Yeah. The guy's amazing. It's an honor to be in his presence but he's so funny. He's still got this complete air about him. He doesn't give a damn about anything. It's hilarious and you've got to love him for it. You really do.
Was there any scene in the movie that had a real emotional impact on you?
Mehcad: Yeah. I think the hardest one was getting prepared for the locker room scene. Flournoy is kind of the voice of discontentment in the film and speaks for the Black plight at the height of the Civil Rights movement and Armstrong, Jerry Armstrong is kind of the voice for naiveté, just not knowing and understanding the plight. I had to get in such a space where... Flournoy grew up in Gary, Indiana where he went to a predominately White high school where they let him know day in and day out that he was not welcomed there. He felt that way every day of his life until he met Haskins. He was the first White person he ever trusted. Within that process, the other White players on the team, he didn't trust either. So, all this stuff that had built up his whole life exploded when he was trying to explain to someone who could never get it. It was a difficult process for me to try to get to that mind-set.
Did you give any advice to the newer actors?
Mehcad: We meshed as a team on a multitude of levels in that the guys who had played a lot more basketball than the rest of us, helped us with the basketball. And, the guys who had acted a lot more than the rest of the other guys, helped them with acting. It was a bonding experience on a lot of levels. I hung the shoes up about five years before this.
Are you back into it now?
Mehcad: No. I get sick when I see a basketball.
How did you feel in the scenes with a lot of racial slurs?
Mehcad: It was difficult. It got to me. It definitely did. I saw this picture from the Memphis garbage strike, of a gentleman about 60 who had a sign that says "I am a man". It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it because what kind of world do you live in where you have to go home and write a sign that says, "I am a man". There is a place in society that does not reciprocate your existence as a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen. It doesn't matter how old you are or what experiences you've had, when you wake up, I'm going to treat you like a boy. I don't give a damn what you have or know or have experienced in life. Don't mean shit to me. That's what was really difficult about that but when they called 'cut', luckily, it was '04. So, my hat goes off to the real players because there was no 'cut'. It was all '65, '66. It was all 'boy'. What I learned from that, I had no idea how strenuous the Civil Rights movement had to be. You see pictures and you feel so far removed. I was born in 1980. This is only 14 years before my birth and that's not so far removed. It gives me a newfound respect for people who actually went through it and the people who might not have gone through it but didn't buy into the hype that minorities are inferior. It changed my perspective on life.
You've been part of this 30 city tour. What has that been like for you?
Mehcad: It's been hard for me because I've been shooting "Housewives" and flying around. I actually got sick in the last part of the last tour but I'm really looking forward to Toronto and New York and finishing it up. Just kind of getting the message out there. It doesn't matter how hard it is, the actual events that this is based on were much harder than this is for us. So, if I can help that story get out there? Take me to Australia. I'll walk. I don't care. I'll go. I would do 70 cities if I had to because I really want people to know about this story. It needs to be heard.
Has "Housewives" been cooperative?
Mehcad: They have. They've been really fantastic.
What is your shooting schedule like?
Mehcad: It just depends on the episode. Sometimes, I'll come in for one day which is great. We have nine day episodes. Sometimes, I'll shoot eight of the nine days which is not so great but it's a fantastic living.
How do you compare films and television?
Mehcad: It's too fast for me [TV]. I love the show. The writing is so good on the show but imagine if we had another week, how better it would be. The acting is so good I think, in my opinion. But, imagine how much better it would be if we got to do it five or six more takes. I think what you see is not what we could give you. It's not fair to the audience that we have to be so quick. We have to pop out a show every nine days. I think you guys would be astounded if we had the time. We don't.
Did you mention the film to Alfre? Does she remember the story?
Mehcad: Yeah, she remembers the story. She's not a big sports fan but she knows the story and she's very proud of me.
What is working with a major actress like her bring for you?
Mehcad: She's an unassuming goddess. She really is. She brings so much to my life, not just to my craft but my life too. She's given me life lessons and advice. I was going through some rough patches and she was there for me. And within acting, I've asked her for advice here and there and she never gives me advice. She just says, 'if you don't know something, just do it anyway and if it didn't feel right, then you didn't do it right'. She's like 'it's that simple'. I learned so much just by watching her. A couple of times, we'll be in a scene...lately, within our storyline, I'm kind of standing up to her. Have you ever tried to stand up to Alfre Woodard when she stares at you. It's like [mimics a Woodard stare]. I like, okay, can we call a cut because she's too good right now. It's kind of intimidating but she makes you feel very comfortable. She's really easy to work with. She's very giving.
