Necessary Roughness: Behind the Scenes with Callie Thorne, Mehcad Brooks, and Scott Cohen
The summer season is known for big budget blockbusters, but that’s not the only way to get your entertainment fix. Many networks offer a reprieve from the re-runs with new summer episodes of our favorite shows. Fortunately, USA Networks has renewed Necessary Roughness for a second season, which kicks off on June 6th. Season 2 promises new and fresh storylines, while highlighting characters that were previously obscured. Poptimal and others recently sat down with three members of the cast to discuss the upcoming season, as well as their characters’ motivation.
Although each cast member of Necessary Roughness is integral to its development, the show is most enhanced by its principal characters and the actors who portray them. Golden Globe nominee Callie Thorne stars as Dr. Dani Santino, sports psychologist to the New York Hawks. The team’s mercurial wide receiver Terrence “TK” King is her most challenging patient, and some of the tensest moments of season 1 transpired between Dr. Dani and TK during early therapy sessions. These two characters are the linchpins of the show, which is why I enjoyed my recent opportunity to speak with Callie Thorne and Mehcad Brooks, respectively.
One of the first things that struck me about Dr. Dani was her immeasurable strength and resolve in the face of personal adversity. When we are first introduced to her character, she is in the midst of a nasty divorce. She is faced with single parenthood and a fledgling psychiatry practice. After being in the right place at the right time, she gets the opportunity to work her magic for the Hawks – stepping in to save their star player when no one else could. Although her patients and children are frustrating, Dr. Dani always manages a certain grace under pressure, where lesser women would have wilted. We asked actress Callie Thorne where she drew inspiration for Dr. Dani’s incredible resilience. “A lot of what I bring to the character myself is a lot of my own mother,” Thorne says. “I grew up with a single mother and so there’s a lot of tone and behavior that I think in terms of my own mom as well as the woman that the show is based on.”
There are other maternal aspects that come to bear on Thorne as well. When discussing the difficulties of filming the therapy scenes, she says that the most difficult part is holding back the urge to comfort. “You see someone in pain, in emotional pain and your natural instinct is to feel for them and to give them a hug.” Thorne gets advice from creative consultant and adviser Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, upon whom the character of Dani Santino is based. She says one of the things she learned from Dr. Donna is to go to that neutral place during therapy scenes, much like Donna herself would do for an actual patient. Thorne does a masterful job of reeling in the human reaction in favor of a detached professional veneer that keeps proper distance between doctor and patient, especially when they become volatile.
As mentioned before, it is that volatility between doctor and patient that made for explosive scenes between Dr. Dani and TK last season. We spoke with actor Mehcad Brooks about his character’s relationship with Dr. Dani and what we can look forward to this season. The first thing I noticed after screening the season 2 premiere was that Brooks is noticeably bigger. He explained that he was able to devote himself fully to exercise in preparation for the second season. He was injured in a serious car accident last year and was unable to adequately get in shape for the first season.
In addition to making sure that he looks the part, Brooks wants to perfect his performance down to the last nuance. He consults with professional athletes to make sure his body language is accurate. When asked whether or not TK was inspired by a particular wide receiver Brooks revealed, “It’s actually based on Keyshawn Johnson, who I don’t know from a can of paint. So, I based it on other guys that I know in the league.” Brooks also drew a bit from the personal experience he had with his own father, a wide receiver during the 70s and 80s.
I was impressed with the seriousness with which Brooks approaches his craft, stating that viewers can expect to witness some profound psychological issues with TK this season. He will be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and once again Brooks drew on personal experience for his character motivation. He openly stated that he’s dealt with PTSD in his own life after the death of his brother and that he’s witnessed it with friends who have returned from Afghanistan. He explained, “You know, you don’t have to go to war to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I lost my brother when I was 19 and he was 17. And, you know, you react in the way that you do. You just react in the way that you do. And, there’s no wrong answer for it, there’s no right answer for it, but there’s ways of healing holistically that I think that we can as a nation, that we can embrace our sons and daughters that way, and have them know that they’re welcome to come back…they just need love.” I think this season will stretch TK even more, and we will continue to witness his complexity. He is more than the brash, flamboyant pro athlete who thinks of himself first, and I think the PTSD storyline will add a new dimension to the character.
Another aspect of the show that may be fleshed out in season 2 is the dynamic between TK and Nico, played by actor Scott Cohen. Nico is the mysterious head of security and all-around “fixer” for the Hawks. He does the dirty work, but somehow manages to remain above the fray. He is protective of the Hawks family, as it is more than just a team. Mehcad Brooks hinted that Nico would become more of a father figure to TK. “He does need a positive male figure in his life. And Nico is the only guy with the patience and probably the training to handle someone’s attitude as large as TK’s.”
It is that training for which Nico is probably best known and most feared. Cohen explained his preparation for the role and also what he enjoys about the character. “I talked to two Navy SEALS that I’m connected to. I talked to NFL security people who exist and are very present in players’ lives. What attracted me to him (Nico) in the beginning was how quietly energetic he was. I mean he was so quiet but so intense and that to me was always interesting, to play that which is so difficult to actually just shut up and trust that your power is in your silence or in your eyes or whatever it may be.” Cohen also enjoys the freedom he has in shaping his character, saying that the writers are receptive to ideas that he has pitched. He’d like to see more for his character in the future. “I would love to see a little bit more of his background as time goes on. The whole idea of him having a daughter last season was very interesting to me…did he have a family? Did he not have a family? That’s interesting to me.”
It was a refreshing and eye-opening experience to meet the cast of Necessary Roughness and discuss the upcoming season. The degree to which Callie Thorne, Mehcad Brooks, and Scott Cohen prepare for their roles is impressive, from drawing on personal experience to consulting with professionals and specialists. Their preparation is evident, and I’m equally excited about season 2. This summer, don’t forget there’s good entertainment on the small screen too.
Make sure you check out the second season premiere of Necessary Roughness as it premieres this Wednesday at 10/9c.
Necessary Roughness airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA Network.
Images courtesy of Quantrell D. Colbert and USA Network.