He has a resume that boasts almost as tall as he stands! 6'3 , #workoutgoals, Calvin Klein model, Film/TV star and everything in between. We've journeyed with him to everywhere from Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives) to the swamps on BonTemps (True Blood) all the while appreciating the man and being Mehcad Brooks continues to consciously expand into. His undeniable presence greeted us on a sunny day in LA as his larger than life role as JAX in the newly released 'Mortal Kombat' was readying premiere. With a humble yet electric energy in tow, here's what we [authentically] got to know about Mr. Mehcad Brooks!
As told to: Corey S. Guevarra | Photographed by: Cameron Reed
We’ve seen you in so many projects over the years, from football star to vampire slayer and everything in between; is there any one role or character that you’d consider your [personal] all time favorite?
Hmmm….My personal all-time favorite? You know, for me, it’s interesting; in hindsight, I love them all equally AND I hate them all equally! [LOL]. I think one of the main things that you learn early on as an actor, is that you cannot judge the character you're playing in the moment. -If you judge the character you're playing along the lines of your own moral values, then you're not allowing that character to live it’s OWN life! You're then just putting judgments based on your life and your experiences on a character who doesn’t even know you or that your world exists. When you do that, you don’t allow that character to live it’s own life and have its own experience. So the wonderful thing about my job is that now I’ve basically experienced playing pro football, I’ve in some ways gone through 2 different basic condensed trainings for the army. I‘ve put on 45 pounds and fought monsters. I’ve fought vampires. To prepare for True Blood, “Eggs” had experienced homelessness, so I went to downtown LA and slept on the street for two nights!
MB: I was able to live these different lives and really encompass these things. And there were parts of those lives that I LOVED and parts that I hated and would never want to [actually] live. But in the same breath, there were parts of some characters lives that left me thinking “This is awesome I’m taking this. I’m gonna appropriate THIS for Mehcad!”
26: So no one favorite. You love and hate them all. But you allow them to exist. You didn’t judge them and so that’s how you were able to truly tap into them, yeah?
MB: I accepted them, I had compassion for them, I forgave them, I gave them room to forgive themselves and finally, I loved them.
26: Boom. Is that’s the ‘Mehcad formula’?
MB: I guess so [LOL]!!!
It’s evident that a balanced life is important to you, what helps you remain grounded in mindfulness in the middle of the ‘Hollywood shuffle’?
You know for me it’s ‘nature and nurture’ right? …I was born and raised mostly in Austin Texas and even back then people would say things to me like “oh you’re so Hollywood” even when I was a kid. Hearing that, it was like “oh, well I guess I found out where I belong”! [LOL] But as I got to know Hollywood a little more, while I don’t have anything bad to say about it, I don’t have anything new to add to that either, except that I do now live in New York City! [LOL]
26: Aha! So that's a part of your being grounded and maintaining your mindfulness, is to get out of the extreme day to day “Hollywood shuffle” and just pop in when you need to?
MB: Exactly and I think the thing is with the pandemic, it became self-evident that you don’t have to live any one place, you know? We’d convinced ourselves that we have to be here or be there… But 2020 taught us that almost anything's possible on zoom! So now that the perceived necessity of physical location is gone, then it becomes, well… what makes you happy? Where are you happiest? What can you afford? And by afford I mean; where is your EMOTIONAL currency going to be invested?
We think success is money. Success is not just money. Success is: do I like where do I live? Where do I feel safe? Where do I feel aligned? Where do I feel like my goals and my dreams will come to me with grace and ease!
26: That is some VERY sound advice! If you’re in the middle of things that make you feel out of alignment, I tell people this all the time; “you’re not a tree”. You can get up and move anytime you want. So always allow GO as an option!
MB: & Even SOME trees move!!!
