It’s mind-boggling to Andy Samberg, formerly of Saturday Night Live, that he actually gets to star in his own TV cop show.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a freewheeling sitcom that premieres at Tuesday on Fox, is not remotely what he expected to be doing at this stage of his career.
His post- SNL plan, as a matter of fact, was downright gloomy.
“I thought I would probably try to do stand-up for a while — unsuccessfully — and then get a different job and be sad,” Samberg says, only half-joking, as he munches from an enormous bag of beef jerky. “It feels more and more impossible every time I do something new.
“When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to do SNL, and that was pretty much all I thought about until I was actually on it. So everything from the point when I got to audition has been icing. It’s so far beyond what I imagined happening for me.”
Samberg plays Jake Peralta, an exceptionally talented and undisciplined police detective. Crime solving comes easy to Jake, too easy, so he spends most of his time goofing off and cracking jokes.
Truth be told, that’s not unlike Samberg’s approach to the craft of acting.
“I’m finding more and more parallels between Jake and me as the show goes on,” he says. “He’s based on me more than I realized!”
But then Andre Braugher, formerly of Homicide: Life on the Street, the poster boy for cop-shop intensity, enters the scene as Captain Ray Holt, a by-the-book boss who challenges Jake to straighten up.
Each character can stand to learn a thing or two from the other.
“As an actor, I am completely in awe of him,” Samberg says of Braugher. “This is a Juilliard-trained, Shakespeare-in-the-Park heavy. He knows exactly how to play drama and has so much experience in that regard. I’m learning from him every day, watching how he approaches things.
“It’s been funny, because so many people have this impression of him that he is very intimidating, but I haven’t really seen any of that. He’s been nothing but warm and collaborative.
“And because of that gravitas that he has and that actual acting training, which is so the opposite of where I come from and how I’ve gotten into comedy, I feel like our characters play perfectly off each other.
“He’s able to ground scenes and let me act like a maniac all around him, like a yipping little dog.”
The tone of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is more in the spirit of Barney Miller than Reno 911! That’s largely because series creators/executive producers Dan Goor and Michael Schur were die-hard Miller fans.
“When Dan and I started thinking of ideas for shows, we pretty quickly realized that there hadn’t been a half-hour cop comedy in a while,” Schur says. “In this day and age, where there are 10 million shows about every genre, every setting, every location that is possibly imaginable by the human brain, that made it kind of an exciting challenge.”
Samberg says he was turned on by the idea for a different reason: “I get to wear a cool leather jacket!”
He’s so right for the show because the idea of Andy Samberg with a badge and gun is frighteningly funny.
“I don’t want to belittle how much training and how much work actual police officers put in to get to a point where they really know what they’re doing,” he says. “I don’t know what it actually takes, let’s put it that way.
“Like, I can pretend like I know how to fly a plane, but we wouldn’t be in the air very long.”