Andre Braugher crafted two of TV’s best cops ever

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "The Last Day, Part 2" Episode 810 -- Pictured: Andre Braugher as Ray Holt -- (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "The Last Day, Part 2" Episode 810 -- Pictured: Andre Braugher as Ray Holt -- (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC) /

It’s rare an actor can create an enduring police show character. It’s rarer still for the same actor to do it twice. But the late, great Andre Braugher managed that feat to become a TV legend.

TV fans were saddened by the news on Tuesday, Dec. 12 that Braugher had passed away at the age of 61 after a short illness. While he had several good film roles (Glory, Frequency, Primal Fear, City of Angels, The Gambler), Braugher was best known for his TV work as in either a guest star role or scores of regular series, he was a marvelous actor.

His starring roles ranged from the medical drama Gideon’s Crossing to crime show Hack, from a military commander on Last Resort to lawyers on The Good Fight and a recurring turn on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However, Braugher will always be remembered for two roles in particular: Detective Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Street and Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The shows couldn’t be further apart, the first a groundbreaking police drama, the second a wild comedy. But in both roles, Braugher was magnetic and left behind a wonderful legacy for his fans.

Andre Braugher’s Frank Pembleton was a stunning cop

Homicide: Life on the Street set the tone for scores of procedural dramas that followed. It was dark, gripping, powerful and tackled major issues. The cops were an eclectic group, which included Richard Belzer creating the role of Detective John Munch. But Braugher was the focus as Detective Frank Pembleton.

If you committed a murder in Baltimore, you’d best pray you never get into an interrogation room with Pembleton. He’d start calm and quiet, but with searing intensity, building into an explosive tirade that left killers confessing out of fear this guy was really about to snap. His fellow cops spoke in hushed tones about Frank’s reputation to showcase his power.

A fantastic arc had Frank suffering a stroke and this man of control having to learn how to talk and think again as well as get back into his old groove. Braugher was the standout of one of the best casts in television and deservedly won an Emmy for his role (he earned a second for the too-short-lived FX drama Thief).

With DVD the only way to watch the series right now, fans can still enjoy Braugher’s greatest role…which he matched decades later.

Andre Braugher as Raymond Holt was a comedic masterpiece

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was always intended as an “office comedy” set in a police station. At first, Braugher’s Raymond Holt looked to be the straightest of straight men, the ramrod commander handling this squad of goofballs.

The first great touch was the revelation Holt was a proudly out gay man who had fought bigotry in numerous ways in the NYPD for decades. That showed his strength, and rather than trying to stop Jake and the other cops, Holt was a father figure and mentor to them. It was clear he was trying to make Jake a better cop, letting go of his childish ways and taking the job seriously.

Yet Holt had a wonderfully mischievous side, capable of pulling pranks, and went all out on the annual Halloween scavenger hunt episodes. There was also his long-standing feud with Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick) and Holt squeezed more laughs with a flat line than any of the others.

The final season of Nine-Nine had Holt facing marital issues and the troubling aspects of being a black gay cop in 2021. Braugher balanced the humor and drama as only he could, and it ended with Holt ready to become Police Commissioner, a worthy end for him.

That both shows are mentioned together in every obituary for Braugher shows how important both series were. It also showcases Braugher’s amazing acting ability as whether sweating out a perp on Homicide or getting laughs on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, his legacy as a groundbreaker in TV cop shows will always be assured.

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