As the second season of USA's hit series "Necessary Roughness" kicked off earlier this month, there were many loose ends to tie up from the season one cliffhanger. Did New York Hawk's star player TK (Mehcad Brooks) survive being shot? (He did.) How will the fallout from his affair with the boss's wife affect Nico (Scott Cohen)? (Probably not very good.) And are Dr. Dani (Callie Thorne) and Matt (Marc Blucas) still in a good place with their relationship? (Yes, though they're hiding it from her teenaged kids.)
Our Jim Halterman ventured to Atlanta recently on a USA-sponsored trip to chat with Thorne, Brooks, Cohen and Executive Producer/Director Kevin Dowling on the "Necessary Roughness" about where we go in season 2 of the popular series.
First, Dowling talked about just how much fine-tuning went down off field between the first and second seasons. "I think more than fine tune," he said. "I think it's a pretty big decision to focus more on our team, on the Hawks family. There's always been this parallel theme of Dani's nuclear family and how it gets affected by taking on this new family and the fact that there are pressures that put all kinds of demands on the original family and what does that mean?"
Part of that new family that Dr. Dani must counsel continues to be TK, who may have survived his gun shot but only in the physical sense. "It's almost like he's rebelling as a child or a teenager," said Thorne of her character's troubled patient. "He isn't accepting what really happened to him. He's in this sort of state of denial and that makes their relationship really difficult. She can't get through to him and so it's interesting because I have thought of it more in terms of a mother kind of trying to get through to their child [and] sort of try and get in any which way to get him to admit what happened."
Brooks is more than a little excited about playing the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) storyline for TK mostly because it is more personal for him. "That's one part of TK that I can't laugh at," the charismatic actor explained, growing serious. "I've been there for guys who have gone through it and I went through it in some ways, in my life. You know, you don't have to go to war to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I lost my brother when I was 19 and he was 17 and you react in the way that you do. You just react in the way that you do."
Brooks hinted that we'll get to see more of TK's past in an upcoming episode where TK visits the neighborhood where he grew up for a bit of soul searching. "It's weird because, especially after almost losing his life, he kind of doesn't know where he belongs professionally. It's almost as if, 'wow, maybe I catch a ball for a living. Is that important? I don't know.' He starts to question everything."
Since the show often has Brooks in very little clothing, the actor said he's very pleased that he's been able to really hit the gym this year. "Last season was kind of unfair to me," he said. "I couldn't work out because I got in a really bad car accident so I did the best that I could but I was on a lot of medication so there wasn't a lot I could do. I couldn't even work out." Once cleared to work out again for this season, Brooks dove in with all the rigor he could muster. "About two months out, I worked out with some pro guys who train Olympiads and so I just took it really seriously and because now I have the physical opportunity to do so, I'm not playing around."
While "Necessary Roughness" is set in the football world, various romantic entanglements are also a big part of the story threads and there's definitely is a lot to look forward to in that regard. Case in point, Dr. Dani and Matt, who danced around each other last season but are now together...except she isn't ready to tell her kids. How long will their relationship be closeted from her children? "For a little," said Dowling. "Eventually the kids, like all kids, know more than their parents ever you know [and] when they get around to telling them it's like 'yeah right, sure. We already knew.'
In fact, Dowling said to watch for the kids will have a bigger part to play in the series overall this year. "We've been really pleased with how Patrick (Johnson, who plays Ray Jay) and Hannah (Marks, Lindsay) have come along and their characters have developed and I think that [Executive Producers] Liz (Kruger) and Craig (Shapiro) and Jeff (Lieber) really want to take them in a different direction so they obviously will be getting ready to go to a higher grade. Eventually they'll go off to camp and school and college and all that stuff so Dani will have to deal with that, too."
For Nico, the Hawks' fixer, his piece of season two is try to gain control as things go from bad to worse now that the Hawks' owner, Marshall Pittman (Evan Handler), is a very present part of these new episodes. "Nico finds himself between a rock and a hard place," Cohen said, carefully to not give away too much. However, he did share that in the first few episodes of the new season, "it really gets nasty and Evan Handler, who is superb, plays what you believe is a evil human being. And he doesn't end up being an evil human being but Nico has to kind of keep it at bay and he's having trouble doing it."
Cohen teased that the fact that Nico had been having an affair with Pittman's wife (Liz Vassey) last season may only be the tip of the iceberg between the two men. "You discover a history with [Pittman and Nico] that is a lot more complicated than you thought in the beginning so it's not just about the wife. There are other things that are involved."
Cohen also addressed the fact that there has often seemed to be a bit of a romantic chemistry between Nico and Dr. Dani that has not been acted on...yet. Would the actor like to see them take a step in that direction? "Uh, yes and no," he said. "I think it'd be a really interesting dynamic. If it's ever going to happen, much later 'cause I want it to be teased for years to come."
Thorne shared that going into the second season she already has some favorite moments including last week's episode, "To Swerve and Protect." In that episode, Dr. Dani's work takes her into the world of women's roller derby. "I was really excited that we were focusing on a female athlete and then roller derby has always been something that I've always loved watching." In fact, she said when viewers see the episode, they'll see the show went all out to create this world. "They created a roller derby arena but they did it very beautifully and they got a real team together." Also featured in that episode is actor Rob Morrow from "Numb3rs" and "Northern Exposure."
Even though she's deep into filming the second season of the show, Thorne admitted that one thing she is still working on is thinking the way a therapist does. "It's one of the things that's really hard for me as Callie," she said, "doing a lot of the therapy scenes you see someone in emotional pain and my natural instinct, and I think a lot of people that I know if you have a heart, is to feel for them and I want to go and give them a hug or I want to go 'Oh my God, I know' or whatever it is." But the actress remembers what she learned from the real-life therapist that Dr. Dani is based on, Dr. Donna Dannenfelser. "The main thing I've learned from Dr. Donna," Thorne shared, "is that place that you have to go to, that neutral place, so that you can be a safe haven for that patient, a place that they can be honest, not feel judged, not feel like they have to impress you or whatever it is...you're so used to reacting as an actor and you know that's what you're taught in every class."
"Necessary Roughness" airs Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c on USA.