By Alison Willmore | Indiewire January 31, 2014 at 4:52PM
Over 14 episodes, with a 15th set to air in a prime post-Super Bowl slot this Sunday, police department comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" has grown into one the season's strongest new shows. Earlier this month, the freshman series even walked away with a Golden Globe for Best TV Series, Comedy/Musical, besting the likes of "Big Bang Theory," "Girls" and "Modern Family," as well as fellow Michael Schur creation "Parks & Recreation."
And while Andy Samberg also snagged a statuette for his performance as gifted cop and terminal manchild Jake Peralta, what's made the series come together is the depth of talent of its ensemble, from Andre Braugher as the deadpan Capt. Ray Holt to Joe Lo Truglio's tyrannized Det. Charles Boyle to Stephanie Beatriz's perpetually scowling Det. Rosa Diaz.
Beatriz has emerged as a standout even in a cast crowded with very funny people, her Diaz a leather jacketed tough cookie who has half the precinct quaking in their boots -- even Boyle, who also has a desperate crush on her. The role is the first regular small screen one for Beatriz, who comes from a theater background and recently appeared in critical darling "Short Term 12." Indiewire caught up with Beatriz by phone to talk about her role in the Fox comedy, being part of a cast that actually looks like New York and the serious side of the comedic process.
There are many cop shows on TV, but "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" doesn't really feel like one of them -- it's more like a workplace comedy. Was it a relief for you to go into a role where it wasn't all bursting through doors with a gun and reading Miranda rights, or is that something you'd like to try out one day, too?
I totally agree with you -- it’s a weird mix of stuff, our show. It is a cop show, but it's not. I don't know if you've ever watched any "Barney Miller," but that's a perfect example. It's an old sitcom based in a precinct, and they're doing paperwork the entire episode. There's shenanigans happening, but our show feels like that.
I would not say no to something action-y. I've always dreamed of doing stuff like this. I can remember wanting to be a cop on TV as a kid -- not a real cop, a cop on TV. I'm in the middle of my dreams coming true. You could throw anything at me -- "Do you wanna play this?" I'd be like, "Sure." I love everything right now. It’s an amazing world.
The cast is an interesting mix of people like Andy Samberg, who’s known for his comedy work, and Andre Braugher, who’s more associated with drama. Does that lend itself to an interesting dynamic?
What I find interesting about it is that Andre approaches his comedy work in the same way he would approach anything else. He's serious about it -- not like life and death, where Andre's about to explode, or anything -- he just asks these really smart questions and is very interested in developing character through action. He wants what he's doing onscreen to reflect something deeper, more about the character. That's such a smart way to look at the comedy work.
Whereas I watch Andy, and he can be really serious sometimes. If a joke's not quite working the way they want it to, or we're doing alternate lines, I watch Andy when he's thinking, and he's so concentrated. Then he comes out with five or six lines where one is more hilarious than the last, and he’s so light and fun and brings this great energy to everything that he does. They’re very different, but they love each other, and I can tell that they learn from each other all the time. Which is really great as an ensemble member -- to watch two members of your ensemble learn and grow from each other’s work.
How much room is there for improv and looseness in each scenes?
Most of the time we stick to the script, because they’re so well written. However, lots of times we do something at the end when everyone knows that we’ve got everything -- we'll do something called a "fun run," which is a take where we stick to the storyline but add in things that are off-the-cuff, which terrifies me because I'm not good at improv, so I’m always just standing around while everyone's flying around me.
Your character has such a serious demeanor, and the only one who's more serious is Andre Braugher. I always want more storylines with both of you together.
Yeah! I can’t tell you anything else, but we did have a table read yesterday, and there’s a storyline you’re going to enjoy.
What is it like to play a character who puts up this very tough front?
It's really fun. I think everybody has that side of them that’s closed off, or wants other people to see them a certain way for whatever reason. That's easy to tap into, but there's also something really fun in Rosa -- because it's a comedy, because we're creating as we go, there’s not explanation for her toughness. It just it was it is, and I love that. She just is this person, she doesn't explain or answer any questions. It's a fascinating character to throw in with all the others.
We’re getting to learn more details about her -- I love the fact that she was a ballerina and that she and Peralta were in the Academy at the same time. I'm assuming a lot of these details you learn as the writers come up with them, but are there any that as the character was laid out to you that you've found particularly interesting?
I love that Rosa and Jake were in the Academy together. It textually frames something that was happening chemistry-wise anyway. Andy and I get along as buddies, and Rosa sees him as a buddy. I love finding that out, and I thought, "Oh, yay, there's why I feel so easy. Because I knew I felt easy, and now I have the backstory. There's why I feel so easy in my relationship with Jake." Everything else has been fun and surprising.
It is weird, though. You don’t build that much of a backstory in your mind. You do, but you don’t, because you have to be flexible. Because if the writers tell you this week, "Well, actually, X, Y, or Z," and you've been working on A, B, or C, you've got to just change your mind. That's the truth now, or that was the truth back when I didn't know it. There are mindfucks sometimes, but it's a ton of fun.