New turn for Brook­lyn Nine-Nine

NBC gives sit­com new life af­ter Fox dumped cop spoof

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - ENTERTAINMENT - LYNN ELBER

los an­ge­les — 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 be­gins its new sea­son Thurs­day, air­ing also on city.

“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 glad-hand­ing 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 africanamer­i­can 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 nine-nine.

Be­sides his 10 emmy nom­i­na­tions (in­clud­ing three for Brook­lyn nine-nine) 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 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 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 change-up of Brook­lyn nine-nine when the sit­com that rev­els in phys­i­cal shtick 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 art­sre­lated 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.”

CHRIS PIZZELLO/In­VI­SIon

An­dre Braugher, a cast mem­ber in the tele­vi­sion se­ries Brook­lyn Nine-Nine, poses for a por­trait at CBS Rad­ford Stu­dios in Los An­ge­les.

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