Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Melissa Fumero details the show's teary final day of filming
Now that the final heist has been hijacked by Hitchcock, Gina has returned in decreasingly astonishing reveals, Jake is off to be a Mac daddy, Holt and Amy are on the case of police reform, and the precinct has been left in good (and large) hands, all that's left to do is to raise a glass and shout 'Nine-Nine!' After eight seasons, 153 episodes, and two networks (NBC saved the squad after cancellation by Fox and an uproar by fans), the savvy, silly, and socially conscious cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine signed off Thursday with an extra-twisty, satisfying, nostalgia-jammed heist that reunited the detectives with old friends, a cannibal, and Teddy. For Melissa Fumero — who deftly played straight-A, type-A Sgt. Amy Santiago and counterbalanced Andy Samberg's unbridled manchild energy as Det. Jake Peralta — it was time to close the binder on a career-defining experience. Here, the actress, who next stars with Rachel Bloom in the big-screen comedy Bar Fight, reveals what it was like to be on set for that last day of filming back in June. (Spoiler: tears, hugs, and more tears.) She also shares her video diaries from those final hours and the day after. Just as Amy files hard and needs strong tabs, Fumero recollects hard, so you might need some Kleenex.
I woke up that morning feeling a surprising amount of just… heaviness. It's so hard to mentally and emotionally prepare for a day like that. The closest feeling I can attribute it to is high school graduation — you're so proud that you did the thing and you reached this moment, but you're also so sad because deep down, you know all your friends are going to different colleges and you're never going to see them again. It's that mix of really proud and grateful. This was eight years, 10-, 12-hour days every day, and when we were shooting 22 episodes, it was eight months of the year. We spent a lot of time together. Even though I know we're all going to still keep in touch and be friends, this particular group of people — that was not going to happen again. How do you walk into something like that, knowing that today is the day you say goodbye to all these people, in this particular setting, doing this particular job? It was heavier than I thought it was going to be.
The whole habit of getting on the lot, scanning your badge, waving to the security guard that knows you because he's been there for so many years, going to your parking spot which will no longer be your parking space — every step of arriving to the lot that day was like, Oh, the next time I'm here, none of this is going to happen. I won't get to park here. I won't get to use my badge. I'll be going to a different building. It just felt so… bizarre. Right away, I saw one of our producers, David Miner, and it was like, Oh right. People are going to be coming today to watch, because it's the last day. It was this overwhelming heaviness and anxiousness of: All right, what is it going to feel like? Are people going to be happy or crying all day? Or was it going to just be a regular workday till the very end? The only part that snapped me out of it was getting the COVID test, which I will half-miss because it was nice just having the reassurance all the time that you're negative. But also getting a stick up your nose every morning is not the best way to start your day.
It was not a super stacked day. Just a few scenes. The very last scene of the episode was the very last thing we shot. In the morning, it was a mix of people being happy, like, "Oh my gosh! Today's the last day!" and celebrating. The head of wardrobe, Alexis [Jacks], was like, "I can't look at you right now because I'll start crying." [Laughs] I gave her a card. Now, this woman has been there since season 1, so I went through two pregnancies with her and — oh my God, I'm going to get emotional right now — I'm forever grateful to the wardrobe department, because it makes you feel very vulnerable when you have to deal with your body changing on camera. They made it so normal, so... not a big deal. Every time I wanted to freak out, they would calm me down. If something didn't fit, they always treated it as a minor thing they had to deal with. I have a very special place in my heart for all those women. So that was one of the first tough goodbyes. I mean, you try to express it all in a card, but how do you even really articulate what that meant to you?
Then I had to put the damn harness on. [Laughs] I hate harnesses. I wore a harness when I had to drop from the ceiling in season 1 in that Mission Impossible scene. That was fine because I was like, 'This is so cool! I feel like an action star!' In this scene, I was going to be in the ceiling — it was just for safety purposes, in case something broke and I went through the ceiling, I'd be safe. They're really uncomfortable. But it helped, because I didn't cry nearly as much. And I was complaining extra just to make crew members laugh while I was up in the ceiling — to bring the heaviness down. It was a good break in the day from all the emotion. When I shot my bit in the ceiling, not everybody was there, it was just a special shot, me and Terry [Crews], but seeing Terry in his captain's uniform was very cool. Even though it's all for television and not real, it just felt like, "What a cool arc for this character!"