26: YES! We don’t ever have to stay anywhere, any one place. Especially if it's not where you’re most in alignment. -And our bodies have what I call an “emotional compass”. Your body knows where you’re supposed to be and if you’re not in the right place, you’re going to feel it.
shirt: GUCCI pant: Karl Lagerfeld Tie: Sak's 5th Avenue Shoe: Valentino
LENDING from the previous question, Beyond your public occupation as an actor, you’re a real person, you’re human, specifically you’re an African American man. There’s SO much going on in the world right now, so much in our own back yards, how do you maintain & maybe even master your own mental calm during this blatantly repeated cycle we’re witnessing and feeling. Are there any exercises or practices that help you through?
MB: One thing I highly recommend is getting a therapist who is well versed in effects of racial oppression. The same way that somebody will get a therapist who is well versed in say the effects of sexual assault and like the body consciousnesses response to that. So if you’re walking around with trauma (and historically speaking our ancestors and many POC families didn’t/don’t have access to therapy). We’d compensate or cope with going to the liquor store, or drug dealer or “the church” just to feel good. But I think now, we’re starting to understand that admitting you have trauma is not a weakness. It’s the first step to healing . And if that trauma is perpetuated by the state, if you’re basically giving your tax dollars to be terrorized, there’s a fundamental level of insecurity that you’re walking around with.
Now I don’t mean that we’re not confident people. I don’t meant that we don’t accomplish things. What I mean is, that we do it in spite of all of that. We have confidence if spite of the constant terror. We have confidence and achieve in spite of the fundamental insecurity. Insecurity being literally feeling like “the body” is not secure. So if the body itself is not secure, then what is secure? And also what else is insecure? So, we have healing that we have to do to dive into these questions.
So yes, finding a therapist who has a background in the effects of racial oppression I think is one. Breath work is another. You know, controlling your breathing. Using stress as an opportunity, as like an alert system. So, basically, if I have stress…I use my stress as an alert system like, “Okay, something within me is unaligned. Something that’s in my power is unaligned with my truth. So that means I need to observe my breathing. I need to take this moment to go to that inner place where I can be in touch with my higher self. Meditate, self work, etc., Stress is an alert system that’s letting you know “Hey STOP whatever you’re doing and handle this. Breathe!
26: Pause and listen to our emotional compass!
MB: I call that cosmic alignment. So when you’re cosmically aligned, you can notice your breath without cause. So it’s like: I'm breathing deeply because I'm alive. I'm breathing deeply because I'm happy. I'm breathing deeply because I'm aware that I’m breathing -wow! Versus I’m breathing deeply to stop the stress from happening because I gotta go to the store and I hope I don’t get ****ing shot because I have black skin.
With cosmic alignment we can always put ourselves back into alignment, but we as black people [usually, unfortunately] have to try harder to align.
26: It’s also super important that we even KNOW that we CAN try harder or that we CAN even align at all, that its even an option.
MD: Right, we have to give ourselves permission. Permission to heal, and I think the beautiful thing about healing is that to me, “trauma is pain on layaway”. It’s a really incredible device that the body does. You suffer a traumatic event, and it only comes up when you’re ready to “pay that bill”. It only comes up when you have the ability , the emotional currency, the time, the resources to pay that bill. So that’s why trauma is coming up for America, because it’s time to pay the ****ing bill [on race relations in this country]. As a collective It’s time to pay the bill!
26: It’s due. That rent’s due.
MD: Layaway is due, for each and everyone one of us in the collective.
26: That’s an amazing metaphor, amazing. So, those are the exercises and practices that help you through personally, and that you would recommend on a personal level right?
MB: Yes definitely. Self awareness, self permission and I think it works together in a formula of cosmic alignment. For me, that is: acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and then self love -in that order. And so like when you have acceptance even if your situation is something that you wouldn’t choose for yourself, accepting your situation means that you are then in a unique place to determine where you want to go from there. Compassion is needed immediately after because you’re going to have to have compassion for the person who didn’t know that five minutes ago. And then you have to have compassion for everyone else who helped put you in that place, whether it was the cop when you were 7 years old, or it was the teacher when you were 11 or it was a boyfriend or a girlfriend or whatever the case was. Not just racially, but like whatever it is that happens to human beings. You’re going to need compassion for yourself and for others. And then; forgiveness. Forgiveness comes easy when you HAVE compassion and there’s nothing left after that. It’s just love. It’s just what’s fundamentally already there WITH the cosmic alignment; it’s LOVE!
