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Exclusive Interview: Supergirl star Mehcad Brooks on James and how the series plays to the times
20th October 2018 3:03 PM ET
Mehcad Brooks is a superhuman force of nature, regardless of Supergirl and his role as James “Jimmy” Olsen and The Guardian. The star has taken a comic character and fleshed him out in a wholly masculine and powerful way, taking this iconic character in a new direction.
Brooks is one of those competent multi-hyphenates, a rare breed of human who can actually do several artistic things very, very well. Acting, singing and even modeling – his background – all done with great flourish and accomplishment.
Part of the USC “Trojan mafia,” an affectionate term given to those loyal Trojans who matriculate through the school, Brooks learned the filmmaking industry and worked hard, auditioning and making use of his natural physical prowess which won him parts as an athlete in several roles.
He was so good looking that he also snagged a coveted stint as a Calvin Klein model, and has created a head-turning debut as a singer under the name KING GVPSV.
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He’s also in the upcoming Tyler Perry film, Nobody’s Fool, with Tiffany Haddish, Whoopi Goldberg and Missi Pyle, to be released on November 2.
Since the show premiered in 2015, the show has percolated and followed the culture on many hot-button topics, as Brooks’ character has transformed into a vigilante known as The Guardian in National City.
The Supergirl actor spoke with us at length about how the show parallels the political times, and how Supergirl is ahead of the curve on TV as it brings the first transgender superhero (Nia Nal played by Nicole Maines) on board for season four. Nia joins James as a reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media, working with Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist).
Monsters and Critics: Supergirl season 4 is soon coming back. It was a very dramatic end to Season Three. I know you can’t give spoilers but what can you tell me about Jimmy, your role, and how things are progressing?
Mehcad Brooks: I can. The fans know we left off with Jimmy coming out as The Guardian, unmasking as this hero, and there’s some… Let’s say, the culture somewhat receives in that in a way that’s really unexpected to him. He deals with what’s going on… in the real world when it comes to, well let’s say this, using extraterrestrials from outer space as an allegory for immigrants and the immigrant discussion that we’re having now in the US. Things will get a little heated and we delve heavily into that.
Also, there’s a lot of everyday heroics that happen with James, because we have a president that claims that the media is the enemy of the people. And let’s call it what it is. Meeting that lie and that propaganda head on, we can prove that the media is heroic by telling the truth and exposing the truth.
This is almost like he [James] becomes this two-part hero where we reclaim that fourth branch of government through journalism… and also the crime fighting doesn’t stop either.
M&C: How do you see this series … so much more than just a DC Comic yarn as you said, it’s analogous to a lot of what’s going on in the culture. How do you view your work and what are your hopes as far as the series lasting?
Mehcad Brooks: When I first joined the series, I think we didn’t have a discernible identity. I think we were searching for that. And since then we’ve gotten new leadership and I think they put their heads together with Greg Berlanti and Peter Ross.
I’ve never been more proud to be on a show, honestly. We really are tackling issues that are at the forefront of our social consciousness. And for me, there’s nothing more important that we can do at this time because we’re in a really low-level of human consciousness right now.
I’d like to think that our writers’ room is pretty woke. I think that our actors are pretty woke. I like to think that Warner Brothers takes social consciousness into their decision making and I have the actual example of that.
Whether it’s inclusion or gender equality or us writing in the first trans superhero, we are really breaking down a lot of walls and/or glass ceilings. And I couldn’t think of a more important way to spend my time and my life.
It’s become more than just a show to me, it’s become a way to actually affect the culture. It’s woken up the activist in me in some ways, it’s made me a better person in some ways.
As James grows as a character, I grow as a human and vice versa. I think that our writers’ room is very open to listening to who we are as people and what’s important to us as people and they incorporate it into the characters. That, in and of itself, it’s subversion at its best, right?
I think we’re in this day and age when we have an executive branch that’s for sale. And that’s disheartening.
My mom’s a journalist. I take it really personally when this reality TV stars tells that work that the media, that journalism, that the free press, something that’s helped build this democracy and hold this democracy together, that it’s the enemy of the people, the enemy of the state. I take that personally.
I look at the 30-plus years that my mom has put in, exposing the truth, helping minorities, helping women, helping overturn death row cases and taxes that were unlawful.
I’ve seen this first-hand and I’ve seen what good journalism can do. It can keep democracy together. I just feel like this is the most important show that I’ve been a part of, by far.
M&C: It’s a great answer.
Mehcad Brooks: Thank you.
