Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor, dies aged 61

Andre Braugher, who starred as Captain Raymond Holt in the hit comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine and as Detective Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Street, has died aged 61.

The actor died on Monday after a brief illness, his publicist confirmed.

Instantly recognisable for his deep voice, Braugher came to fame on the NBC drama Homicide: Life on the Street, which ran from 1992 to 1998. He won an Emmy for his portrayal of the tenacious, arrogant Detective Frank Pembleton in 1998.

But it was his performance as the deadpan Captain Raymond Holt in the hit comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine that made him most famous, appearing alongside Andy Samberg in eight seasons. He won two Critics Choice Awards for best supporting actor in a comedy series and received four Emmy nominations for his performance as Holt, the precinct’s no-nonsense, Black and gay boss.

Born in 1962 in Chicago as the youngest of four children, Braugher studied theatre on a Stanford scholarship before attending the Juilliard School for drama.

His first film role came in 1989’s Glory when he played a Union soldier in one of the American civil war’s earliest African American regiments. The film earned three Oscars, including best supporting actor for Braugher’s co-star Denzel Washington.

In the years that followed, he played a number of roles in television films – including revivals of classic crime series Kojak – before his breakout in the critically acclaimed police drama Homicide: Life on the Street.

A 2010 article in the Guardian called Braugher’s character Detective Pembleton “the smartest, sharpest master of the art of interrogation”. He was nominated twice for an Emmy and won in 1998, his last year on the series.

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Braugher won his second Emmy for the 2006 miniseries Thief, in which he starred as the leader of a heist balancing a high-stakes operation with family struggles.

Throughout his three-decade career, he was nominated for an Emmy a total of 11 times and often starred in roles circling the military and police, including his beloved role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Other appearances included a cop providing insider info to his disgraced partner on the series Hack, a navy captain on the military drama Last Resort, and a general in the sci-fi miniseries The Andromeda Strain.

In 2020, he spoke to Variety about the complexities of portraying police on television.

“I look up after all these decades of playing these characters, and I say to myself, it’s been so pervasive that I’ve been inside this storytelling, and I, too, have fallen prey to the mythology,” he said.

“Cops breaking the law to quote, ‘defend the law,’ is a real terrible slippery slope. It has given license to the breaking of law everywhere, justified it and excused it. That’s something that we’re going to have to collectively address – all cop shows.”

Many former co-stars and creatives who had worked with Braugher shared tributes on social media.

In a post on Instagram, Braugher’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Terry Crews wrote: “I’m honored to have known you, laughed with you, worked with you and shared 8 glorious years watching your irreplaceable talent. This hurts.

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“You left us too soon. You taught me so much. I will be forever grateful for the experience of knowing you. Thank you for your wisdom, your advice, your kindness and your friendship. Deepest condolences to your wife and family in this difficult time. You showed me what a life well lived looks like.”

Fellow Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Chelsea Peretti also posted on Instagram with memories from the set: “Will miss your dulcet tones. Forever lucky to have gone on such a journey with you. Ringside seat.

“You were so funny to me and the epitome of still waters run deep. I will always cherish our conversations, often with me hanging in your doorway barring your exit, and the insane opportunity to be your sidekick.”

Marc Evan Jackson, who played Holt’s husband Kevin, posted a photo of the pair of them on set, writing “O Captain. My Captain.”

Prentice Penny, the showrunner of Insecure who also wrote for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, shared memories of Braugher on set, including one of Penny, Crews and Braugher talking on set – “and then when a white person would walk by, he’d look serious again. He then leaned in and said ‘Gotta keep ‘em on they toes.’”

Reed Diamond, who appeared alongside Braugher in Homicide: Life on the Street, remembered their time at drama school together in a statement: “As a first year student at Juilliard, I was plunked into a spear carrying role in his fourth year production of Othello. His performance in the title role was astounding, and I marveled at it every night. Several years later I followed him onto Homicide, and … was blown away by his power and talent.”

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Ryan Case, who worked on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, shared other memories on X, including editing the pilot: “My ‘challenge’ … was finding takes where he wasn’t smiling. We wanted to save that for the end. He was like a giddy school child doing his first comedy and it was so wonderful.”

In another tweet, Case posted: “If there weren’t men like Andre in this business I probably would’ve quit it a long time ago. The world is worse without him.”

The Oscar- and Grammy-winning musician Questlove called Braugher “one of my fav character actors” in an Instagram post. “I would commit to a show on the strength of him being a character,” he wrote.

Braugher also recently starred in She Said, the drama about the New York Times reporting of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, playing Dean Baquet, the New York Times executive editor. He also played the charismatic lawyer Ri’Chard Lane in the final season of The Good Fight, alongside Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald.

Braugher is survived by his wife, the actor Ami Brabson who also appeared in Homicide; their three sons Michael, Isaiah and John Wesley; as well as his brother Charles and mother Sally.

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