26: That part! That love part, it’s EVERYTHING!
MD: And when you strip it all away, that’s what it is. But you have to give yourself permission to even begin to strip it all down.
26: HUGE. HUGE!
Did you always want to be an actor? If you weren’t doing this, what would you be?
No, honestly, I wanted to be a cop when I was a kid. And I remember my mom repetitiously asking “are you sure?” -And I’d say “yeah”!! [I wanted to be a cop or fireman]. She’d never say “no, you can’t be something”, but she was firm on the, “are you sure”. I do remember asking her “why?” that was her response. And her reply was basically, “I think one day you’ll find out”. - And so actually when I was 7, I GOT ARRESTED and roughed up by the police: WHEN I WAS 7 YEARS OLD for playing hide-and-seek at a lodge where my parents were paying good money for us to stay. They didn’t believe that we belonged there. I remember the handcuffs they used didn’t even fit, they were huge…they kept falling off and they’d say “stop squirming” and I’m just a kid processing this experience and these things on my wrists. Needless to say, that’s when I didn’t want to be a cop anymore! That’s when I realized it wasn’t like the movies there’s no “good guys and bad guys”.
MB: Later on in life I excelled in sports and academics. By the time I was 15 I did a play and I realized one of the reasons I loved sports was because once the ball is in your hand, all eyes are on you and you’re performing. You’re expected to do something good with the ball, I liked that feeling and excelled at it.
26: You enjoyed how that [spotlight and responsibility] felt. That felt right to you!
MB: Absolutely! It also felt right just being able to affect people emotionally with intuitive communication.
How did you begin acting, what led to you manifesting this life for yourself?
I was 15 years old. My mom highly recommended..[if not forced my brother and I -LOL”] to go to this camp called “Leadership Enrichment Arts Program” the acronym was ‘LEAP’. It was an outreach program for black kids to come to UT and spend the summer there and learn theater. At first honestly, I thought I was kind of nerdy and dorky and had no desire to do theater! But I actually fell in love with it. I remember seeing an opera for the first time and the guy that was singing opera, he was from Houston! He was singing in Italian and Russian and German! After his performance we got to meet him, and he mentioned that he now lived in Switzerland… but again was originally from Houston. And all I could think was “what”?!?!
26: Wow like “That’s an option”?
MB: Precisely, I think I even said that. I think I even said that out loud like “that's an option”? -And he was like “yes it is!” He put his hand on my shoulder and said “yes it is” & it literally blew my mind.
26: The world opened up to you in that moment!!
MB: Yes! Cause' like my father played pro football. -Or I should say say my biological father played pro football. My stepfather is an attorney, a wonderful attorney like the best in the world frankly, (civil rights attorney). My mother is a multiple nominated Pulitzer Prize journalist. I came from an academic family. All I knew was sports and academia. I didn’t know that we could sing in Russian and live in Switzerland. I had no idea that success [as a creative] was possible and that moment really shifted something for me. Obviously I’m not an opera singer now [LOL]. But that was the first experience that revealed to me that “oh, there are other [life] options”!
26: Wow, that’s incredible, an entire light bulb moment that quietly started this whole life that you have now!
MB: Yes! Picture a kid, who’s watching somebody sing in a language he doesn’t understand, who’s living in a county he’s never been to, and come to find out this person is also basically from down the street!
26: Right and I'm sure you've done that numerous times unbeknownst to you. I'm sure there's been so many times when a kid has looked on their screen and saw you and also saw themselves and you lit a spark in them!!
MB: I hope so. I appreciate that.
26: I believe it, that’s what we’re REALLY here for, all 8 billion of us!
