Law & Order’s newest detective is about to feel some personal heat.
Mehcad Brooks is previewing this week’s episode, which has his Detective Jalen Shaw facing a specter of his past.
The episode has a criminal that Shaw arrested taking hostages as he claims to be innocent. While trying to defuse the crisis, Shaw must face the chance he did indeed arrest an innocent man.
This affects Brooks, whose own poor experience with the police as a child has affected him and shaped his life.
He brought that attitude to the role of Shaw and how he hopes to use it to change the viewpoints of others.
This should make for an interesting case focusing on Shaw and Brooks handling the challenge of this role well.
Mehcad Brooks on his personal issues with police
Upon being cast as Detective Jalen Shaw on Law & Order, Mehcad Brooks has been upfront about his own rough experiences with police in the past.
The actor, best known before this for playing James Olsen on Supergirl, admitted that when he was seven years old, he was handcuffed by police simply for playing hide and seek. He spoke to The Today Show about the experience and how it’s shaped him.
“There’s definitely a healing journey I’m going through myself. I had my first introduction to police brutality when I was seven years old. It was a throughline through the rest of my life…And it’s come to visit me a few times. At no time did I deserve it.”
Brooks even needed therapy to handle the experience and has done his best to handle it since.
The actor guest-starred in a 2013 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as a basketball star once molested by his coach. It got him interested in the franchise, leading to his eventual role as Shaw.
Since joining Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan), Shaw has tried to be the voice of reason on cases. Brooks says he wanted to ensure Shaw wasn’t shown crossing the line with some criminals.
“There are times when Shaw has the choice of being rough with a suspect. I choose not to do that. It can be more ‘fun’ to do it that way (as an actor), but I don’t because I understand what it feels like to have it done to you. And as Mehcad heals, it informs Shaw.”
That experience will be needed when Shaw faces a tough case this week.
Shaw and his challenges on Law & Order
This week’s fall finale, titled The System, has a man Shaw arrested in the past up for trial, still protesting his innocence. When he escapes, the criminal takes hostages to demand the cops clear his name.
While the priority is to save the hostages, Shaw begins to wonder if maybe the man is telling the truth and he sent an innocent person to prison.
Brooks explained he was “pleasantly surprised” by the script dealing with issues of the justice system “slanted against people of color.”
“That’s something I’m very proud of about the show, and to see that we’re not shying away from. They’ve really nailed certain parts of the Black experience in America when it comes to fighting a system that was set up to steal our joy and freedom in some cases. This episode really touches upon that.”
Brooks is happy to continue his work as Shaw and allow Law & Order to stay timely on social issues. He’s also aware of how it is to be a lead detective on the series and a role model to some viewers.
“I understand how unique this position is and what an honor it is — and I was humbled by it. I’m having the time of my life.”
Viewers are just as happy to watch Brooks continue on his run to make Law & Order more gripping than ever to watch.
Law & Order Season 22 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.