Obituaries | Andre Braugher, Emmy-winning actor who starred in Baltimore’s ‘Homicide’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ dies at 61

LOS ANGELES — Andre Braugher, the Emmy-winning actor best known for his roles on the series “Homicide: Life on The Street” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” died Monday at age 61.

Braugher’s publicist Jennifer Allen told The Associated Press the actor died after a short illness.

The Chicago-born actor would establish himself in the role of Det. Frank Pembleton, the lead role on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” a dark police drama based on a book by former Sun reporter David Simon, who would go on to create “The Wire.” The show, which focused on the homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department, ran for seven seasons on NBC, and would win critical acclaim with Braugher as its dramatic center and breakout star.

Simon tweeted Tuesday night that he’s “worked with a lot of wonderful actors. I’ll never work with one better.”

Andre Braugher. God.

I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful actors. I’ll never work with one better.

Stunned and thinking of Ami and his sons and so many memories of this good man that are now a blessing. But too damn soon.

— David Simon (@AoDespair) December 13, 2023

Braugher’s character went beyond simply solving murder cases in a fictional Charm City, according to a 2010 profile in The Sun: “He became a kind of avenging fury who seemed about to explode with all the forces of race, rage, righteousness, arrogance and hyper-morality burning in his soul.”

In 1998 longtime television writer David Zurawik called Braugher as Pembleton “the most complex, multi-dimensional African-American character in the history of weekly television drama.”

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Braugher won an Emmy for best dramatic actor in 1998 and toasted Baltimore, saying: “This is for all the people in Baltimore. This is a town I love. We finally made it.”

He feared he would be typecast after spending most of the 1990s as the brooding detective.

“If I do it too long then I’ll stop really searching and probing inside my own work,″ he told the AP in 1998. ”That’s just a great danger. I think I’m going to escape that trap, and get an opportunity to do some work that will be more challenging for me.”

That would not prove to be a problem. He would go on to play a very different kind of cop on a very different kind of show, shifting to comedy as Capt. Ray Holt on the Andy Samberg-starring “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” It would run for eight seasons from 2013 to 2021 on Fox and NBC.

Though he’d dipped his toe into comedy in the TNT dramedy “Men of a Certain Age,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” still represented a major shift for Braugher, who was known for acting in dark and heavy dramas.

“I just felt as though it was an opportunity to do something strikingly different from the rest of my career,” Braugher told the AP in 2019. “I like it because it just simply opens up my mind and forces me to think in a different way. So I think I’ve become much more sort of supple as an actor, and more open to the incredible number of possibilities of how to play a scene.”

He would be nominated for four Emmys during the run.

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Braugher’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-star Terry Crews was among those paying tribute to him Monday night.

“Can’t believe you’re gone so soon,” Crews said on Instagram. I’m honored to have known you, laughed with you, worked with you and shared 8 glorious years watching your irreplaceable talent. This hurts.” He added, “You showed me what a life well-lived looked like.”

Braugher most recently starred in “She Said,” the 2022 film about the New York Times journalists who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s years of sexually abusing women. Braugher played Times editor Dean Baquet.

Born and raised in Chicago, Braugher graduated from Stanford and got a master of fine arts degree from Juilliard.

He had his breakthrough role in 1989’s “Glory,” starring alongside Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for the film about an all-Black Army regiment during the Civil War.

Braugher played the bookish, frightened union corporal Thomas Searles in the film.

“I conceived that character as heroic, but I got a lot of scripts after that where I’m constantly crying,” he told the AP in 1993.

Despite the part, he told the AP in 2019 that before “Homicide” he struggled to find work in a Hollywood where roles for African American actors were “few and far between, Period.”

Braugher won his second Emmy for lead actor in a miniseries or movie for the 2006 limited series “Thief” on FX. Braugher would be nominated for 11 Emmys overall.

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His other film credits included “Primal Fear” and “Get on the Bus,” and his other TV credits included “Hack,” “Gideon’s Crossing” and “The Good Fight.”

He also acted frequently on the stage, often doing Shakespeare. He won an Obie Award for playing the title role in “Henry V” at the New York Shakespeare Festival, where he also appeared in “Measure for Measure,” “Twelfth Night” and “As You Like It.”

“I’m not a TV watcher,” he told The Sun in 1998.

Braugher was married for more than 30 years to his “Homicide” co-star Ami Brabson. He is also survived by sons Michael, Isaiah and John Wesley, his brother Charles Jennings and his mother, Sally Braugher.

His death was first reported by Deadline.

Baltimore Sun reporter Dillon Mullan contributed to this article.

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