Brooks, Mehcad

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Mehcad Brooks



Mehcad Brooks won a highly coveted role for any young, relatively unknown actor when he was cast in the hit ABC series Desperate Housewives at the end of its first season in 2005. Since then, the former high school basketball star from Texas has gone on to a slew of other choice roles in such films as Glory Road, the story of the dramatic tournament victory of a college basketball team, and In the Valley of Elah, an Iraq-war thriller from Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis.

Determined to Be an Actor

Brooks was born on October 25, 1980, in Austin, Texas, to Alberta Phillips, a journalist who later became a columnist and editorial writer for the Austin American-Statesman, and Billy Brooks, a professional football player who spent much of his career as a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. His parents divorced, and his mother later remarried an attorney and settled Brooks—whose given name is pronounced "muh-COD" and means "wise one" in Ethiopian—and his brother in a predominantly white neighborhood of Austin.

Brooks began modeling at the age of 15. Yet his work did not keep him from becoming engaged in high school. He was a talented basketball player at L.C. Anderson High School, starting on its varsity team and serving as captain for three years. He was twice elected class president, and after graduation in 1999 Brooks entered the University of Southern California (USC) on an academic scholarship. The bulk of his coursework was concentrated in USC's renowned School of Cinema-Television, but he suffered a personal tragedy not long after leaving home when a cousin who was raised with him and his brother was shot to death at age 17. "He was a good kid, just the wrong place, wrong time," Brooks said of his cousin Ian in an interview with USA Today writer William Keck. "He was the strongest person I knew. He played the cello and football and was on his way to college. He was an inspiration to me every day."

Brooks worked a variety of jobs during his time at USC to pay for his living expenses. He also found time to audition for acting roles on the side. "I was working three jobs to go to college and making nothing," he explained to Boston Herald writer Stephen Schaefer about his decision to leave USC. "I kept getting fired from my clothing store jobs because I'd be leaving for auditions and getting back three hours late." He decided to drop out of college when he was cast in a planned football movie from Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater that never went into production.

Brooks's first on-screen role came alongside his brother Billy in a 2002 short film by Katina Parker shown at various film festivals called Radimi: Who Stole the Dream. Later in 2002 he won a guest role in a sitcom, Do Over, and then another on an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. His breakout performance came in four episodes of the hit drama Boston Public in 2003 when he played Russell Clark, who romances the principal's daughter. After that, he appeared in a made-for-television movie, Tiger Cruise, and an episode of Cold Case.

Desperate Housewives Role Brought Fame

Winning a role on Desperate Housewives, ABC's top-rated drama at the time, was not easy, and by this point Brooks's brother was also living in the Los Angeles area and trying out for roles, including the Desperate Housewives part of Matthew Applewhite. Part of a new storyline on Desperate Housewives, Matthew moves onto Wisteria Lane at the end of the first season with his mother Betty, played by Alfre Woodard. Brooks described the series of seven tryouts for the series, including a standard ABC network audition, as "nerve-racking" in an interview with Diane Holloway in the Austin American-Statesman. "You walk into a room with a bunch of people who make 20 grand an hour and say, ‘Hey, here I am…please like me.’"

Brooks noted in another interview that the fictional suburban street of Desperate Housewives was not that different from where he was raised, telling Keck in USA Today, "it's freaky how much my neighborhood was like Wisteria Lane." But it seems unlikely that anyone in his Austin neighborhood kept a close family relative locked up in the basement, as the Applewhite storyline revealed. Over the course of second season, the bizarre situation was exposed as the family's decision to keep Matthew's brother—who murdered Matthew's girlfriend—incarcerated at home rather than turn him over to the authorities. When the storyline began with the first-season cliffhanger, both Brooks and Woodard hinted that romances would develop between his character and some of the other teenagers who populated Wisteria Lane, but that never happened. In the end, Brooks was unhappy with his 18-episode run. "There was seniority and priority," he told USA Today's Keck, "and we were marginalized and completely segregated from every family except the Van De Kamps."

Continued Film Career

Brooks proved a natural casting choice for his next role, the basketball movie Glory Road. He was cast as Harry Flournoy in the 2006 feature film, a real-life player for the Miners at the school that later became the University of Texas at El Paso. Based on a true story, the film recounts the Miners's journey in 1966—when the school was called Texas Western College—to a stunning upset in the finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. The Miners beat a heavily favored University of Kentucky team with the first all-black starting line-up ever to play in the tournament, a controversial decision by the coach that ushered in a new era for college hoops. "The film does a good job of showing just how momentous that game was, immersing the audience in a world pervaded by racism, both casual and intense," wrote New York Times film critic A.O. Scott. A review from Variety's Brian Lowry asserted that Brooks, along with castmates Josh Lucas as the white coach and Derek Luke as the Miners's star player, "[lead] a solid cadre of youthful players who manage to both look convincing on the court and convey the mix of anger and enthusiasm that the youths felt."

Brooks followed Glory Road with another sports drama, Fly Like Mercury, and In the Valley of Elah, another film set for 2007 release that traces a father's search for his missing son, who has recently returned from a tour of duty in the Iraq war. Brooks was cast in the Tommy Lee Jones-Jonathan Tucker movie as Army Specialist Ennis Long in the Elah project, written and directed by Paul Haggis, who won the Academy Award for the racial-tension drama Crash.

At a Glance …

Born Mehcad Jason McKinley Brooks, on October 25, 1980, in Austin, TX; son of Billy Brooks (a former professional athlete) and Alberta Phillips (a journalist). Education: Attended University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, 1999-2002(?).

Career: Teen model, mid-1990s; Los Angeles, CA, odd jobs including window-washer, 1999-2004; actor, 2002-.

Addresses: Home—Los Angeles, CA. Agent—Mosaic Media Group, 9200 Sunset Blvd, 10th Fl, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Brooks shares a house in the San Fernando Valley with his brother Billy and claims he has had to learn some hard lessons about managing his personal finances. At one point before his Desperate Housewives stardom, he was forced to take a job washing windows on Rodeo Drive, the world-famous pricey retail strip in Beverly Hills. Admitting he loves the menswear designs of both Gucci and Hugo Boss, he told People that he fails to receive any ego boost from shopping in such stores now, because "I know I'm the same guy who was their window washer." However, it seems unlikely that Brooks may ever have to wash windows again.

Selected works


Glory Road, 2006.

Fly Like Mercury, 2007.

In the Valley of Elah, 2007.


Boston Public, 2003.

Tiger Cruise (movie), 2004.

Desperate Housewives, 2005-06.



Austin American-Statesman, May 22, 2005, p. K1.

Boston Herald, January 12, 2006, p. 43.

Film Journal International, February 2006, p. 27.

New York Times, January 13, 2006, p. E1.

People, October 26, 2005, p. 58; November 28, 2005, p. 184.

USA Today, May 20, 2005, p. 2E; May 19, 2006, p. 2E.

Variety, January 16, 2006, p. 33.


"An Interview with Mehcad Brooks,", (June 28, 2007).