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USA’s ‘Necessary Roughness’ and Star Mehcad Brooks’ Formula for Success

The success of USA Network’s “Necessary Roughness,” a series about a struggling professional football team, demonstrates that if certain elements are in place, even a show about football can draw a significant female audience. If there are strong relatable women in the cast, plot lines that delve into real-life issues everyone can understand, not to mention a steady stream of sexy, good-looking men, they will come.

It was a formula that worked to perfection for the critically acclaimed “Friday Night Lights” during its five season run.

Now, “Necessary Roughness” has used that formula to maximum effect during the two seasons that it has entertained audiences on the USA cable network. The show’s main character is Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), a behavioral psychologist who has been brought on to step into the head of the team’s most complicated, colorful character—wide receiver Terence “TK” King, an extremely talented but narcissistic and selfish superstar who can’t handle the realities he is facing as his career heads into its final years. The series is based on the real life of female psychologist Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, who worked for the New York Jets and several other high profile clients during the 90s.

The “Necessary Roughness” summer season finale is tonight at 10/9c on USA.

Played devilishly by the talented Mehcad Brooks—a trained actor whose father Billy Brooks was actually an NFL wide receiver—the TK character is clearly a mash-up of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss, Michael Irvin and a dozen other flamboyant, colorful men who have split wide. In fact, Terrell Owens even plays a recurring character on the show, Kevin “The Minefield” Minnifield—ironically an elite cornerback in the mold of Darrelle Revis whose aggressive ways intimidate TK, his archnemesis.

But in an interview with Atlanta Black Star, Brooks, 31, said that he was basing TK’s antics more on the distractions that face young men who are sudden millionaires rather than the particular behavior of any specific NFL receiver.

“Some of it is based on just being a young guy with too much money,” Brooks told ABS, which visited the set of this show that is filmed in Atlanta. “When you’re a young man in your twenties you already just kind of think you’re invincible, now add 85 million bucks to that.”

Brooks said that having the opportunity this past season to show a range of emotions with TK—who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen at the hands of a crazed fan—has been a welcomed challenge.

“You know it’s a nice change of pace. I come from a drama background professionally, so it’s kind of like going back to my roots in some ways,” Brooks said. “I love the fact that TK is all over the map because I’d hate to be in that space for months and months and months. But luckily he’s a little imbalanced [laughs] so one scene it could be really dramatic or very dark, then the next scene I’m doing my best impersonation of Eddie Murphy.”

Brooks’ acting range was on full display during a recent visit to the set by Atlanta Black Star, as he repeatedly shot a scene for the summer finale in which TK is faced with a serious decision involving his road to recovery.

TK’s character on the show begins to rely heavily on his sessions with Dr. Santino—something Brooks said could be useful to a lot of athletes who have difficulty grappling with the many troubles and distractions that come with stardom. Just a glance at the sports pages of any website or newspaper illustrates exactly what he’s talking about.

“With all the pressures of getting a lot of money at a very young age, I think that a lot of pro athletes need to do it [seek counseling or psychotherapy],” he said. “Maybe a lot of these guys would be able to hold on to their money a lot longer and secure their future if they got a lot of these demons out or these issues out before having that sort of success.”

—Dante Miles


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