It was such a treat having both Chelsea [Peretti], whose Gina departed in season 6] and Dirk [Blocker] return to film the last episode with us. We all assumed, "Chelsea is going to be back for the finale, right? And Dirk, too?" He wasn't able to join us for the final season in person [although Hitchcock popped up throughout the season on video screens]. It would have felt really weird if either of them weren't there in person for the very end. Especially the last day. To have them there just made it like, "Okay, now we can do this and it will feel perfect, because everybody that should be here is here."
The gifts happened around lunchtime. Joe [Lo Truglio] was the first one to send his gift. He sent everybody jamón ibérico, and it came in this ridiculous big-ass cooler, and then it was the thinnest package of the thinnest sliced meat you've ever seen. The whole way it arrived was so over the top — and so Boyle — that just opening it, I was dying laughing. But it was really delicious. There were cards and stuff from other people. Then I walk in my dressing room and I'm like, "What? Why is there a bag from All Saints in my room?" And as soon as I opened the card, which said, "One without blood on it!" I'm like, "Oh my God, Stephanie [Beatriz] got everybody Rosa leather jackets! No way!" I have wanted that particular jacket since we started shooting the show, and I never bought it because I always felt like, "Is it weird if I have this jacket?" So I love that she gave me permission by just buying it for me. [Laughs] Now I have an excuse to wear it. Every time she would wear it on the show, I'd be like, "Goddammit, I love that jacket!" It's just so cool. I'm going to wear the s--- out of it this fall and winter.
I sent my gift to the cast after we wrapped. They received it just a few weeks ago. I'm known for taking the most pictures. [Director of photography] Rick Page helped me because he has really beautiful pictures of our set. He sent those to me and I made everyone a collage-y, scrapbook-y photo book. It's memories from all eight years, and most of the at-work pictures are from the last season. I actually made them one second season. It was my Christmas gift. I had the intention to make one every year but it just never happened. Shout-out to my people who always have good intentions but not great follow-through! [Laughs]
The props department gave us a frame of our badge and our little business cards. Mine was always in my folder, and sometimes they would show up in random places. I don't think they were ever really featured on the show. They were just a little prop detail. [Co-creator/showrunner] Dan Goor gave me a frame of the necklace that Jake gives Amy in the final episode, which was also really special. And at the end of the day, I received a box of extra stuff from props — a bunch of chair backs and my nameplate from my desk, which I actually hadn't seen in a few years because I haven't had a desk since Amy became a sergeant. That was really nice of props to do. I just wanted one chair back and they gave me five from all the different seasons. I'm going to save them for charity or something down the line.
By this point, everyone is there. [Co-creator] Mike Schur is there, some other writers, [executive producers] David Phillips and Luke Del Tredici, and, of course, Dan. Walking on the set, it felt like, Oh, there's a lot of people here. Everyone's gathered around the briefing room to watch rehearsal of the final scene of the episode, which is the one-year-later time jump. We're all surprising Terry [Crews], who's now captain, to let him know that there will continue to be a heist every year. The director had given Terry the instruction to take a beat and look at everyone before he said "Nine-Nine!" And just during rehearsal, it freaking wrecked me. I was not expecting it. By the time Terry looks at me, his eyes are full of tears — and I don't think I've seen Terry cry — so I just completely lose it and shout the most pathetic "Nine-Nine!" of my life. I'm just like, Oh my God, how are we going to even do this scene?
[While the lights and cameras are being set up], we're hanging out. That was the other thing — throughout the day, we have our little chairs set up outside. If it's a normal day and it's going to be a long setup, we might go up to our rooms and take a break. But that day, you were in the pen hanging out with everyone — like, all day — which was really lovely. So we piled back in to film the scene and everyone's crying. There were maybe two takes where no one cried. I couldn't look at anyone, but somehow we got it. Then I remember bodies moving around and I was talking to Chelsea and Joe and laughing with them. We're being loud and hanging out and talking instead of working, and all of a sudden Andy was like, "Okay, guys, I think we're going to get into the last take." And then everybody got real quiet. I realized that the shuffling I noticed in the corner of my eye was everybody getting ready to watch the last take. I was like, "Oh my God!" And then we did it.
Then Tony [Nahar, 1st assistant director], who's been there since season 1, said "Cut cut. That's it." He gave everyone instructions to move outside [to celebrate]. And as people were shuffling out, the cast stayed in the briefing room for a few minutes and cried and hugged each other. Pretty much the first person that I hugged and sobbed on his shoulder was Andy. We hugged for a good few minutes, and it was… it was, you know, eight years. It was a lot of sobbing. We had a mutual back-and-forth of, "We did good work here. We feel proud." I said something like, "We did it! Look what we made!" and "I'm just really proud of us and proud of what we created with these two characters." It wasn't just saying bye to Andy — it was saying bye to Jake and Amy, you know? Every time it was a Jake and Amy episode, we would work so hard on it. How can we make the scenes better? How can we find little things that are specific to them? Like him being freaky in bed and role playing — leaning into those things and finding moments to add in.