Are you doing any more movies?
Mehcad: I'm reading for a couple right now. I really like a couple of projects that I can't talk about. There's one that I'm producing and going to act in as well.
Had you seen "Desperate Housewives" before trying out for it
Mehcad: I watched the last year's episodes when I knew I was going to audition for it. But I always meant to because all the girls were like, 'Oh, it's such a good show'. They'd have these little martini parties, I was like 'I'll just stop by your little 'Housewives' martini party'. I was in it for the girls. 'Oh, cool. You guys like the show? Me too [sly grin]'. Little did I know I was going to be on it. It's crazy. Now I really like the show.
What is it about the show that people like so much?
Mehcad: It's a manifestation of people's daydreams. It's the shit you want to do. It's like, 'I'd like to take my kids' drugs. I'd like to kill my neighbor. Cut your grass before I kill you'. [laughter] It's the stuff that goes through your mind for a brief second then 'oh, I can't do that'. But we do it. I'll lock my son in the basement'. Sounds like a good idea sometimes for those of you who have children but you'd never do it so we do it for you.
Are those rumors about all the actresses on the show fighting true?
Mehcad: Absolutely not. I swear, when I first got the role, I thought I was going to get all the dirt and all my girlfriends were like ‘oh, you've got to come back and tell us something'. I didn't care about that. Just thought it would be kind of fun to see people arguing but I was so disappointed. They get along so well. They collectively fight with other entities, with other groups but you can't throw a rock without hitting every last one of them. They're that close. They mesh. They're a team. That's a beautiful thing. It's a joy to work with these people,.
You say, 'all your girlfriends'. How many girlfriends do you have?
Mehcad: Girlfriends as in friends that happen to be girls, happen to have two X chromosomes. Or... I have an X and a Y. That's right. I'm smart.
You shot part of this movie in New Orleans. Did you recognize some of the places where you shot?
Mehcad: Oh yeah. The French Quarter, Warehouse District, Garden District. It was so sad to see. I have friends who were greatly affected. One of the actors in the movie whose name is James Olivard, is now living in a walk-in closet down there. We send him what we can. It's a great city. I hated to see that happen but an act of God, what do you do? I just hope we can use some of this money and move some soldiers back out of Iraq, use that money to help rebuild New Orleans and help revitalize the Delta. We have problems here at home too. As much as I do support the troops, we are in a losing battle and I'd rather not see any more blood spilled. [I love this guy].
So I guess the cast didn't play basketball off set but if you could take some of these people and do one-on-one would you just call someone out and say 'Let's do one-on-one'?
Mehcad: Yeah. We would do that between takes but none of us wanted to see a basketball when they called wrap. I'd rather go get a remote. I don't want to hold a basketball again. We would go help the guys who needed the help but those of us who really didn't need the help, we wouldn't really go and extensively play afterwards because you needed to conserve your energy too.
Who played the best?
Mehcad: Schin Kerr and Damaine Radcliff. They played Big Daddy Lattin and Willie Cager. Those guys are amazing. They'd never acted before. Those are just the true ball players and they came off amazing in the film which I'm so happy about.
Did you help them with the acting?
Mehcad: Yeah. I sat down with Damaine and we went over his scene a bunch of times; the one with the heart condition and, I'm not going to say who, but we broke into one of the actor's rooms and forced a table read because he was embarrassed to do it. Hey, we're a team. Get the kinks out right now.
So, what we saw was more spontaneous.
Mehcad: Yeah, plus the training camp where we became a team. We anticipated each other's moves. I was like, 'man, let's take this on the road! Let's go play the Globe Trotters, baby!
What is the best birthday gift you got as a kid?
Mehcad: A guitar.
Do you still play?
Maybe a music career?
Mehcad: I love playing music.
We'll stayed tune for that.
Mehcad: Please do. But, I wasn't really a kid I guess. I was 21.
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