"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" began life last fall as a fast, funny sitcom about a precinct of New York detectives adjusting to life under a newly appointed, no-nonsense captain. By the time the Fox series won a Golden Globe in January, it had developed into one of television's best workplace comedies, boasting an ensemble of fully formed characters that were goofy, yes, but also lovable as a misfit family.
Producers Dan Goor and Michael Schur tapped Andy Samberg to anchor the series as Jake Peralta, the precinct's ridiculously efficient man-child detective. Samberg won a Globe too, and, much like Amy Poehler on Schur and Goor's NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," he's adept at delivering both humor and heart but also seems happiest when handing off an episode's biggest jokes to his cast mates.
"He's really generous," Goor says, "and a very thoughtful guy when it comes to the craft of storytelling and comedy."
A show producer himself, Samberg had a hand in setting "Nine-Nine's" final lineup. Over a breakfast burrito one recent morning, he proudly shared his thoughts on the cast that makes up one of TV's deepest benches.
The file: Capt. Ray Holt, the precinct's stern, gay commanding officer, known for an emotional reserve that makes Mr. Spock look like Gilbert Gottfried.
The partnership: Early "Nine-Nine" episodes played up the contrast between Samberg's hyperactivity and Braugher's gravitas. As the season progressed, the writers gave Braugher permission to be silly too. "Andre also understands timing and not only finds jokes but accentuates them," Samberg says. "The episode where the young guy is challenging Holt's position in the African American gay and lesbian police group and Holt says, 'He'll be a worthy adversary. Now we just need to find out how to … ,' and he pauses for about 10 seconds, 'destroy him.' Only Andre can get away with that pause."
Favorite moment: In the Thanksgiving episode, Jake tries to engage Holt in a series of wacky role-play games. When a family won't stop bickering, an exasperated Holt finally gives in and screams, "My wife was murdered by a man in a yellow sweater!" Samberg: "That's the moment I thought, 'Andre is bona fide hilarious.'"
The file: Det. Charles Boyle, clumsy and over the moon about the things he loves, which include Brooklyn pizza, obscure ethnic food and, intermittently, Det. Rosa Diaz.
The partnership: Lo Truglio brought to life a sweet character who veered between confidence and panic but was always utterly enthusiastic. "Everyone in the comedy community has loved Joe Lo Truglio for 15, 20 years," Samberg says. "The fact that this is the highest-profile thing he has done is insane."
Favorite moment: The episode titled "Full Boyle" wormed its way into the lexicon as a description of a love-struck person ruining a relationship by moving too fast. "He's just a nightmare in that one," Samberg says. "In a good way, it reminds me of a great episode of 'Three's Company' with all the circumstantial stuff that makes a comedy situational."
The file: Det. Amy Santiago, Jake's overachieving, desperate-to-please (Holt, anyway) partner and, by season's end, object of affection.
The partnership: Fumero was best known for a six-year stint on "One Life to Live," not exactly a comedy training ground. Casting director Allison Jones loved her, though, as did Samberg for the way she made her overeager character sympathetic and relatable. "The desire to be the teacher's pet is almost debilitating for her," Samberg says. "And it's so the opposite of Jake, it makes for a nice yin-and-yang relationship."
Favorite moment: After winning a bet, Jake plans to take Amy on the Worst Date Ever. A stakeout interrupts their plans, but he does force her to do the steerage jig from "Titanic." "That's just a girl's nightmare, having to do a dance that's super-sloppy and crappy," Samberg says. "She's fantastic."
The file: Det. Sgt. Terry Jeffords, a bighearted man equally devoted to family, colleagues and his exercise regimen.
The partnership: "Before I ever met him, 10 people went out of their way to say, 'I heard you cast Terry on the show. He is the best guy,'" Samberg remembers. "And, sure enough, I meet him and he's this beacon of light." The show uses Crews' ripped physique to comic effect, contrasting it with his character's caring nature. "People keep asking him whether he lifted that car," Samberg says, referring to the episode where a diet makes the sergeant crazy — and flatulent. "His joke: 'The fart was real. The car was not.'"
Favorite moment: "We had a lot of fun on the episode where he and I try to solve the unsolvable case," Samberg says. "I like the dynamic of an authority figure shutting me down over and over again. And Terry owns that Kangol hat in the flashback."
The file: Gina Linetti, Capt. Holt's beautifully bizarre assistant.
The partnership: Samberg and Perretti went to elementary school together. "We were both little spazzes," he says. "Let's put it this way: I was not surprised to hear she got into comedy." Peretti wrote for "Parks" and won raves within comedy circles for her Web series. "Her and Joe, they can say insane things and it feels natural because they're just funny to their core," Samberg says. "Their existence is funny."
Favorite moment: At Holt's birthday party, Gina wows the Columbia psych faculty with her stream-of-consciousness musings. Samberg: " 'At any given moment, I'm thinking of one thing: Richard Dreyfuss hunkered over, eating dog food.' What the ... is that line? I don't know what it means, but I know I like hearing Chelsea saying it."
The file: Det. Rosa Diaz, the precinct's toughest, most terrifying member.
The partnership: Another Allison Jones find, Beatriz is a stage-trained Shakespearean actress who, like Braugher, grounds the show's character-based comedy. "When you're in a scene with Stephanie and you need to play a moment real, she can pull that other move out where you're like, 'Whoa, we're not screwing around!'" Samberg says.
Favorite moment: "I love 'Pontiac Bandit,' with Craig Robinson," Samberg says. "You find out Jake and Rosa went to the academy together, and they have a history that when they have each other's back, it means something. And you really care about the story because Stephanie's so into it."
Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller
The file: Checked-out desk jockies Hitchcock and Scully, counting the days until their retirement — not that it will change their lives much.
The partnership: "They're similar to older detectives on 'The Wire,' but when you watch that, it's infuriating," Samberg says. "Whereas here, it's like, 'Please don't ever work Hitchcock and Scully!' It's the joy of my day to see them just goofing off."
Favorite moment: "They're joke assassins," Samberg says. "Any time a scene needs one last joke, they can just come in and say pretty much anything."