Mehcad Brooks Interview: Law & Order Season 22

Television's longest-running crime franchise is returning with Law & Order season 22. The latest season of the show will continue to follow a group of police detectives who investigate a variety of crimes in New York as well as the lawyers and district attorneys who work to ensure the cases are closed, and the perpetrators are locked away.

Sam Waterston is once again leading the cast of Law & Order alongside Jeffrey Donovan, Camryn Manheim, Hugh Dancy, and Odelya Halevi, with Mehcad Brooks joining season 22 after Anthony Anderson's departure.


Related: Law & Order Revival Cast Guide: Every Returning Character

In anticipation of its return, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with star Mehcad Brooks to discuss Law & Order season 22, his love for the long-running crime show franchise, the timely themes behind his character, his potential Mortal Kombat 2 return, and more.

Mehcad Brooks Talks Law & Order

Mehcad Brooks Law and Order

Screen Rant: Law & Order is obviously one of the most iconic franchises on television. What about this season really caught your interest want to be a part of it?

Mehcad Brooks: I've been watching it since I was a kid, so when I heard that they were doing a reboot, there was an excitement in me. I didn't know that they were interested in me, but that conversation came pretty quickly. I'm at the point in my career where if something doesn't feel like a, “Hell yes,” I don't really want to do it. But this felt like a, “Hell yes” immediately. Not just because it's this institution, and I’ve been such a fan for a long time. But it also puts you in a very unique position, or puts me in a very unique position, to have a conversation, or at least help the conversation between the Black community and police.

That's a very important one to have, and I've enjoyed seeing a lot of law-based shows tackle that of late. What can you tell me about your character and his arc through the season?

Mehcad Brooks: The character, Jalen Shaw, is a former law student and former lawyer, he practiced for a few years. He's a bit of an adrenaline junkie who realized that he wasn't really massaging that part of his consciousness, so he became a Narcotics undercover officer, he realized that he could probably make a bigger impact if he moved over to homicide. So, that's where we're meeting him now, having this rich texture in his history of knowing the law inside and out, but also knowing undercover work and knowing how to how to move in several different worlds.

It's great, because I'm a nerd, and what I do is I break down everything through etymology like, why is this word existing in the way that it does? Why is this name here, why is this word here? And Jalen, the root is Jalyn, which is calm in Latin, and Shaw is Welsh for wolf. So that informs everything I do, he’s a calm wolf, he's a wolf hunting for peace, and when someone obstructs that pursuit of peace is when you need the wolf. So there's this wonderful way I am able to approach the character informed by his name and formed by who he is at his core.

Law and Order Crossover

He sounds like he'll be a really unique character to watch coming up this season. With all of those layers, what would you say was your biggest creative challenge in getting to the heart of him?

Mehcad Brooks: The biggest creative challenge, I think, was knowing that there is a DNA to Law and Order, particularly the originals, it's challenging to come in and say, “I don't want to challenge the DNA of the show, but I do want to put my own spin on it, I do want to put my own spin on the character, I do want to update certain things about the show, and I want to come in and bring an edge, and a voice of diversity that I'm not sure it's had in quite some time.” There's something about taking that leap of faith, and walking off that cliff of creativity, into that dark place, and not knowing if the ground is gonna be there.

I think what you'll see that we're really proud of in this season is that Cosgrove and Shaw have banter, and we start to build a relationship in a way that, as a fan of Law and Order, I didn't really see that. There's just so much texture to their relationships, and conceptualization and differences and ways of doing things that cause some tension and cause some friction, but then also, they make this incredibly impactful team, and you see that chemistry every step of the way. So, it's been challenging, and also very fulfilling to rise to that challenge of putting our own spin on what it is that everybody knows.

Jeffrey Donovan and Mehcad Brooks in Law and Order

Since you mention that chemistry, what has it been developing that off-camera before bringing it onscreen?

Mehcad Brooks: Well, it's like this. I'm walking into a championship football team as a starter, right? [Chuckles] This team has already won several Super Bowls, it's like that, so anytime you're walking into a situation in which there's already been so much success, you make your mark, but you're respectful about your space. I’ve learned that throughout my career, make your mark, but also be cognizant of how much space you're taking. I was made to feel very comfortable very early, people treated me like family immediately, I was welcomed with open arms by everybody. So, it's been really seamless, in a lot of ways Jeffrey Donovan and I are like brothers from the same alien mother who was able to have two different children who are completely different in many ways, but exactly alike. [Chuckles]

We both have the strangest sense of humor, we totally get each other, we’re at a point now where we're finishing each other's sentences, and we're at the point now where we don’t even have to talk, we just have a look. So, it's one of these things where I've always wanted to do the buddy-cop comedy thing or the buddy-cop drama thing, and we're able to blend those worlds now. In some ways, it does feel like Law and Order, but it also kind of feels a Fast and Furious movie set in New York sometimes, there is that camaraderie that I think was missing, but wasn't a focal point in the old one.

I definitely look forward to seeing that, because you're right, a buddy-cop influence would be great to update the Law and Order formula.

Mehcad Brooks: I think it's kind of naturally happening with the writing, the writing is fantastic, and we're just taking the scalpel to it, Jeffrey and I. I think that what happens is when you allow actors who like each other to have that kind of freedom, something magical happens, I think that people are going to see that on screen.

Jax examines his new arms after killing Reiko

That's great to hear. Before I let you go, for my final question, I loved your Mortal Kombat film and I know that we've got the sequel in the works with Jeremy Slater writing and the original director back, have you heard any updates about Jax getting back in on the fun?

Mehcad Brooks: I've heard some pretty exciting updates. Nothing I can get into in great detail at this very moment, but expect to see Jax back, new and improved and with these motherf-----s working.

About Law & Order Season 22

The cast of Law & Order

NBC is bringing back one of its most treasured and honored dramas with Law & Order season 22. The series, which will continue the classic bifurcated format that was created for its original run, will once again examine “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”

Sam Waterston, Mehcad Brooks, Jeffrey Donovan, Camryn Manheim, Hugh Dancy and Odelya Halevi star. Dick Wolf is creator and executive producer. Rick Eid, Arthur Forney and Peter Jankowski are executive producers.