Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher are teaming up to clean up the streets with a new weapon: Laughter. From the producers of beloved small-town-government comedy Parks and Recreation comes the promising big-city-cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an ensemble show starring Samberg as Jake Peralta, a young detective whose gift for solving cases is rivaled by his talent for clowning around, something that displeases his straitlaced, straight-faced new boss, Captain Ray Holt (Braugher). In EW’s Fall TV Preview issue, we visited the Brooklyn Nine-Nine set and spent some time interrogating the new partners in comedy crime before their big debut on Fox tonight at 8:30 p.m. Our critics have also named the show one of the best new series of the fall. Before you race to the newsstand to pick up the issue, though, step out of the vehicle and slowly place your hands on the scroll bar to check out these bonus quotes from the cast and series creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor.
On casting Samberg
SAMBERG: [Schur] asked his wife, “What do you think of Andy Samberg for this?” and she said, “Yeah, that would be good because he’s not threatening at all so it will make me feel like, ‘Oh, I can watch this show about cops. It won’t feel like it’s just for dudes.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to take that as a compliment….'”
SCHUR: We found out Andy had left SNL, and suddenly it was like, “Oh, that could work.” We went to Fox and said, “What would you think about Andy Samb-?,” and before we finished his name they were like, “Yes, go get him!” We pitched the show to him, and as we were explaining the character in this verbose, florid way, he said, “Oh, it’s comedy McNulty.” We were like, “Yes … that’s the two-word version of our rambling description.” We said later, “He’s totally the right guy for the job, because he was able to distill it in that way.”
SAMBERG: Even if they hadn’t described it the way that they did, I probably would have tried to say that, because I love The Wire so much. They were describing the character, saying, “He’s flawed but in ways that are understandable. He has room to grow, he is really good at the job, but he has trouble working with others, he’s frustrated by the slowness of the system, he’s always going outside of the system and doing things his way, but he’s also incredibly silly and a prankster.” So I was like, “Oh, yeah, it’s comedy McNulty.”
On the appeal of a police comedy
STEPHANIE BEATRIZ (Detective Rosa Diaz): Not unlike Parks and Rec, it fills a niche that you didn’t even know was a niche.
TERRY CREWS (Sergeant Terry Jeffords): They said Parks and Rec was The West Wing done at its smallest level — as small as you can get it. And I thought, “That is a really great way to put it.” But this is like the same thing. It’s like the biggest cop movie you’ve ever seen but squeezed down to its smallest level. Just relationships at a little bitty precinct.
SAMBERG: It’s 100 percent comedy, but there’s a cool element to it, which I like. Like, my dude’s wearing a leather jacket and it’s not weird.
On how goofy Jake can act on the job but still be taken seriously as a detective
GOOR: That is the No. 1 topic that we talk about. In some ways, we took inspiration from Hawkeye on M*A*S*H, where he’s an incredibly capable surgeon. That’s never in doubt. And in every episode, the choppers come in, and even if he’s making fun of Frank Burns, he’s at that table and he’s saving a life and he’s good at his job. We really felt like that was an important aspect to port over to Jake.
SCHUR: In all of the time that we were working on the pilot, there was one thing that we knew: In the cold open, he’s going to solve a crime. In order for this guy to goof around and make fun of people and not wear a tie and not play by the rules, he [should] solve a crime in the cold open and show he’s very good at his job.
On casting Braugher
GOOR: We found out that Andre was available and this guy who is not only an amazing dramatic actor but made his name being a cop on one of the most well-respected dramas would possibly be interested in doing our dumb little show, it was such a no-brainer. We did a with him, and we didn’t know if he was funny. We knew that he was a great actor, and then within the first two minutes, he had us laughing. And in minute three, he just smiled a gazillion-watt smile, and it was like the front glass on our computer shattered. … It was like, “Okay, this is the character.” He was being very analytical and serious about something, and then he smiled and you’re like, “Oh, that’s great. That’s this captain who is very serious and analytical, but inside of there is that smile that may destroy your computer.”
