LAW & ORDER: Mehcad Brooks Looks Back on Sam Waterston's Farewell and Previews Shaw's 'Tough, Really Deep' Hour - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LAW & ORDER: Mehcad Brooks Looks Back on Sam Waterston’s Farewell and Previews Shaw’s ‘Tough, Really Deep’ Hour

February 29, 2024 by  

LAW and ORDER Mehcad Brooks interview

LAW & ORDER — “On The Ledge” Episode 23006 — Pictured: Mehcad Brooks as Det. Jalen Shaw — (Photo by: Steve Hart/NBC)

It’s a new era for LAW & ORDER in the aftermath of Sam Waterston’s departure from the franchise

Tributes poured in for the legend (who exited the series in February) from previous and current castmates, with one of the sweetest being from L&O star Mehcad Brooks. “He’s been a beacon of light, morality and integrity for decades in America and he paved the path we as a cast now tread,” the actor, who plays Detective Shaw on the NBC series, wrote in part on Instagram.

“I was humbled to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sam,” Brooks tells Give Me My Remote of his online homage to his former costar. “He gave me so many wonderful compliments about my work. And that just meant so much to me because I grew up watching him. He was this beacon of light and virtue and morality and grit for several decades…even when the show had its own hiatus, Sam Waterston was still on the tip of everybody’s consciousness as someone who represented those things.”

“It was just an honor and privilege to get to work with him,” he continues. “Laugh with him and joke with him and put my arm around him and call him a friend. I don’t want to stop that relationship—I’m gonna text him and just send him memes and all types of stuff. And so he’s great. A wonderful man.”

Things are decidedly more complex regarding what Jack McCoy’s (Waterston) exit means for Shaw, though, when DA Baxter (Tony Goldwyn) joins the team in March.

“Listen, Shaw is a homicide detective—he doesn’t trust anybody, right?” Brooks says with a laugh. “It’s not one of these jobs where you get very far trusting everybody. And so when Tony Goldwyn comes in as Baxter…he’s deliberately careful about the relationship with the new district attorney because they get to set their own framework.”

“Shaw is used to having Jack McCoy there,” he continues. “And he knew that the bar was set: This is the amount of evidence we need to get a conviction, or at least go to trial. A DA can figure out whatever their motivation is; they can bring their entire life experience—and they should bring their entire life experience—good or bad, to that office. We don’t know what that is yet [with Baxter]. We don’t know if he’s politically motivated. We don’t know if he’s motivated by virtue. And so Shaw and Riley are pretty trepidatious about their relationship with Baxter.”

That wariness doesn’t translate off-screen, thankfully. “Let me just say Tony Goldwyn is incredible,” he gushes. “The best choice in the world for the job. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years, worked with his daughter [Anna Musky-Goldwyn] on SUPERGIRL; she’s a very talented writer. And so the Goldwyns, love them. They’re amazing. [He’s] a legend. Instant classic, great choice.”

Law and Order Mehcad Brooks interview

LAW & ORDER — “On The Ledge” Episode 23006 — Pictured: (l-r) Mehcad Brooks as Det. Jalen Shaw, Chinaza Uche as Kenneth Cartwright– (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Unfortunately for Shaw, there’s no pause in work while they await the new DA. On the Thursday, February 29 episode, “On The Ledge,” the detective stumbles across an emergency situation.

“This is a tough, really deep episode for Shaw,” Brooks previews. “Shaw’s headed to work [and] finds a man who’s standing on a ledge overlooking the East River who was contemplating suicide…Shaw, literally and figuratively, talks him off the ledge. They have a conversation, Shaw tries to connect with him, but the man wants to just go home and be with his son. After a morning like that, who could blame him, right? So Shaw goes to work, talks about it with Riley for a little bit, and then is immediately called out to an active shooter in a hospital.”

“Through following up some leads, we realize that the fugitive, the active shooter, is the man that Shaw talked off the ledge in the morning,” he continues. “And so there’s a psychological and emotional rollercoaster that Shaw goes through about beating himself up: ‘If I had just done this, if I had just done this.’ These guys are not superheroes, they’re heroes. They can do 99 percent of the stuff right and that one percent sometimes can be the thing that gets them into an untenable situation. [He] is lost in his own emotions, lost in the ‘what if’s of the world. Lost in his own behavior and his professionalism, but also is hunkering down and putting his feet on the ground and step after step and doing his job.”

This also marks the first real crisis Shaw has undergone while partnered with Riley (Reid Scott), who joined the team at the start of the season. But despite the duo still finding their footing together, Shaw feels comfortable reaching out to Riley “for some advice.”

“They have a heart-to-heart off duty,” Brooks shares. “Shaw is weighing his options about what to do about a family [where] he understands the motivation of this father. Not that he condones the behavior, but he understands the emotional motivation of the father, because Shaw himself has also experienced racial trauma. It is the psychological and physical stress that follows any incident of discrimination or racism and every Black American has that. I will go out on a limb, excuse the phrase, and say that. And Shaw is no different. And we’ve seen that last season, which comes up to the surface for him in this conversation with Riley.”

“So he engages Riley in conversation about not knowing exactly how to proceed when he realizes that he does understand the emotional motivation for someone to snap in a country that has created legislation to keep people like him systematically oppressed,” he continues. “And so that gets to you. Whether the DSM-5 has included it into its framework or not, we know as Black Americans, and we’ve known this for decades, that it does affect health outcomes in our communities. And we don’t have to wait for the psychiatric community to recognize it or for their permission to heal.”

“And, once again, neither Shaw nor Mehcad Brooks is condoning the behavior, but we’re saying that we understand the emotional motivation behind it,” he reiterates. “Riley gets an insight into that. I think this episode does a really good job at initiating the conversation about having racial literacy. There’s a lot of obstruction to forming racial literacy in this country. People jump on the bandwagon and they yell CRT, but it’s not CRT. It’s racial literacy, [which] is literally trying to save lives, because we’re trying to create a conversation [where] we’re trying to tell people how bad this is and how it does affect health outcomes. It does shorten life spans. And sometimes that includes suicide. And we know that now. There’s empirical data, there’s research.”

“One of the greatest things about the show is that we are able to initiate conversations, tough conversations, around the dinner table within communities,” Brooks concludes. “And there’s a scene in this episode that I never thought I’d see on network television, to tell you the truth. They got it so right that it was hard for me to do a take without tearing up or crying, just allowing it to happen. And I think this is the beginning of a beautiful conversation that America can have about equipping itself with racial literacy.”

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


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