How did it feel getting the call for Mortal Kombat?
I cried!!! ….I was in the gym! ….I'm a strong believer in “doing the work” in all facets, which is like if you're going to study for the audition and you’re going to study to be an actor and you’re going to train for the physicality of a role, I also believe that you have to do “the work” in the quantum! So I was also visualizing the role everyday, everyday, everyday! I would get up the morning, visualize and go to the gym. It didn’t matter what else I was doing, I was practicing those 2 things. Eventually, I was in the gym when I got a call from my manager. After some small talk, he eventually reveals that “I got it”! Again I’m in the middle of a workout at the gym, and even though I’d visualized the moment of me getting this good news, when it actually happened, I just dropped to my knees and started crying. People of course start coming over asking if I’m okay and mid-cry I’m also smiling like “I’m great, I’m REALLY good actually” LOL.
What can you tell us about your character in Mortal Kombat? Where did you go to channel him?
I kept a journal as JAX,. For me as an actor, there’s this interesting ‘in between’ space you find yourself in where you’re giving the fans what they want, but also making the character your own. And then also, making the character big enough so that it’s believable because he’s a video game character, but also grounded in reality and grounded in believable physics as someone you could actually meet. There was this kind of interesting line that I think most of us [actors] kept in sight because it was required of us as video game characters who were now in the real world. So I had to figure out how did JAX go from being a special forces assassin to somebody who’s hunting inter-dimensional monsters? -And you and I might think well “he’s kind of an overachiever right? LOL” Like, being on the team that brought down regular villains wasn’t enough huh? You had to go & get inter-dimensional on us?! [LOL]. So keeping with the “acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, love” formula, I had to take into consideration that JAX has to have acceptance, compassion and forgiveness for himself. So I wrote down how many people he killed. And I examined the idea "does that keep him up at night"? Can he forgive himself for this kind of stuff? How does he reconcile it within his own body consciousness? And I kind of took him to therapy a little bit and I got to a place where he had to reconcile his monstrous behavior with duty because it was like “well, to catch monsters you [also] have to be a monster”.
I started with this Ernest Hemingway quote [that I always butcher so I’m going to paraphrase] but it's along the lines of “once you have hunted trained men long enough, you have very little appetite for anything else thereafter”.
So like, once you put people into 6 or 7 tours in Iraq, and you put them into these situations where they're going after high-value targets around the world and that’s all they’ve been doing their entire adult lives, they don’t have an appetite for anything else. And THAT is who Jax is!
26: Aha!!! Wow. It’s interesting, as a consumer/fan/viewer, people really have no idea of the lengths that you all [actors] go to to tap in and make the character makes sense and then take it a step further to bring it to life. Wow. Hats off!!
MB: Thank you. You definitely try. And the funny thing is that I love my role in Mortal Kombat. JAX has a pivotal role in the movie. Plenty of screen time. Unlike some other jobs where you do all this work and then it’s not on the screen, it’s like “man come on” LOL.
26: Like where is that scene? -I practiced hours for that scene. Where is it?
MB: Hours? More like days. Weeks sometimes!! This movie really respected everybody’s work. This movie really respected everybody’s blood, sweat and tears. I’ve never seen people work harder; cast and crew combined! I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s just one of those movies… like I remember when I was 7 or 8 years old I went to the movies and saw Batman, the Tim Burton version and it completely changed how I looked at movies. I kind of feel like this is gonna be the same thing for a whole new generation of people.
26: So said, so done!
shirt: Theory pant: John Varvatos Shoe: New Balance Special Collection*
You’ve always had a “#bodygoals” physique, but you packed on even more muscle for Jax, what was that physical journey like? Were you ever surprised at the capabilities of your own body as you evolved into this role (or any other?)
