Brooklyn Nine-Nine to take on racial profiling with stop-and-frisk episode
The May 2 episode of the Fox police comedy explores a controversial issue through Terry
Brooklyn Nine-Nine tends to take a light-hearted approach when it comes to the long arm of the law: After all, it’s a comedy in which Andy Samberg effuses lines like “Don’t worry, we can outsmart some small-town sheriff. We’re NYPD detectives. We caught the Son of Sam! Ice-T plays us on TV! We keep the Tonys safe!” But an upcoming episode is aiming to mine humor in a serious topic involving the police: Racial profiling via the controversial stop-and-frisk program, in which officers temporarily detain and search citizens for concealed weapons and illegal goods.
In an episode airing May 2 on Fox, Terry (Terry Crews) — a sergeant in the Nine-Nine — is subjected to a stop-and-frisk (which, coincidentally, is also known as a “Terry stop“) by an officer when he’s on the street looking for his daughter’s blankie. “He tries to work it out with the cop by going out to dinner with him, but that doesn’t work out, and he has to decide whether or not to file a formal complaint,” series co-creator Dan Goor tells EW. “To a certain extent, it’s the question of: Am I blue or am I black?”
The show has never been afraid to portray the police as less than heroic, whether through dirty cops (damn you, Stevie!) or the systemic discrimination that Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) faced while trying to rise up the NYPD ranks. And this subject matter was something that the show’s writers have been wanting to tackle for a long time, but “because our heroes are the police, it’s difficult to talk about the police in an abstract way,” says Goor. “We’ve talked about a million different stories and I think this one really works. It felt very natural and real, but at the same time, we’ve managed to make it as funny as any other Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode.”
The idea for the story stemmed from a conversation with Crews, who revealed a similar incident in which he had been racially profiled. The writers began working on an episode but were having trouble around the halfway mark. It was a conversation about the episode with a different cast member — Andre Braugher, a.k.a. Captain Holt — that led to a breakthrough moment. “Andre told me what he thought Captain Holt would do at that moment,” says Goor. “And it was like the clouds parted and I could see for the first time. It was so unexpected, but true to the character and honest, and made for an entire act’s worth of scenes.”
In the episode, after Terry hashes it out with other members of the Nine-Nine, “ultimately it comes down to a great set of scenes between Holt and [Terry],” says Goor. “It’s Andre at the height of Andre and Terry really keeps up with him. And it’s the first time we’ve done an A story for anyone other than Jake.”
Speaking of Jake (Samberg), he and Amy (Melissa Fumero) will spend most of the episode taking care of Terry’s twins with Sharon (Merrin Dungey) out of town. “They want to know why their dad was arrested, so Jake and Amy have to talk about these issues with these kids,” says Goor. “It’s one of the funniest stories we’ve done.”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns for its spring premiere tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET/PT, ready to resolve that cliffhanger from the fall finale: Did Gina survive her collision with that bus?