It was that moment of feeling like, "We did it!" — this thing we were always working really hard at. We made this couple something that the fans love. That's a really incredible and rare feeling you get to have as an actor when you spend this long on something. Andy and I had such a beautiful working relationship. We got along really well, right from the go, and we were really open with each other and were just so collaborative. He's so generous with his talent and his intellect; he knows editing and he knows directing and he knows so many different angles of the thing. I've learned so much from him [over] the last eight years. I feel so incredibly lucky that I got to be his scene partner for this, because he really is a dream to work with.
Everyone shuffled outside where they had a stage setup. Rick Page, our DP who started as a camera operator in season 1 and was promoted throughout the run of our show, gave a speech that made everyone cry. Then Dan makes an incredible speech. By this point, I'm fully wrecked and I'm not even trying to control my sobs anymore. I'm like, "The gig is up and everyone knows Melissa is a cryer. It's fine!" And then Dan stops his speech and he's like, "Melissa!" And I'm like, "What?" And he's like, "I can't look at you!" And I'm like, "So then don't look at me! Say your speech and don't look at me!" That kind of broke up the heaviness for a second.
Andy made a really beautiful speech. He wasn't looking at a paper or anything, so he either just came up with it ahead of time in his head or he was speaking in the moment. It was that wonderful Andy Samberg mix of funny and heartfelt. He started it being like, "I see there's a lot of phones out right now. Just want to say: no soash, no posting." [Laughs] He got a little emotional, and talked about that over the course of working on the show, whenever we've had a guest star, every single time, inevitably there'll be that moment where they come up and say, "Hey man! This is amazing, you have a really great thing and everyone is so wonderful!" To which he would just reply, "I know!" We really did, and that's true for me, too. Friends or family members that would visit me on set also inevitably every time would say the same thing: "Everyone's so happy to be here. This is amazing." Just the vibe, the energy on set. That was true for our whole run, from season 1 to season 8. Everyone came with the energy of: "How we make this scene the best we can make it. Is this the funniest version?" The relentless, constant trying — that was really unique and special about this show.
Then Tony did the official, "That's a series wrap on…," and he did the whole cast, one by one. And [finally]: "That's a series wrap on Brooklyn Nine-Nine." There were lots more hugs and tears. Technically, you're not allowed to hug at work. We're very grateful to our COVID officer for being a good sport about it on the last day, because he did such an amazing job and he had one of the hardest jobs last season to make sure that everyone was kept safe and that the rules were enforced. Sometimes he had to be the bad guy and to make sure that people were doing what they're supposed to be doing. But on the last day, we were all like, "We're gonna hug, sorry."
I did walk through the bullpen when it was empty, one last time. I was thinking: This set has been there for eight years, and it's going to all be taken down. It was weird and eerie. I've been on that set plenty of times with it empty — mostly, though, in the morning. There was something about it being the end of the day and sadly looking at everything like, Oh, all this s--- is going to go in storage. It's going to go to other shows. I remember when we first started, we found papers in the folders or old props from Parks and Rec that made it onto our set. So I was thinking about how maybe some other cop show or comedy is going to find a piece of our set on theirs. The jukebox is on the new show, Grand Crew, that [writer-producer] Phil Augusta Jackson has with Dan. They refurbished Shaw's Bar, because the show takes place in the bar. And in that bar is the jukebox from Shaw's Bar. I got very emotional when I saw that. I also was like, "I'm going to go take something from set!" But then I was thinking about the stuff that props gave me, and the things that I wanted I was already given. Then I thought about taking one of the plaques off the wall, but I was like, "That just feels extra. Then I'm just doing it to do it."
There was lingering and mingling outside. Stephanie and I had a teary hug. Stephanie is really the one person I clung to the most throughout the eight years. When we first started out, we were both in similar places in our career and very much the newcomers, and we were the two Latinas and every interview was about being the two Latinas. [Laughs] We went through this together. And then she was pregnant, which also was emotional. She had a little belly on the last day. She's my girl for life, and I just love her so much. It was maybe a tinge less sad with her because I know I'll see her all the time, but I will definitely miss being in scenes with her.