Honestly you know I WAS pleasantly surprised at how my body reacted. But I was also more surprised with with my resolve. I mean, we’re talking, gym 6 days a week for maybe 6 months, sometimes twice a day, all while we’re shooting. An example of a normal day before we started shooting was us doing stunt rehearsals and boxing/fight training for months. So let's say I would get up by 5AM. I would be at stunt training at 5:30AM. We would do stunt training from 5:30 to 8:30. I’d have breakfast. 9:30 to 11 I’d be in the gym. 12:00PM I’d have lunch, then I would go to boxing training from 1 – 4PM. -And then at 4PM I’d come home and I’d have an early dinner at around 5:30 then go back to the gym till like 7:00PM. Then I’d soak in an Epsom salt bath and spend the next 3 hours watching footage of Joe Frazier followed by playing the video game and incorporating how JAX moves into the choreography but mixing that with Tyson and Frazier so I could curate my own style. So it’s inspired by Frazier and Tyson, but he moves like JAX if that makes sense. -And that took a while for me to get, this is my first fighting movie! So yes, a lot of it is working out, a lot of it is diet, a lot of it is just the straight up dedication of me saying “c’mon human, get up, move your carbon based life-self into the gym”. It’s also the body consciousness of it. It’s all connected, it’s all believing. It’s all speaking it into existence. It’s knowing that your mind, body, spirit, are in alignment and that’s the part that for me; watching the transformation of my own body it & how it corresponded with the transformation of what I was speaking into existence and what I was searching for in that character!
26: WOW. First of all the commitment to your artistry, that's beyond admirable. But again, people don't know, so I’m glad that these answers are coming because I want people to know that THIS is what it takes … Or at the very least this is where YOU go and it should be told!
MB: I gotta say, this is where EVERYBODY went for this movie. I’m not gonna take any special likes on that. EVERYBODY brought it, everybody was working this hard. I’m not a special case. And it was great because you knew that as a team as I was wherever training & disciplining, 2 miles away my coworkers were ALSO somewhere leaving a 16 hour shoot going directly into their own 3 extra hours of fight training as well! we ALL worked that hard!
26: Wow. We cannot wait to see it. Because it sounds like just so much passion and pure energy went into creating it across the board, it has to be an an undoubted masterpiece.
What have you been doing to “make up for the moments” we lost last year?
Honestly, I don’t think that we’ve missed any moments! I think that we incorporated new versions of moments, I think that we incorporated moments that our ancestors had. We were alone, we were with nature, we were with family. I took it as an opportunity to get closer with my family and some friends. To release energies that were no longer serving me in my life, to let go of people and situations. So yeah, I don’t think we missed moments as much as we had the opportunity to look inside of ourselves and in our inner circles to see what was serving us. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to miss a lot of people I didn’t want to deal with anymore tbh [LOL]. And miss situations I used to feel compelled to participate in, even when I didn’t want to. -I think we all tend to engage in that social pressure of going to things ‘just because’. During those times we didn’t have to because we couldn’t. I think it was all definitely an opportunity to remember what was important to us. I don’t think we missed any moments, I think we GAINED moments this last year!
Speaking of ‘making up for the moments’ we read that you’ve actually [literally] experienced ‘coming back to life’. Can you elaborate on that experience and what it taught you?
The elaboration on the experience is tough, only because I’ve done podcasts on it and I’ve really really elaborated on it. [I’m also writing a book with a chapter about this very question]. I’ve done a lot of inner work to get myself to a place where I can write about that experience. It took me years to even be able to talk about it. But what I will say, is I did learn that at what I thought was the end of my life at the time, was that I didn’t regret anything I’ve ever done. I ONLY regretted the things that I did NOT do. I regretted the things that I KNEW I wanted to do, I knew that I SHOULD do, but I never MADE time for. I regretted those things and to put that into a spiritual perspective, I regretted not doing things that my soul made an agreement with my body to accomplish before I got here. So I started breaking up my life into agreements. There’s the original agreement; which is the agreement to exist. The soul agrees with the body that it’s going to come and take this body and that it’s going to accomplish something. And so with this first agreement or this “original agreement” I call it, there is purpose. In this purpose you can find your mission and those things can be varied. But I think deep down we all kind of know what our mission is and we can find purpose along the way. Then I started breaking my life up into 2 different types of agreements beyond the original which were: “chosen agreements” and “inherited agreements” and I realized so much of my life had been preoccupied with dealing and responding to inherited agreements rather than focusing on my chosen agreements.
