LAW & ORDER Post-Mortem: Mehcad Brooks on Filming Shaw's Emotional Scene in 'The System' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LAW & ORDER Post-Mortem: Mehcad Brooks on Filming Shaw’s Emotional Scene in ‘The System’

December 8, 2022 by  

Shaw Price bar scene

LAW & ORDER — “12 Seconds” Episode 22005 — Pictured: Mehcad Brooks as Det. Jalen Shaw — (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Thursday, December 8 episode of LAW & ORDER, “The System.”]

In the aftermath of arresting an innocent man, LAW & ORDER’s Shaw (Mehcad Brooks) had to grapple with the unexpected fallout as the situation spiraled beyond anyone’s control.

On the Thursday, December 8 episode, “The System,” Troy Booker (Chaundre Hall-Broomfield) escapes from police custody while awaiting his trial—but accidentally kills the officer who was guarding him.

When they get Troy back in custody, he refuses to take a plea of manslaughter—he was innocent of the original crime and he feared for his life—and even Shaw pleads with the ADAs to figure something out.

“We failed him, we owe him,” Shaw tells Price (Hugh Dancy).

After the evidence doesn’t directly support Troy’s version of his life being endangered, Price finds Shaw at a bar. “He didn’t deserve to be there in the first place,” Shaw says.

“There’s nothing we can do about it…we need to move past all of that,” Price replies.

Shaw, however, can’t. “Move past all that? How? We ruined this man’s life,” he says. “That doesn’t bother you? That doesn’t affect you? That doesn’t get to you at all?”

“I have a job to do, and wearing that guilt on my sleeve or giving speeches about life’s inequities doesn’t help anybody,” Price answers.

But, as Shaw points out, this runs deeper for him. “You know, I thought I could help people,” Shaw says. “By going to law school; fight the system that way. Didn’t work out for me the way I thought. So I joined the police academy. I thought I could do more good on the streets. Have more of a direct impact. I became a cop to keep innocent Black men out of prison, not put them in there.”

Price acknowledges that no matter how hard they try, they’re going to mess it up once in a while.”That’s a helluva speech—unless your name is Troy Booker,” Shaw replies. Ultimately, Troy is found guilty of murder in the second degree.

Shaw was visibly shaken by the ordeal, and Brooks is hoping the series showcases the impact of this storyline in future episodes. “I think they do take into consideration—more so than the seasons that I’ve watched in the past of LAW & ORDER—what the characters have been going through throughout the season,” Brooks tells Give Me My Remote. “They are writing for that. How this may affect Shaw in the future, I hope we come back to it. This is a conversation that needs to be had about the system that was put in place to keep diverse people subservient. Or in a place where they’re constantly fighting for dignity and freedom…I think that there’s a veil that is being lifted about the mechanisms of that system. But that system doesn’t have to be fed. It can just be left alone. And it’s still going to be detrimental to a whole swath of people. And that’s not gonna go away because of this episode.”

“So I think that there’s a lot to explore there,” he continues. “You have an actor who’s willing to explore it, and the character who’s already been put into that place. So I think we have all the elements there. You have writers who were brave enough to do it, and who were nailing it. They hit the mark. And I don’t have a definitive answer for you yet [about when they’ll next explore it], but hopefully…it does expand in the future.”

As for filming the emotional bar scene with Dancy, Brooks acknowledged at the time of the interview he was “avoiding” watching it.

“I got a link to the episode…and I stared at the link for five minutes, and I couldn’t bring myself to click it, because I know what I was going through at the time,” he says. “And that scene in particular, my father is a civil rights attorney. And I remember waking up in the middle of night, constantly, to our home phone ringing and people calling because their son or daughter had been arrested for murder—and they weren’t even in the city when it happened. Or they got arrested for this or that and it wasn’t true. They were innocent. And I saw that time in and time out, over and over again in my life.”

“There was something personal about what the writers wrote—I don’t even know if they know this, but it really hit me personally,” he continues. “I have extended family members who’ve gone to jail for large portions of their lives for things that they didn’t do. I see how that tears at the family, what that does to a family for generations, frankly.”

“And so that was all there for me: Remembering those phone calls in the middle of night that my father would get, remembering that my mom—who’s a journalist—would go to death row in Texas and interview these 14-year-old kids, 15-year-old kids,” he concludes. “The law got changed in part because of some of her work…I was pen pals with a couple of kids who were on death row who were around my age and they didn’t do it; DNA evidence later exonerated them. And so this was the world I grew up in, of understanding that you don’t have to do anything to go to prison…You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Somebody just has to think you look like somebody. And so these it was decades of personal lived experience that I’ve had in this realm, and perhaps hundreds of years of generational trauma of my ancestors that was being allowed to speak through me at that point. But it hit me; I had to go home and recover for a little while.”

LAW & ORDER, Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC


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