Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Austin's Mehcad Brooks dives into 'Deep End'

Dale Roe

So Mehcad Brooks was on vacation, and I'm not talking about the permanent vacation that his "True Blood" character, Benedict "Eggs" Talley, took after being shot by Jason Stackhouse in last season's finale. This was a Hawaiian vacation. After heading to the islands to participate in a triathlon to help foster kids, Brooks, who was coming off filming a year's worth of "True Blood" episodes for HBO and the motion picture "Just Wright," just wanted to unwind. But urgent mainland calls from his manager and agent stole the actor's tropic thunder they wanted him to return and audition for a television project called "The Deep End." The Austin native (Brooks is the son of American-Statesman editorial writer Alberta Phillips and former pro football player Billy Brooks; his stepfather is lawyer Gary Bledsoe) was reluctant.

"It's kind of hard going from surfing and swimming with sharks in the Pacific Ocean and benefiting these foster kids ... back to L.A. before your time is up to audition for the suits," he explains. But the 29-year-old former Anderson High School star basketball player and class president relented and landed a plum role on the breezy, ABC midseason replacement series, which premiered Thursday at 7 p.m.

It's been almost four years since Brooks told former American-Statesman television columnist Diane Holloway about the nerve-wracking audition process for "Desperate Housewives." In his 2005 big break, Brooks portrayed Matthew Applewhite, the son of actress Alfre Woodard's character, for 23 episodes. Next were the motion pictures "Glory Road" and "In the Valley of Elah." A recurring television role on The CW's "Girlfriends" spin-off, "The Game," was followed by an episode of Fox's "Dollhouse" and an invitation to join the cast of "True Blood" as fan favorite Eggs.

I thought Brooks' transition from "True Blood" to "The Deep End" provided the perfect opportunity to catch up. Here are excerpts from our conversation, edited for length.

Austin American-Statesman: Your 'Deep End' character Malcolm Bennett only popped up toward the very end of the pilot, so we don't know too much about him. What can you tell us?

Mehcad Brooks: He's very smart, very dynamic — unapologetically so, really. And he doesn't care how you feel about him as long as you understand that he's right. But he also has a softer side to him. I kind of liken him to a young Barack Obama meets Jeremy Piven from "Entourage." He has a lot of flair, he's dynamic ... he's charming. It's almost as if, you know, he gets away with more than the average person can because he flashes a smile.

That sounds like fun.

It's a very fun role. But also, he's very responsible ... his parents passed away in a car accident two years ago and he's been raising his 12-year-old brother. So he's got a serious side to him as well.

A fan of yours told me she would like you to reassure her that your character's not going to get shot, as 'Eggs' was.

(Laughs) Is it my mother? Well, just because of the circumstances and the logistics, I don't think any of the lawyers on "The Deep End" are going to get shot. I would hope not. Unless we're doing some sort of weird gun-control episode, trying to make a point. I can't assure you of anything, but I would hope that Malcolm doesn't bite the bullet.

Did you know that your 'True Blood' character was only going to last one season?

Actually, the character was only supposed to be in three episodes, but they asked me to join the cast, so I did. Then I had a conversation with (creator and director) Alan Ball and he told me, "This is a one-season thing," so I was just happy to be there and I was really happy that they gave me so much to do for a guy who was just there for one season.

It seems like you've had a good career trajectory. Has it been going the way you expected it to?

I try not to have expectations; that way you don't get too disappointed. My thing is like this, man: I came out here 10 years ago with $300 in my pocket and a lot of support from my parents and my family, and I've been able to stay and make a career. So as long as I keep doing work that I care about and work that I'm having fun doing and, you know, make enough not to have to have a second job, I'm just going to keep loving it.

I know a series is a big commitment. Are you working on any other projects?

Yeah, I have other things that I'm doing. I have a film coming out, I believe in April, called "Just Wright." It's a Fox Searchlight picture with Queen Latifah — a comedy with Paula Patton and Pam Grier, James Pickens Jr., Phylicia Rashad, a wonderful cast of characters. It's a really funny film, a romantic comedy. Also there's a film called "Fencewalker" that should be hopefully coming out this year, hitting the festivals. It's Chris Carter's passion project — he wrote and directed it. It's got me, Natalie Dormer, Katie Cassidy, Austin Nichols, Xzibit — great cast, really, really great cast. It's kind of like "American Beauty" meets "American History X." It's something special.

Do you miss Austin? Do you ever get back here?

We shoot "The Deep End" in Dallas, so I've been back to Austin quite a few times. This year is the most I've been there since I left three years ago, and it's been great. I really miss Austin, so much so that I think I'm going to actually buy a place there. I'm looking right now, actually. I love Austin. I can't get enough of it. It's such a unique place, such a wonderful personality the town has, you know? I've been all over there world and when somebody asks me where I'm from and I say "Austin," everybody's got something great to say about it, and that makes you really proud.

It sounds like you haven't 'gone Hollywood.'

You know, it's kind of hard to do so being from Texas. Especially when you go home and your mom is like, "Um, can you take out the trash?" (He laughs.) And she'll say, "How much did you spend on those shoes? Are you serious?"