Already in the gym, Mehcad Brooks became the Earthrealm super soldier Jax before officially taking the role in Warner Bros’ upcoming reboot of Mortal Kombat. The actor was a long-time fan of the classic fighting video game adapted into Simon McQuoid’s film, and as a believer in visualization, he would only accept one possible outcome. As the son of an NFL-wide receiver and former all-state basketball player, he’s no stranger to putting in extra efforts to get a job done.
These efforts were not in vain: he grabbed the role and the momentum continued. Brooks worked with trainer Andrew Scutch to use heavy lifting and insatiable food to build 35 pounds of muscle on his huge body. This physicality combined with intense boxing exercises gave him the tools he needed to portray a person who can protect the earth from monsters from the outside world. Men’s Journal spoke to the actor about grueling workouts, eating like a caveman, and finding Jax at Burning Man.
Men’s Journal: How did you feel when you tried to play Jax in a new version of Mortal Kombat?
Mehcad Brooks: The fact that I was ready for the role was surreal because I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid. I left Supergirl knowing I wanted to do something completely different. When I heard about this opportunity, I dropped everything I did and went to the gym. I knew I had to be that guy. I know that sounds crazy. I didn’t want to give them a single excuse for not giving me the role, and I felt like it should be. It wasn’t arrogance, but all my heart was invested in achieving the desired result. I know people are probably scratching their heads over the idea that someone would gain 20 pounds of muscle to play a role they might not get, but yeah, I did.
How did you start developing the character after you got the role?
I am a burner. I’ve been to Burning Man five times and it was in a row as I prepared for the film. So I used that Burning Man experience to find Jax on a deeper level. I know what it does for my psyche, my consciousness and my focus. I started changing my Playa name to Jax when I was there. I had already gained 20 pounds by this point. I took off my gas mask that people wear to protect them from dust because I thought Jax isn’t wearing a mask. I spent a lot of time alone in the desert. What better way to get in touch with a man who has been on multiple tours in the desert than to go out into the desert and strip yourself to the bone?
He’s the baddest guy the military has to offer – the guy they’d send to hunt down monsters and intergalactic ninjas. He’s not exactly a good guy. We’re lucky he picked Earthrealm to fight for. During that time, the visualizations I had made on Jax came into play. At that point, I would be on set playing him in a few weeks, which was kind of an out of body experience.
How did you start building the physicality for Jax?
I found a picture of Jax online that I thought I could achieve. I woke up every day and imagined this one scene where I would be fighting Sub-Zero for 15 minutes while auditioning. Even when my body was tired, I didn’t give in, I just pushed harder. I’ve seen my highest potential. I saw the optimized version of myself in my head and worked hard every day to get there. I have a trainer named Andrew Schuth from Los Angeles that I work with. This guy’s a beast. I think the first time I worked with him, I almost vomited. I had to put ice on my wrists and neck. That’s what we are dealing with here. I’ve worked out in every gym I could. For this role, he created a bespoke workout where we did heavy weights and a lot of repetitions. I would follow that with quick twitch movements and plyometrics.
What was the most stressful thing for you?
I wouldn’t want this training for my worst enemy. I would stumble out of the gym and crawl at times. He let me run at full speed on the treadmill while I bumped with 25-pound dumbbells, then put the weights down and ran at full speed on the uphill slope, followed by another minute on the downhill slope. And that’s just a sentence. Then you think about killing him. But you will see results in days. That’s what makes you submit to it.
Did you train while filming?
There were days where I would shoot for 12 hours, then box for two hours, go to the gym for two hours, and then do the stunt rehearsal for an hour. There were weeks at a time when I only got about four hours of sleep, but I was still moving. I did everything. If I got on a plane, I would roll my suitcase up.
Boxing is a big part of Jax’s fighting style in the game. How did you like training in the ring?
I found that I was very slow because I had gained so much and moving the entire torso took a lot more energy. I started watching old Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier videos every night. I took their styles and mixed them with the way Jax moved in the video games. He jumps a lot and then almost makes a little restlessness when he walks in. I would take videos of myself to check my progress. I enjoyed seeing legends for work and using that in what I brought to the character.
What was your diet like as you prepared for this role?
I ate vegan before I started training for the role and ate maybe the equivalent of half a cow a day. I think as a country we definitely eat too much meat. We don’t usually value animals and don’t replenish the world in the places we go. I’m all for people who make the diet choices they want, but our ancestors were hunters, gatherers, and scavengers.
That is, they ate a lot of fruit, vegetables and nuts, but they also ate meat every now and then. So this is the diet I ate an animal protein on for a week. That could mean that I would eat a lot of lamb or 12 to 16 chickens over the course of the following week.
What did a trial day look like for you?
I’ve been making vegan protein shakes all day from the start. Earlier in the day I made between 12 and 18 eggs. If I were to eat chicken this week, I would make four to six breasts, always with vegetables. I would cut the carbs off somewhere around 5 p.m. In the evening. I didn’t have a drop of alcohol during the entire process.
How did you feel when you ate like this?
I felt like a caveman. It was like the toughest paleo diet you’ve ever heard of, and I got a caveman body. I felt great and got amazing results when I combined them with my work. It’s not something I would take because it’s expensive and I ate about 12,000 calories a day.
Did you add something else to your diet?
I took these elixirs called Black Root Tonic which are made to order. You are unbelievable. You have all of these extra elements and minerals that you need. I’ve continued it ever since.
Courtesy Warner Bros.
Jax has a very memorable look to the game starting with his bionic arms. What was it like to be on the set and in the costume?
The first time you wear a costume is the first time that you fully embody the character. Jax’s costume wasn’t that complicated. It’s functional and military. He must be able to move in it. When shit hits the fan, it needs to be able to grab the sawed-off shotgun and roll immediately. I can’t dive too deep into the merging of the bionic arms, but it’s a lot of work. I try to find the fun in everything, even if it means I have to be on set for three hours before I normally would. I have seen the movie. It’s amazing – and my arms look amazing.
Did the fighting energy prevail the way everyone on set carried it?
The only duel I can talk about is with Sub-Zero, played by an incredible actor, Joe Taslim. In Hollywood, there are only two actors who ask the camera department to slow their movements because the lens is too fast to capture: Bruce Lee and Joe Taslim. Personally, I don’t fuck with Joe Taslim. You know what I mean? I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. It’s like seeing Michael Jackson dance up close. That’s how it is when Joe fights choreography. When I do battle sequences with him, I have developed my own personal game. Did I go on set thinking I could take on Joe Taslim? No. Did I leave the set thinking I could beat Joe Taslim? Would I give money to anyone other than Joe Taslim? No.
How did you feel about the amazing reaction to the Red Band trailer?
It’s all i want I felt that if one of the trailers did better, then due to the nature of the fandom in Mortal Kombat, it would be the Red Band trailer. Nobody who plays Mortal Kombat just wants to take someone down. They want to rip their hearts out. The film gives them that. People may be skeptical, but I really believe this is the greatest film adaptation of a video game that has ever been made. I saw what I saw in this cinema. This will be the new benchmark.
Given that the film is a box office hit, what is likely, would you lie back in your arms to play Jax?
I feel like Jax. There is a lot of love for these characters and for many people this is the first time they have seen these characters be autonomous. We worked until we bled. We enforced our own fears and cheat syndromes. We love these characters. We had to bring it home for the fandom and for us. I’ll have him with me forever.
Mortal Kombat premieres in cinemas and on HBOMax on April 23.
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