M&C: That cover article on The Hollywood Reporter, LeBron James Takes Over Hollywood, and he’s got this whole empire now that he’s establishing himself and it’s exciting. Yet it also feels like it is a very regressive and dangerous time.
Mehcad Brooks: Yeah.
M&C: I know you got a lot of flack for a PSA that you did back in 2013 for reproductive rights. I wanted to know what the fallout was of that, and now with Roe v. Wade in such jeopardy, and if you could continue your thoughts about what’s important to you, not just as an actor?
Mehcad Brooks: I love those questions. It’s a ridiculous circumstance to even have to say women’s rights because it should just be human rights. And the fact that we’ve already established that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, the fact that we’re still debating it 40 years later, is mind-boggling.
It is the definition of regression. Because our growth has been regressed by special interest groups, by religious fanaticism…There are places like that in the Middle East that you can have your religious fanaticism and you can lead your country that way.
I think those people need to think about where they’re living. You’re living in a democracy, you’re living in a place that has argued these things, has taken them to the Supreme Court and because of the rate that women were losing their lives because they were still getting abortions, we decided that it’s the woman’s right to choose.
We decided a long time ago. That debate’s over.
To continue having debates we’ve already decided is not only counter-intuitive and counter-productive. Honestly, I think it causes a national security issue.
What are we going to rehash? What are we going to re-debate now? Are we going to re-debate the Voting Rights Act now? Are we going to re-debate term limits for the president?
I get that democracies are evolutionary and they have to evolve over time but they have to evolve in a progressive way. They have to evolve in a way that is congruent with progress, intellect, information with empirical data.
So, we have to move in the right direction.
With that said, nobody likes abortions.
Nobody wants one, right?
Nobody’s like, “Oh, well, it’s Thursday. It’s abortion time.”
Nobody’s saying that. But if it’s going to hurt someone’s life or health or dreams or whatever the case is, it’s none of my business. And if we can just go by that Republican ideology, where the government stays out of people’s business, that should be one of the first things. Period.
I’ve never seen such hypocrisy on its face.
M&C: I’m going to do a 180 on you. I love your music. Texturally, your voice is buttery suede that just clings. It just sticks to you in that most sensuous way. You have a fantastic voice.
Mehcad Brooks: Oh, thank you very much.
M&C: What happened on May 20th? Please tell me what was the near-death experience that inspired the name of your LP?
Mehcad Brooks: There was. So, May 20th … It wasn’t just one May 20th thing. It was several May 20ths in a row.
What happened was I was on [the HBO series] True Blood, on May 20th. Let’s just back up a little bit. I got really sick, I couldn’t even get out of bed. And everywhere where blood went hurt. My eyelashes hurt, it didn’t matter. There was no reprieve from the pain. I didn’t know what was happening so I kept going to the hospital.
A couple times I passed out, and the whole thing and it went from swine flu to probably leukemia to every virus on the planet. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Finally, earlier that week before May 20th, they diagnosed me with a parasite that I got in Africa two and a half years before. But I should’ve been dead because I didn’t get treatment because I didn’t know I had it.
Right then and there, that’s a miracle and I was very grateful and I was a medical anomaly.
They flew all these doctors in and it really felt like they were trying to study me rather than heal me. I was the third case in 12 years and the other two cases died.
With all the drugs I already had in my system that were unnecessary, and they added the parasite medication on top of that. I had an allergic reaction and I flatlined, I passed away. I crossed over to the other side and I had this really incredible out of the body, obviously, experience where I was in this field of pure potentiality. I was where we go as souls.
Before and after our deaths and there was one thing that was very clear to me, that is one conscious question that you ask yourself before you let go of all of your consciousness, which is, “Did I fulfill the agreement that my soul made with my body? Did I fulfill the agreement that I made with this life before I got here?”
All the money that I had made, all the success that I had in Hollywood, all the things that I had, all the people that I helped, all the altruism that was in my heart, all the incredibly fun sexual experiences and visceral experiences that I had, no. None of that meant sh**. It was … That was all nice, that was all good, and, yes, I was happy, I was grateful for all these things but … It was … There was this very clear, very quiet voice that says, ‘You didn’t do the music.’
Man. Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t. And that voice was really powerful, very present but quiet. The voice of the universe. And I knew if I ever got out of that hospital bed, that I was going to do that.
So, time went on. It took me a long time to heal from that. I went back to True Blood, shot the last three episodes, and I got out of there.
Did some movies, did some shows, and the next thing I know, it’s May 20th again, I’m in India and I haven’t done the music yet. I’m sitting with this spiritual guru and I’m leaving and he says, “Be very careful driving.”
