Last season he came out, what’s next for Rex?
Gay/Straight BFFs on and off the field, Rex (Travis Smith) and TK (Mehcad Brooks)
Since the USA series Necessary Roughness dealt with the coming out of a pro football player at the end of last season, the question at the start of season three is, where do they go next with Rex Evans?
The sport-centric series is going through some changes in its new season with Dr. Dani (Callie Thorne) getting fired from her job with the fictional New York Hawks football team and going to work for a major talent agency called V3 that is headed by new addition (and dreamy as ever) John Stamos. The series also stars hunky Mehcad Brooks as egocentric player TK and Scott Cohen as the mysterious and potential Dr. Dani love interest, Nico.
On the Necessary Roughness set last week in Atlanta, I had the chance to sit down with Executive Producer Craig Silverstein and the charismatic Brooks as well as (via email) the man who portrays Rex, actor Travis Smith to talk about the new season.
We’ll see Rex at the start of the new season but how is he doing now that some time has passed since he publicly came out? “We find Rex this season settled into his new life as an out player,” Smith told me. “It seems most of the team has accepted him and especially the new coach has taken him under his wing.”
For Silverstein, he wanted to make sure the character of Rex was very much a part of the new season, despite the other changes in the show. “We just loved [Travis’s] character and we loved his relationship with Mehcad,” he explained. “For a minute we thought that could be a whole thing unto itself, just like their friendship could be the story. And then as we began to develop TK’s story for the year, it went away from that but we wanted to keep him bonded to TK and they have a lot of good scenes together.”
When asked about Smith, Brooks broke out his broad smile and said, “I love me some Travis.” The actor, who burst onto our televisions – usually with very few clothes – during the second season of True Blood, is happy with how TK and Rex interact this season. “He’s TK’s buddy,” Brooks said of Rex, “and he’s also a client at V3 so we have a friendly competition kind of going on about who’s getting more endorsements and that kind of stuff.”
In fact, with TK’s ego sometimes needing to be the center of attention, he isn’t exactly pleased that the endorsements that he and Rex are getting with the new agency are not exactly at the same level of prestige. “Because of TK’s sordid past,” Brooks shared, “he’s getting the Brute cologne type stuff – this thing called Machismo Cologne, kind of like what your Grandpa used to put on before he passed out in the alley. That kind of stuff. And then Travis, his character, Rex, is getting Ford and Nike and Gatorade and all this kind of stuff, being the first out football player in history.”
Last season, we met Jim (Neil Hopkins), the lover of Rex (Travis Smith)
Smith concurred that, if anything, coming out was the best thing Rex could have done at this point in his career. “V3 aggressively went after Rex because of the courage he showed by coming out. They promised him the world and delivered. So no issue there. Yet.”
However, Brooks said, the rivalry does not get in the way of the friendship between the two men. “There’s a strong friendship that continues to blossom.” Brooks and Smith also appear in a few of the webisodes that were shot as companions to the weekly USA series.
In fact, Smith explained that Rex and TK actually are very good for each other since they each approach life a tad differently. “Team T-Rex are very much friends,” he said via email. “They are still the odd couple but their differences rest on a foundation of deep love and respect. I think Rex helps ground TK a bit and T loosens Rex up.”
Will the coming out of a gay athlete (like Jason Collins) soon be a non-issue?
And with real life NBA player Jason Collins coming out earlier this year, Silverstein said the creative team on the show are more than aware of the parallels. “In the case of Jason Collins, he’s an established star but he’s at the end of his run. But even when a star comes out, it’s going to be a huge deal for five minutes and then I think people are just going to go around playing games after that, like no one’s going to care. And this is kind of the same. They’re just out there playing games. And so mainly [Rex] and TK make fun of each other a bit and they poke fun of each other’s sexuality, I guess you’d say, but it’s just a complete non-issue now. They’re just playing ball.”
Smith agreed with Silverstein’s assessment of real-life athletes coming out and added, “I think it will be a bigger deal in the media than in the locker room or front office. I believe with all my heart the day is coming soon that someone’s sexual orientation will simple be a non-issue.”
One story point that we may not get much from this season is Rex’s partner, Jim, who we met last season when Rex had a therapy session with Dr. Dani to talk about coming out publicly. Smith said there hasn’t been reference to Jim so far this season and he is just as curious as we might be as to where their relationship stands. “I think whether Rex is still with Jim or not it’d be fun to watch him embraced his new found freedom.”
Necessary Roughness airs Wednesdays at 10pm on the USA Network.