An­dre Braugher leads series to new net­work

NBC TOOK CHANCE AF­TER FOX CAN­CELLED ‘BROOK­LYN NINE-NINE’

Lethbridge Herald - - TELEVISION | ENTERTAINMENT - Lynn El­ber

When An­dre Braugher learned last May that Fox’s “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” was can­celled, it was an end­ing that he’d an­tic­i­pated af­ter five years and soft­en­ing rat­ings.

“When we weren’t on the sched­ule for Fox, I said to my wife, ‘Here’s the new chap­ter, or what­ever it is. Let’s see what it brings.’ And then I went to bed.”

Morn­ing ar­rived with the news that the po­lice sit­com was get­ting a sec­ond chance at NBC, which had de­cided there was life left in the series pro­duced by cor­po­rate sib­ling Uni­ver­sal Tele­vi­sion. It be­gan its new sea­son Thurs­day.

“I missed all the drama. I have no idea what hap­pened overnight,” said Braugher, whose steady gaze and thought­ful man­ner in­di­cate not much else eludes him — un­less by choice.

That in­cludes the Hol­ly­wood glad­hand­ing that can be crit­i­cal to build­ing a ca­reer. In­stead, Braugher has given pri­or­ity to his East Coast-based fam­ily, in­clud­ing his wife, ac­tress and singer Ami Brab­son, and their three sons.

“I would be ne­glect­ing some­thing im­por­tant for some­thing not so im­por­tant,” he said dur­ing a tap­ing break. “So there’s a lot of par­ties I’ve missed. But that’s OK.”

He’s suc­ceeded with­out the net­work­ing and although he started at a time when parts for African-Amer­i­can ac­tors were, as he put it, “few and far be­tween. Pe­riod.” The break­through came with his Emmy-win­ning lead role as po­lice de­tec­tive Frank Pem­ble­ton on the 1990s series “Homi­cide: Life on the Street,” now part of a full, 30-year screen ca­reer stretch­ing from “Glory” in 1989 to “Men of a Cer­tain Age” in 2009-11 to the ca­reer-twist com­edy of “Brook­lyn NineNine.”

Be­sides his 10 Emmy nom­i­na­tions (in­clud­ing three for “Brook­lyn NineNine”) and a sec­ond Emmy for “Thief” in 2006, Braugher earned Obie Awards for his New York City stage work in “Henry V” and “Whip­ping Man.”

When he thought the sit­com was over, Braugher looked to the stage for a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. He’s pro­duc­ing as well as ap­pear­ing in a new play, “Tell Them I’m Still Young” by Ju­lia Doolit­tle, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a tap­ing hia­tus for “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” to bal­ance the dual com­mit­ments.

“I’ve been an ac­tor my en­tire life, and so I’ve been one cog in a gi­ant ma­chine,” he said. “But now I think I want to re­ally ex­plore learn­ing more about the larger process, rather than my one part about it.”

The work, about a cou­ple whose mar­riage is un­der siege from heart­break, makes its de­but with a Jan. 24-Feb. 3 run at the per­form­ing arts cen­tre in South Or­ange, New Jersey. Braugher stars op­po­site Broad­way ac­tress Michele Pawk (“Hair­spray,” “Mamma Mia”).

“Peo­ple un­der ex­tra­or­di­nary stress per­form in ex­tra­or­di­nary ways,” he said. “This cou­ple has lost their daugh­ter, so in the midst of this tragedy they’re look­ing to re­gain and hold onto what they have.”

The New Jersey pro­duc­tion is a spring­board “to see how much in­ter­est I could gen­er­ate” for a New York City stag­ing, he said.

While he’s known for drama, Braugher said he adapted hap­pily to the changeup of “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” when the sit­com that rev­els in phys­i­cal schtick started in 2013.

Af­ter do­ing much re­search on “hor­rific crimes,” in­clud­ing for his “Law & Or­der: Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit” role as at­tor­ney Ba­yard El­lis, “there comes a time in which you want to do some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing lighter,” Braugher said.

“Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” gave him the op­por­tu­nity to learn from Andy Sam­berg and the show’s other comedic ac­tors as he shaped his per­for­mance as Capt. Ray Holt, who’s con­tented in his home life with hus­band Kevin (Marc Evan Jack­son) but seek­ing to ad­vance in the po­lice ranks.

“I just felt as though it was an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing strik­ingly dif­fer­ent from the rest of my ca­reer,” Braugher said. “I like it be­cause it just sim­ply opens up my mind and forces me to think in a dif­fer­ent way. So I think I’ve be­come much more sort of sup­ple as an ac­tor, and more open to the in­cred­i­ble num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties of how to play a scene.”

Dan Goor, who cre­ated the com­edy with Michael Schur, is un­spar­ing in his praise of Braugher.

He is “a ge­nius whose grav­i­tas and warmth as an ac­tor an­chor the en­tire show,” Goor said.

Since Braugher has made it clear there’s more to life than work, he’s kept to his sched­ule of tap­ing the sit­com in Los An­ge­les and head­ing home each week­end. His youngest son is in board­ing school, the other two in col­lege, in­clud­ing the old­est at Braugher’s alma mater, the Juil­liard School.

“They’re pur­su­ing their lives. They’re well-ad­justed,” he said. “I’ve ac­com­plished one of my great goals, which was to see my young men be­come honourable men.”

He said he fills his off hours with cook­ing, hang­ing out with his wife and help­ing her start an arts-re­lated busi­ness by serv­ing as her “gofer, her all-around fac­to­tum. And that’s a good thing to do.”

There’s also the tan­ta­liz­ing thought of what’s ahead. “I want to learn more and I want to do more,” Braugher said.” I mean, I may be 56 years old, but I feel like there’s a well­spring of new ideas, new en­ergy flow­ing in me.”

As­so­ci­ated Press photo

An­dre Braugher, a cast mem­ber in the tele­vi­sion series “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine,’ poses for a por­trait.

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