JOE LOTRUGLIO (Detective Charles Boyle): You have someone who has played a cop and you can believe is a cop being the anchor for us goofballs. You buy a little of both: You buy that he can be funny and that we can actually be cops.
CHELSEA PERETTI (Civilian administrator Gina Linetti): Andre’s pretty silly and he does make jokes, but it also feels like, “Oh my god, Andre’s making a joke!” People just have this reverence, and I’m sure as we jell and continue to get silly together, things will shift around a little bit, but everyone holds him in such high esteem that it’s just funny. He said something about the Internet and I’m kind of like, “You go on the Internet?”
SAMBERG: Andre is actually incredible because he has comedy timing and he’s done comedy [recently as a star of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age], but he’s also Julliard-trained. I mean, he’s like for real. He could get an Oscar at any moment. All someone has to do is cast him.
On whether Braugher will be winking at his Homicide past in this role
BRAUGHER: All I can say is I don’t intend on doing a parody of myself, and this show is not nearly as intense nor is even pretending to be that intense. We’re not doing Reno 911 or Police Squad!. I think we’re always starting from the foundation that this workplace comedy set in a police precinct involves really competent people who know what they’re doing, so the comedy doesn’t stem from the fact that they’re just incompetents. It’s more of a wink than a parody, and I hope I don’t find myself in the box yelling at someone, because that would just be too much. But this is Ned Beatty and Yaphet Kotto, 20 years later. I’m playing the brass, so it’s very interesting, and Andy is the brilliant young detective now. It’s not a direct parallel, but it’s a funny reversal.
On Captain Holt’s relationship with Jake (and the other detectives)
BRAUGHER: What Holt is trying to pass on is the methodology of solving these crimes. Being detail-oriented, following protocol. The ability to bring a case to court and have it well-prosecuted, so that we’re not the weak link in this long chain of law and order. Those are lessons that he is trying to impart. Very similar to Bull Durham with Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. Crash Davis is grooming the kid for the majors, and here are some lessons that you need to learn. …. Samberg’s playing the Tim Robbins character, and I’m playing the Kevin Costner character. That’s the overarching thing: These detectives won’t always be in this precinct, but I will know that they’ve been well-trained when they leave.
SAMBERG: It’s easy to make lines funny when you’re playing them to Andre. And the way that he’s playing that character, which is really quite deadpan and grounded, makes me want to be more annoying. I feel like at best, I’m America’s younger brother. My comedy is basically founded in annoying my sisters because I was the youngest and I wanted attention, so I’m bouncing around in a circle like a little yipping dog and poking at them and thinking of different ways to say the same thing over and over again until they finally laugh. And I’d say that is pretty indicative of my comedy career and style. So to have Andre there, who is as we say in episode, basically a statue, like an unmovable object, it’s fun. It makes me want to up my game and try and find cracks to sneak in through with silliness, and break the veneer. And I will say, I have made him break a couple of times. It’s been wildly satisfying.
On the relationship between Jake and Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero)
GOOR: They have rivalries in, like, three different directions. There’s a little bit of a romantic tension. There’s a rivalry, and then there’s also like a brother-sisterly kind of [relationship]. They poke each other.
FUMERO: There is a rivalry and the competitiveness and they both like to push each other’s buttons. But they also respect each other as detectives and they make really good partners and work really well together. So there’s that dynamic too. And then there is a little spark. Whether or not it will grow into a flame or a fire is yet to be known. … We definitely have fun with that, especially when we’re ad-libbing. It can go anywhere from me being really annoyed with him and wanting to slap him — and a totally different take of the same thing could be me [saying], “That’s a good point, dude. Good eye.”
On Jake’s next possible sartorial prank after wearing a shirt & tie and only a Speedo below the belt to annoy Holt
SAMBERG: Instead of getting more and more naked, I have to put on more and more layers every week. The series finale would be me in an Eskimo outfit. “It was a pleasure working with you.” “What? I cannot hear you through the fur!” “Ahhh! Damn that pilot!”