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Jalen's Name On Law & Order Has More Meaning Than You Likely Realized

With a fresh season of "Law & Order" now unspooling on NBC, it's time to take a good look at the show's brand-new recruit. With Anthony Anderson out after making a single-season appearance, Mehcad Brooks has stepped up to the plate as Junior detective Jalen Shaw for the foreseeable future. Shaw made his debut during the three-show, three-part "Law & Order" crossover event "Gimme Shelter" on September 26, which served as a season opener for every single series in the franchise. 

Though we only have a single-episode event to go off of, Shaw seems extremely mature, rules-bound, and cool-minded as he works on homicide cases. We know that he started out life protecting and serving as a lawyer, but didn't take to the profession and ended up in the enforcement field. We don't know too much more about him as of this writing, but we've only been with him for a short amount of time compared to the hundreds of installments veteran characters like Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) have put into the franchise.

Brooks recently sat down for an interview to give a little insight into Shaw. During it, he revealed something surprising about the meaning of his character's name, which definitely adds depth and nuance to Shaw's existence.

The character's name defines his actions

Per an interview with The Wrap published in September 2022, Brooks explains the meaning behind his character's name after the interviewer remarked that his character was very rule-ordinated and soothing of deportment. "Yes, he is calm. As a matter of fact, the etymology of his name." Brooks went on to explain that the name Jalen means 'calm and tranquil,' an interpretation agreed upon by babybump.com. He also explained that Shaw means 'wolf' in Welsh. On this the Merriam-Webster dictionary disagrees with him, saying the term means "copse, or thicket" and says the word is Scottish in origin.

In any event, the origin of the character's name definitely helps influence how Brooks plays his role. "[S]o he is the Calm Wolf. That's who he is. And that informs everything that I do as a character, like how would a wolf play this? The cool thing about a wolf is that it's calm all the time. Until he's not. Until it's time to hunt," said Brooks. He then said that pursuing justice definitely activates Shaw's "wolfish" side. 

Interestingly, Brooks goes on to say that he asked that the character be named for two of his uncles — and that he didn't discuss his wolfish interpretation with series creator Dick Wolf. Instead, he let go and let the character be named as the producers intended. And thus was the 'calm wolf' born.