'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' exec producer on the new captain shockers in the season premiere
[SPOILER ALERT: Hey! No one read this Q&A until you’ve seen the season 3 premiere of Brooklyn Nine-Nine because it contains key plot points that will be discussed below. Dozer Blast, over!]
Sunday night’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine — the season 3 premiere of the Fox cop comedy — was titled “New Captain.” A more accurate title, of course, would be “New Captains.” We also would have accepted “Kill Bill.” The opening scene introduced us to Capt. Holt’s replacement, Capt. Seth Dozerman (played by Andy Samberg’s former SNL co-star Bill Hader), who preached efficiency. As well as efficiency. But also efficiency. Alas, his genetic heart condition — and the shock of seeing Jake (Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) sneaking a snork — was too taxing for his ticker as he keeled over and died. Then things turned really dark when the new new captain was revealed to be… the glory-hogging Det. Pembroke, a.k.a. the Vulture (Dean Winters). What does all of this mean for the precinct? Are Jake and Amy for real? How many farts will have to be eaten under the Vulture’s reign? Let’s keep things light and breezy as we ask Brooklyn co-creator/executive producer Dan Goor about the key moments in “New Captain.” Linetti, set, go!
EW: When did the idea for the two-new-captains twist come about?
DAN GOOR: That idea came about fairly early on in pre-production. The first version of it was that we would have a new captain at every act break. And then we eased up on that because we thought that wouldn’t be that fun to watch. Then Bill Hader became available, and he really was our first choice for the new captain. The reality was, due to his amazingly busy schedule and his incredible exploding career — exploding in a good way, that sounded bad — we just didn’t have him for that much time. And so it just seemed like a fun, funny way to exploit his comic potential over the amount of time that we had him for.
Why did you pursue Bill for the role? Obviously he has worked with Andy before…
We wanted him because we think he’s one of those absolute funniest people in the world, so the opportunity to bring him onto the show was something we couldn’t pass up. And also we thought he’d be really funny with Andy.
What was his reaction when you told him that he was being killed quickly?
He thought it was hilarious. And he loved the idea of doing the heart attack. He was very into it.
Did you think at all about just severely impairing him, so he could return — although you could show him in flashbacks — or was it always a death sentence?
It was always a death sentence. It seemed so much funnier. And we could always have flashbacks…. The next episode is his funeral, so when we had the idea that he was going to die, we immediately had the idea that the next episode would be set at his funeral. We’ve always wanted to do a cop funeral. It’s a difficult setting because obviously, in general, they’re very serious affairs. But because we’d introduced this guy and made him into such a buffoon, it felt like we could have fun with his funeral.
What can we expect from the funeral next week?
Jake gets in a fight with a bag piper…. Charles has a really funny romantic arc with [Lieut. Knox, played by] Archie Panjabi at the funeral. She’s a Staten Island cop who he’s flirted with at the last three funerals, and this time he thinks the relationship will be consummated.
How did you arrive at the idea that the Vulture would be the new captain?
We love Dean Winters. And we really enjoyed working with him in season 1. In every episode he was so funny and such a great actor. And then last season he had his show on CBS, so he was unavailable to us. But the reason we chose him for that role specifically was the character has such a strong dynamic with Jake and with the other characters in the office, so it felt like a short cut to comedy to have him in a position above Jake — and the squad.
Did you see his rise as “What is the ultimate nightmare for the precinct”?
Exactly. And “What is the ultimate nightmare for Holt?” It’s seeing his precinct run by the Vulture.
How iron-y will his fist be in ruling the precinct? How much credit will be hogging?
It’s more on the iron-ishness. He’s the worst possible version of himself. He installs a kettlebell station in his office so he can work out. And he has a wolf he shot mounted in the wall, although it may in fact be a dog.
Sounds like the power goes right to his head.
Yes. Or he’s consistently who he has always been — a true d-bag.
Fans are wondering how long Holt (Andre Braugher) will be gone from the precinct and working in public relations. When will they have their captain back in his rightful place?
Watch and find out. He ultimately ends up back in the precinct. We understand the appeal for everyone to have him back, but we are exploring what it does to him and what it does to the precinct to have him not there for a few episodes. Hopefully we’ve done the right number of episodes. I really don’t want to say how many because I don’t want to ruin the episode in which he comes back, but I think it’s long enough and not too long.
You faked us out with Jake and Amy, bringing them together and then pulling them apart, and then bringing them back together near the end of the episode. How much back and forth was there in the writers’ room about letting that relationship play out this season? And what comedic possibilities does it bring in future weeks?
There was a lot of conversation about what to do with the two of them. And it’s very difficult in a will-they-won’t-they situation on television, given that there’s been 47,600 episodes of television, to find a new playbook. Or to do it right. Our philosophy all along has been to play things out as realistically as possible between these two people, so we looked at the two of them and said, “They’re both adults. They’re both attracted to each other. They told each other that they’re attracted to each other. It’s hard to come up with a realistic impediment to them trying to give it a go.”
We felt a little bit like anything we engineered to put between them was just going to be frustrating to everyone — to the audience, and to the writers. Because it would feel fake. That’s not to say there aren’t bumps in the road — and there are bumps in the road. And that’s not to say that work itself isn’t a bump in the road, because it’s not easy to date someone with whom you work. The elements of comedy are two-fold. One, I think there’s a lot of comedy to be mined from dating somebody with whom you work, and how your personal life plays in the professional and vice versa. And two, they’re an odd couple. So there’s odd-couple type comedy to be played for the two of them. She’s very anal-retentive and he’s exactly the opposite of that. And at no time have we said they are star-crossed lovers who can’t get in fights or tease each other or poke each other, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity for comedy.
How long do you want to explore that relationship this season? It’s safe to say they are together for the time being?
Yeah, they’re together for the time being. But as we did with the courtship, with the relationship, we’re feeling it out and trying to keep it as realistic as possible and as fun as possible and as funny as possible. We’re playing it by ear.
Ultimately, when you were weighing things out, did the fears of letting them finally be a couple and losing that will-they-or-won’t-they energy seem smaller than the fears of viewers tiring of the will-they-or-won’t-they vibe?
That’s the unwinnable equation. That’s the hardest thing when you’re writing a show — it’s impossible. If you keep them apart unrealistically, everyone is frustrated. And if you get them together, everyone is frustrated. So what we’re trying to do is have them explore it and hopefully make that funny.
And finally, how much debate was there in figuring out the exact length of Scully’s bathroom visits? If 72 minutes is the halfway mark, that’s 144 minutes total. That’s a pretty long stay.
I think with all jokes like that, someone wrote it at 36 minutes. And the first time we went through the draft, that became 39 minutes. And then the third time et cetera, et cetera, so that by the end, if we’ve had done two more passes on the script, I think he would have been in the bathroom for 42 hours.