An inherited agreement is: I’m black. So [socially] that means something. That means that [we] have to sacrifice our well-being, safety, security, mental health, success, livelihood… and you CAN succeed your way out of it to a point, but at what expense? You’re gonna have to sacrifice some of those things in order to succeed your way out of it. So I started realizing, well what’s the causality? How much of my experience of being black is because I’m agreeing with the sociological perception of what the black experience is? So I started to question my agreement of what blackness was, or what any of my inherited agreements were. Being a man, being seen as this way or being raised like this etc., Whatever the inherited agreements are, the ones that I never asked for. The ones that I didn’t sign up for, why were they pre-occupying so much of my life force? The answer I got was “unawareness”. I just wasn’t taking a clear look at “does this serve me? Does this serve my original agreement?”. When we do, we find that normally it doesn’t. [Believing in the agreement] hinders… It can be social limiter that hinders us from doing this or doing that because we “know” (believe) that this is supposed to be more difficult for us. But the causality of that is, buying into the sociological agreement of what it means to be you. It means that you’re buying into what EVERYBODY ELSE that came before you said it was. I realized that so much of my life was preoccupied with that and since I’ve gotten out of that hospital bed, I’ve really tried my best to dedicate my time to my chosen agreements, which are agreements that serve the original. Why am I here? -We chose to be here. Why did I choose to be here? -I need to support that question and support that agreement with other chosen agreements, not ones that were inherited at the moment of my birth.
What are you currently listening to? What are you currently reading?
I am currently listening to lots of meditations, and Buddhist monk chants just so I can regulate my calm because we’re in one of the most volatile times in US history. “Diet” is not just food, it’s everything we consume, so if you’re consuming aggressive music, that’s talking [expletive] to the listener, its going to affect you. You’re in-taking that! So yes, lots of audio books, more meditations, some research and podcasts.
Re: What I’m reading: I just finished Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” which is about the Congo genocide. I read it to gain more understanding into the colonial mindset and how it pervades into the systems today. I’m also revisiting another James Elroy book and I'm always circulation some [James] Baldwin for sure!
shirt: BOSS pant: Valentino Shoe: Adidas Classic Collection*
What motivates you the most?
Wow. [pauses] That's a great question. [pauses again]
You know what motivates me the most is that one day, my kids and grandkids will say, our grandfather, our father, REALLY did something. Really tried to help people and their perspectives at a time when many weren’t looking at human equity properly. Some people think this is a really tough time for black people and the reality is, it’s a tough time for humanity. If it’s not a tough time for you, that leads me to question, WHY is it not? Why do you see your brother or sister who may not look like you [clearly] being killed, in the street, on camera -and then there’s a discussion about WHETHER that matters? I feel like we’re on the precipice of change and THAT'S what gives me hope. It’s that change is coming, and it’s not just coming through conventional avenues, but it’s leaving a dent in the mainstream consciousness, so now something HAS to change. So what gives me hope and motivates me, is the possibilities for the future and the hope that my mother who is 67/68, won’t leave this incarnation without having more hope than she came into it with!
Finally, what’s YOUR definition of luxury?
My definition of luxury… You know, I guess ANYTHING can be luxurious to a person! Personally, I think 8 hours of sleep is luxurious! [LOL] I think traveling is a luxury (that I’m looking forward to getting back). I also think being with the people you truly want to be with; family and friends and doing the job you WANT to do, THAT’S luxury! Doing what you love -THAT'S luxury!
Editor In Chief & Styling: Corey S. Guevarra
Set Design: Brooke Taffet
Associate Editor: James Hayes
Grooming: Camille Ariane for Exclusive Artists using Danessa Myricks Beauty