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Law & Order star responds to John Oliver’s critique of the show

Mehcad Brooks
Mehcad Brooks as Detective Jalen Shaw on Law & Order. Pic credit: NBC

Law & Order’s newest cop is firing back at a famous critique on the show.

Mehcad Brooks, who joined the show this year as Detective Jalen Shaw, is opening up on how it feels to join the series.

He shared insight into how his personal experiences with the police shape his role as Shaw and what fans can expect from him.

But Brooks also discussed John Oliver’s recent critique of the Law & Order franchise and its “unrealistic” view of police work. 

That included Brooks saying he’s proud to be a force for change for Law & Order and inspire viewers.

His words showcase how he’s looking forward to more opportunities to shape the role of Shaw and change the minds of Law & Order critics. 

Brooks on John Oliver’s Law & Order critique

Earlier this month, British comedian John Oliver devoted a lengthy segment of his Last Week Tonight With John Oliver HBO series to a savage critique of the Law & Order franchise.

Oliver highlighted that the series presented an unrealistic view of police work while ignoring the issues of systemic racism and other problems that plagued the NYPD. 

Former Law & Order; Special Victims Unit cast member Diane Neal agreed with the piece, sharing viewers’ experience with rough police work. 

Speaking to The Wrap, Mehcad Brooks, who joined the series as Detective Jalen Shaw, became the first current Law & Order actor to speak about Oliver’s segment. 

While respecting Oliver, Brooks said he had a different viewpoint of the show. 

“I think he’s an incredible satirist. He goes after institutions, and Law & Order is an institution. That’s his brand. But the thing that really has inspired me about what was supposed to be a hit piece was he said that Law & Order is an extremely dynamic recruitment tool for police. Well, if, in five to 10 years, there’s more police who look and think like Jalen Shaw, great.”

Brooks used his own experiences with the police, including being pulled over for no cause, on how he approached the role of Shaw. 

“African American people are not against police. We’re against police brutality. And if you can’t divorce those two things, then perhaps you’re the problem. I’m going to work, but I’m also healing certain things in myself, understanding that the difference between policing and over-policing and crime solving, frankly. Knowing that there has to be a happy medium in between.

You can’t defund everything and you can’t Back the Blue on everything. And that conversation needs expansion, and that conversation needs to be revitalizing this country and hopefully, I can pick up where the ellipsis is. And so, yeah, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to heal, to really dive into the craft. So it’s working wonders for me. “

Brooks added that with a father who is an attorney and a mother who was a journalist as well as an uncle who was a homicide detective, “I have seen both sides of it all my life.”

This fuels his performance as Shaw, which will play into more drama in Season 22. 

Brooks on Shaw’s background and name

Mehcad Brooks
Mehcad Brooks as Detective Jalen Shaw on Law & Order. Pic credit: NBC

The Law & Order crossover introducing Shaw had him explaining his background as a former lawyer who decided to become a cop instead. Brooks said that Shaw’s name has an interesting meaning that plays into his “lone wolf” status. 

“Yes, he does play things by the book. Yes, he is calm. As a matter of fact, the etymology of his name. Jalen is Jalan, which is, like Shalom, it means peace and calm in Latin. And the etymology of “Shaw” is Wolf in Welsh, so he is the Calm Wolf. That’s who he is. And that informs everything that I do as a character, like how would a wolf play this? The cool thing about a wolf is that it’s calm all the time. Until he’s not. Until it’s time to hunt. So when Jalen suspects somebody of being guilty, there’s a calmness. And you see that escalating into a place of pursuit. And then when he knows somebody’s guilty, the wolf comes out. So, that’s fun for me. It’s really fun for me. I’m getting goosebumps now talking about it.”

Brooks praised co-star Jeffrey Donovan, who plays Frank Cosgrove, and showrunner Rick Eid who welcomed his input for the character. 

Brooks said he believes in Law & Order, both the show and the phrase, and wants to remind people what it truly means. 

“I’m somebody who believes that we need law and order. I just believe that that phrase has been hijacked, in some ways…So, it has to work in every dimension and level. It has to work no matter what class you’re in, it has to work no matter what race you are, or who you know, who you don’t know, it has to work regardless [of] your privilege. So, I think we need Law and Order, maybe now more than ever. And there was something about this that was timely for me.”

As Law & Order continues its newest year, Brooks is ready to effect some change for the franchise and hopefully silence some of its critics on its issues.

Law & Order Season 22 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.

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