Andy Samberg stars as a cut-up cop in a new cop sitcom.
AFTER spending seven years as a Saturday Night Live goofball, Andy Samberg is finally ready for prime time. The Berkeley, California, native headlines the new Fox sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and he’ll be the first to tell you that the change in formats takes some getting used to.
“The main adjustment is waking up early. It’s a huge pain in the a**,” he says during a conversation at a Beverly Hills hotel. “At SNL, I could show up to work at 5pm. That was my dream. Also, there are a lot more lines to memorise. I have to say a lot of things really fast.”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an odd-couple cop comedy from Michael Schur and Dan Goor, the creators of Parks And Recreation.
Samberg plays Jake Peralta, a highly skilled yet immature detective prone to zany stunts such as wearing a Speedo to work or using a fire extinguisher to turn his office chair into a booster rocket.
However, Peralta’s world is rocked when a new captain arrives at the Brooklyn precinct. He’s Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), a stern, strait-laced boss determined to teach the young officer some law and order.
The show’s hilarious cast also includes Chelsea Peretti, an Oakland native and former writer on Parks And Recreation who attended grade school – Anthony Chabot Elementary in Oakland – with Samberg.
“We’ll have our moments on the set where we talk about how cool it is that two Bay Area kids wound up on the same show,” Peretti says. “It’s kind of a full-circle thing, and I can’t lie: It’s been pretty awesome.”
It’s certainly shaping up to be an awesome year for Samberg, 35, who won a Golden Globe Best Actor Award last week for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It is his first starring role in a smart and irreverent sitcom that has received a lot of positive feedback. It does for Samberg what Parks did for Amy Poehler — prove that a former SNL cast member can hold a TV audience’s attention for more than a few minutes at a time in a sketch or digital short.
Samberg, who left SNL in June 2012, insists he wasn’t looking to add a sitcom to his resume.
He was content to continue doing an occasional movie and working on projects with Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, his comedic Lonely Island pals and fellow Berkeley High grads. But he was immediately intrigued when Schur sent him a text message asking if he’d consider the role.
“If I was ever going to do a show, these were the people I would do it with,” Samberg said. “Their sense of humour is very much in line with mine. I’m a huge fan of Parks, and I’d seen what they did with Amy, whom I idolise. They offered a producer’s credit and creative input. It also sounded new and interesting – something that hadn’t been done before.”
At least not done very often. Though prime time is saturated with police dramas of every sort, the cop comedy is a real rarity, with Barney Miller (1975-1982) reigning as the genre’s standout effort. Schur and Goor, both big fans of that series, say Brooklyn is not intended to be a parody of cop shows.
“This is not like Police Squad!,” Schur said during last year’s TV critics summer press tour. “It’s a workplace comedy that happens to be set in a police precinct. The idea is that they’re real cops, and the crimes they are investigating are real crimes, and they’re real human beings doing real things.”
As for Samberg’s character, he was partially inspired by Hawkeye on M*A*S*H, a man who was great at his job, but a constant cutup on the side. Samberg also calls Peralta a “comedy McNulty”, referring to the self-destructive detective at the center of HBO’s acclaimed crime drama The Wire.
“I loved The Wire, and I loved that character,” he says. “He was so good at his job, yet he’s so flawed. You feel so much compassion for him, even though he’s a philandering alcoholic.
“We’re not taking it to that level, but, like McNulty, he goes rogue. He’s kind of a lone wolf. He always thinks he knows the best way to do things. He circumvents procedure. He’s jaded.” — Contra Costa Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
> Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres on Feb 5 at 8.55pm on Diva (Astro Ch 702).