Joel [McKinnon Miller, a.k.a. Scully] wrecked me a few times this season because he was so emotional. He surprised me even before the last day; he just pulled me aside and said, "It's been lovely to get to know you and work with you," and he was crying and I started crying. Joel is, like, a big old mush. All my memories of Joel from the last day are him crying.
Terry and I had a hug goodbye at the very end. Terry is the person you see at five in the morning and he drops some positive, life-changing advice on your lap, and you're like, "What?" That's how you start the day with Terry Crews. He's a force, man, and he's so inspirational and I just marvel at him and he's just the best.
I had a big teary goodbye with Andre [Braugher] — also because Andre lives on the East Coast. So Andre was one of those people where I might've shouted to him, "Send me a picture!" He'll send me pictures of fall leaves — like, he'll send me really random texts sometimes that I absolutely love. So I was like, "Don't stop doing that!" I don't know when I'm going to see him again, so that was a particularly sad goodbye for me.
Another one that sticks out was our camera operator Lauren Gadd, who started as an assistant on camera and moved her way up. I was pregnant, and the next season, she was pregnant. And when I was pregnant with Axl, she got pregnant, so she also had a pandemic baby. She had that big old camera on her shoulder with a pregnant belly, which is just so badass. When she came up to me after the speeches, she was just crying so hard and we just had the biggest hug. There were so many weddings and babies and pregnancies — so much life happened during the course of the show. If I think about when my kids were born, it's connected to Brooklyn. So that made it all just feel so much heavier.
Everyone really stalled walking back to the cars. You walk a little bit and then you stop and have another conversation, you're all just procrastinating, it being the end end. I got in my car and just sobbed the whole way out of the lot. I got home and my husband was like, "You okay?" And I was like, [imitates voice cracking] 'Nooo.' It took a few days. I think that surprised me too, because I knew it was coming. I thought I was emotionally and mentally prepared, but then I was like, "Oh, no, like anything else that ends, I have to allow myself to grieve and move through the grief of this thing ending." It was a rough few days after. The comedown was really, really stark and heavy. I may even have another delayed reaction to it all because there's still a part of my brain that's like, "Oh, we're just on hiatus." Every year we finish a season, we say goodbye, we're a little sad because people go off and do movies, Andre goes back East, we separate for a few months, and we only see each other a few times, but then we're back! And it's fine! I think once it's been a long time without seeing them, or maybe once I'm working on another show, it will hit me again.
It's hard to truly articulate what this job has meant. Obviously, it changed my whole life. Even though I had been working for a long time before the show, it was always very up and down. This show jump-started my career and [gave me] a shot at having longevity in this business. And I got to buy a house with my husband! Little life moments or events that I was lucky enough to have and to afford, because of this job. And having two kids during the course of it— I went through two pregnancies with these people, so they saw every side of me. Then that first year that I had Enzo — the sleepless nights and showing up to work at six in the morning really can be a very powerful bonding experience with your co-workers. Joe's kid is only two weeks older than Enzo, so we had a whole year of going through every single phase of babyhood together. And with our partners working in New York because Beth [Dover] was shooting Orange Is the New Black and David [Fumero] was shooting Power, we also had that in common.
It still astounds me that I got to be on such an amazing show with so many talented people. There's so many writers from Brooklyn that are running other shows, which is a legacy in and of itself. We had the best of the best working on this show, and I learned so much throughout the course of it. To also be part of that NBC legacy of great comedy is hard to wrap my mind around. Maybe I won't fully realize it until, like 10 or 15 years from now, maybe one of my kids is older, finds the show and likes it, and I'll be like, "What???" Then my mind will really be blown.
I'm really proud of what we made. I think back to when we first started how everyone made such a huge deal of the show having two African Americans and two Latinas in the cast and how that's normal now, which is amazing. There's so many different levels to the legacy of the show — to develop characters and have interesting story lines and tell a love story and address social issues. It was an incredibly tall order, and any time you watched Andy or Dan or the writers trying to figure something out because it wasn't working were some of my favorite moments, and I learned so much. I have a deep, deep love for the show, and it'll always be this huge chapter of my life. It's the feeling that we had while we were making it. It's the feeling we had any time we were interacting with people that love the show — who blew up social media to rescue us from cancellation — or parents that said it's the only thing that their kids will watch with them. That's the piece of it that I want to hold onto for the rest of my life. Nine-Nine forever! I think that kind of captures it.
A group of ragtag cops — led by Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) — run the 99th precinct of the NYPD.
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