I said, “Okay, that’s weird. All right.”
And it’s weird because I had just thought that to myself an hour before.
Fast forward to May 20th of 2011, I’m sitting on a stop light in Atlanta and a lady hits me going head-on, 65 miles an hour and I go into a coma.
I had a very similar experience. And the same question popped in my head and the same answer was, ‘You didn’t do the music.’
But this time it was more of a conversation, more of a wake-up call with the universe. I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re reminding me.’ This is not just me figuring some sh** out.
You’re basically having to put things in my way to stop me from just basically allowing my life to happen so I can take control and manifest what’s supposed to happen. Got it.”
So that’s the moment I started to realize, May 20th, 2011. Once again, got out of the coma, got my sh** back together. That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had in my life, obviously.
I had to re-learn how to read, it was bad. And I was still on a TV show. I had to just focus on healing.
By May 20th, 2012, I still had not done music. I was just focused on why me? At the time, I was still doing that. But May 20th, 2012, I sat with a spiritual guru and I had this meditative experience and, actually, I’ll just be honest about it. It was an earth medicine, a plant medicine, called ayahuasca.
I drank that and I had an out of body experience that was very much like the death experience and very much like the coma. And I went to the same place, but this time it wasn’t scary. This time I consciously went there to figure out what the f*** is going on with my life. And I had the exact same experience. It was, ‘do the music and listen to his voice.’ And it was very clear.
This time I was like, ‘Wha-how? Okay, you keep telling me this, how do I do it?’ And it gave me a name. It said, ‘You know this guy, right?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’
‘Talk to him.’ So I did and then after that I got cheated, I got robbed, I got laughed at, I got walked on, I got laughed out of the studio, I hired people who laughed at me. I had every experience you could possibly imagine that would make somebody wanna quit.
But I just knew something that was beyond all that was that when I do visit my consciousness again, at least from this body, I never want to feel like I didn’t do something I was supposed to do.
So I just worked my ass off, every single day from May 20th, 2012 until now. And that’s what you hear. Thank you for calling it buttery suede. That’s good to hear.
M&C: You had to know you had an incredible voice.
Mehcad Brooks: Here’s the thing … I got Justin Bieber’s vocal coach. Mama Jan, she’s amazing.
I was just, “What do I do? I gotta figure this out.” I knew the tone of my voice was dope.
The first thing she told me was, ‘You can sing, you just don’t know how. You can do it, you just don’t know how. So, I gotta teach you how.’
I was like, ‘Okay.’
It was more about taking the time to focus and say, ‘Look, this is a priority to me. This is something that I have to do.’
It’s not something that I wanna do to get rich or famous. Luckily I have recognition. I’m not in a place where that’s my motivation. My motivation truly is the fact that, if I can be completely honest, because of the experiences that I’ve been through, I have a certain connection with the universe that I don’t think most people recognize that they have as well. And I want to take that up and do this.
I want to help people remember how powerful they are and who they are. And I think one of the best ways you can do that is by opening up people’s ear and their hearts.
M&C: I think when you’ve had that near-death or a death experience and you’ve come back, I think there’s more of an urgency, of honesty. I think that’s certainly coming through in everything that you’ve told me in this short interview that we’ve had.
Mehcad Brooks: Thank you, yeah.
M&C: It sounds like your Supergirl family is very supportive of this.
Mehcad Brooks: You know what? I could not ask for a more supportive family. I could not ask for a better tribe to spend my time with and we’re all like-minded, we all love each other, we all support each other, whether it’s the ties with the crew, whether it’s producers and the writers, everybody is a positive influence on each other. I have to say that’s unheard of in this town. That’s unheard of.
M&C: Quick, give me the one-minute on this Tyler Perry film you’ve got coming out, Nobody’s Fool, with Tiffany Haddish. What’s your role? What do you play?
Mehcad Brooks: Well, I can’t tell you too much about my role because it’s kind of a secret giveaway thing if I do.
I can tell you that things are not always what they seem, I can tell you that it’s one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read.
I haven’t seen it but I talked to Tyler Perry, I talked to Miss Haddish, I talked to a good friend of mine and they both said, ‘Bring a diaper because it’s that funny.’
I think people aren’t going to really expect what they see out of me on this one because I started in comedy but I don’t think a lot of people know me from comedy. I get to be slapstick funny in this one and I really appreciate the opportunity from Tyler Perry to show that part of my artistry.
And I just had so much fun being a fool and it’s just great. I can’t really tell you too much about the role but I can tell you just get ready to laugh your ass off, for sure.
Supergirl airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET. on The CW