Was there a lot of discussion of how to handle this story, specifically, as to whether it should be treated incidentally to show that it shouldn’t be considered a big deal or that it should be given the special episode treatment, to help shine light on something we don’t see a lot in pop culture? What was that balance?
The writers did a good job of that, because there’s that great scene in the beginning [of the 100th episode] where she comes out to the squad and tells them. There’s not a lot of “Oh sh—! We had no idea, girl!” It’s sort of a really calm situation in which everyone’s like “Oh! Okay. Well, we’re with you.” Charles’s reaction in the 99th episode, he’s just excited to be the person that she’s telling. It has nothing to do necessarily with what she’s telling him, but more that she chose him to share that news with. Charles is such an intimacy addict — that to him is the biggest part of it.
How does Charles handle her secret moving forward? He’s someone who could be overjoyed and overwhelmed with the responsibility.
Oh, Charles, Charles, Charles. Charles’ excitement about things gives him away so quickly that he’s probably the worst person to keep her secret, and maybe subconsciously that’s why Rosa told him.
The next episode really explores her coming-out in a multidimensional, heartfelt way, yet things are not tied up in a bow. What can you hint about her revealing this information to the squad, which is run by Captain Holt (Andre Braugher), who’s gay?
The squad gets a Rosa-allotted amount of time to ask any questions that they want to about it, but as per Rosa, it’s fast and furious, it doesn’t last long…. This is a group of people who are accepting and loving of each other. They have a gay captain and they’re 100 percent behind him all the way, so it’s not going to be too much of a stretch to see them embrace this thing for Rosa with open arms, but not everyone in Rosa’s life is going to embrace it in the same way.
Which brings us to her parents, Oscar and Julia (Olga Merediz). Danny Trejo plays her father. How does he handle the news, and what’s her relationship like with him?
Rosa and her dad are a lot like. She gets a lot of personality traits from her dad. Danny Trejo was my first choice. Dan Goor asked me, “Who do you see playing your parents?” I was like, “Danny Trejo! Danny Trejo!” immediately. I think he’s been in my imagination forever, and then when we actually got him, I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled. And he is so the opposite of how you imagine. I’m hopeful that I’m able to trick people as well as Danny Trejo tricks people, meaning he’s the sweetest person in real life. Rosa and Oscar are a lot alike, they have many personality similarities and they’ve gotten a lot closer since she’s gotten out of prison. But it’s difficult for my dad and my mom initially, it’s not the way that they imagined their kid’s life going at all. Both of them had ideas and dreams about who Rosa was going to grow up to be, and this completely takes them off the course of where they thought she was going.
Rosa is just starting to delve the world of personal relationships, just in the last year or two, and so having any kind of difficult conversations is still really, really tricky for her. And she trusts Jake [Andy Samberg] implicitly. She’s known him longer than she’s known anybody else in the squad, so if anyone’s going to be able to help her get through this, it’s Jake. And it may mean that Jake has to tell a white lie or two to get her through getting the news to her parents.
What was it like filming this episode, and in what ways — if any — did it mirror your own coming out?
It was absolutely joyous for me because I never, in a million years when I was a kid, could have dreamed that some day I would be on a set filming that story — a main character getting to tell that story. It’s not specifically my story but it is specifically hers, and it might be somebody else’s. That was so joyful for me to think that I am living in a world in which I work for an incredible group of people who said, “This is important to us. It’s something we want to explore with you, and we think we can do it in a way that’s fun and also real in the beautiful world that sitcoms live in, which is, I can deal with this really real stuff that also can move you but then laugh in the next turn which is the best way to go through life.”
The hard stuff has to be balanced with laughter because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be able to get through any of the crap that we all sift through on a daily basis. It was absolutely mindblowing to me I was standing there doing a scene in which I’m looking over and there’s Andy, and then next to him is Olga and then next to her is Danny, and then we’re surrounded by a crew of people that are all excited to be a part of this story? Like, what life is this? Who am I that we’re getting to tell a bi-coming out story on a network TV show? For all its bullsh—, it’s a pretty fantastic world.
I’m hopeful that this starts some conversations between people that would not have had them before. Or maybe makes it easier to have a starting point to start conversations about how people feel one way or another about this character’s revelation or this character’s journey or path. This is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s fine. There’s room for all kinds of people… If you watch the show and forget that Captain Holt is gay, that’s okay, but also remember he’s gay and that you love that character. I guess we’ll see how it’s received, but I was really proud to be a part of it.
Will we soon meet this mystery woman on the phone?
I really hope so. Because there are lots of amazing actresses that I would love to play these scenes with. I can’t even imagine the good stuff that could get written for that relationship. I just think it would be so fun. All of my fingers are crossed that we’re going to see if not [her] then maybe another girl that Rosa is dating.
How will Pimento react to this news?
I think he’s going to be psyched. I think he’s going to be really pumped. I think he might suggest polyamory which I don’t think Rosa is ready for — or into. If Rosa ever decided that she wanted to marry a woman and then get pregnant, Pimento would be the first in line trying to be that baby daddy. Families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes now so I can’t imagine Pimento’s ever going to be far from Rosa’s life.
That answer warmed my heart on many levels. Always want more Pimento.
I love him too. They’re not a great romantic match. Can you imagine Rosa being pregnant with Pimento’s kid while getting married to a woman? I mean, get out of here! We’ll see what happens.
Between this and “Moo Moo,” which explored racial profiling, the show is proving that it can tackle deeper issues powerfully, yet still make them funny and even Brooklyn goofy. Have the actors been activated by these episodes? Do you feel this gives the writers confidence to do more? Is there an appetite there?
One of the gifts that the writers have with the actors is that they know us really well, even if they haven’t been with us since the beginning, they know what we’ve done over the course of the season, and with that backstory, you have a built-in place to jump off from. I don’t think that an episode like “Moo Moo,” or this one or any of the others that have had more feelings in them [could] happen in the first season. It wouldn’t have been right for the show… There’s a stable foundation now because we’ve had so much time to get to know each other.
Some fans have been obsessed with the idea of Rosa and Gina as a couple. What was your take on that?
Before any of this stuff started to develop, that was a thing that some of the fans ‘shipped, as the kids say. And I thought that was really cool that they saw these two characters and said, “These two should get together.” When I was a teenager, it wouldn’t have even been a thing that I would have suggested to friends about a show that I was watching, because it wouldn’t have been normal to say that. And now we’re living in a world in which that’s totally a normal thing to say, that these two female characters should get together, and that is amazing in itself. And I do think that in some ways those two would make a really great team, but there is that slight problem that Gina is probably straight [laughs], so that will stop a relationship dead in its tracks.
That’s one thing. Her self-obsession may get in the way too.
Yeah, probably. Rosa would be good at coddling Gina for a little while, but not for very long.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.