Fans may be surprised to see Andy Samberg back on the small screen so soon after ending his seven-year run on Saturday Night Live. However, his new gig as the star of the Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine was, in fact, part of the grand plan all along.
"I had seen what they did with Amy [Poehler]," Samberg tells TVGuide.com of the series' creators, Parks and Recreation's Dan Goor and Mike Schur. "And I've generally made it a rule in my life to do everything she does because she's my hero."
In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, premiering Tuesday at 8:30/7:30c on Fox, Samberg stars as police officer Jake Peralta, a skilled detective who is good at enforcing the law, but bad at following the rules. That is, until he gets a new, much more strict captain (Andre Braugher).
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Samberg admits he hesitated "slightly" about returning to TV so quickly. "But creatively, I knew immediately that I was interested," Samberg says.
The feeling was mutual for Goor and Schur, especially considering their past work with Poehler on Parks and Recreation, now going in its sixth season."To me, late-night is the best possible training group," Schur, a former SNL writer says. "They're really good at editing their material, they write, they direct, they produce. There's literally not a single thing in show business that Andy wasn't doing at a very high level when he left SNL, so if you're going to make a bet on someone to be the center of a network comedy show, I'll take an SNL performer."
Adds Goor: "We pitched the show before we got Andy so we had some idea of what we wanted the character to be. Once we got Andy, we felt like, 'Oh, we can make something great."
Although filming a single-camera comedy may be worlds away from performing sketches in front of a live studio audience, Samberg says it was his pre-taped segments, such as the digital shorts that made him a household name, that helped prepare him for his new job. "I have to memorize a hell of a lot more lines now because there are no cue cards, but other than that, I put it in the same basket," Samberg says. "It's making comedy. It's fun."
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Luckily, Samberg has still been able to put his extensive skill set, particularly his improv talents, to good use. "Sometimes we'll just do the scene a bunch of times as scripted because we all agree that it's exactly how we like it," he says. "Other times we'll have ideas of how to tweak it, and the cast and the on-set writers or the on-set directors will pitch ideas. It's definitely open creatively to interject and add stuff, and a lot of stuff has made its way into episodes so far that is improv-ed."
It helps that Samberg is joined by several other comedic talents, including stand-up comedian and Parks and Recreation writer Chelsea Peritti and Joe Lo Truglio, known for big-screen comedies like Superbad and I Love You, Man. "It's like The Wire but with jokes," co-star Terry Crews says. "We deal with the same stuff. There's murder, there's drugs, there's all this stuff that would happen at a normal precinct, but the joke aspect of it is like a whole other element, and I think it will make people stay."
Although Samberg and Braugher are the stars of the show, like Parks and Recreation and The Office before it, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is at an ensemble show at its heart, filled with three-dimensional characters such as tough female detective, Amy (Melissa Fumero) who is secretly a big nerd, and the seemingly tough and intimating sergeant (Crews), who is not-so-secretly a big softie scared of getting hurt on the job. "We wanted to do a show about a really interesting, diverse group of fun characters who went out into the world and met interesting, funny people so that was a vote in favor of cop shows," Goor says. "But mostly, Mike and I have always been fans of cop shows with drama and comedy and so it was something that seemed like an exciting world to start writing about."
But how will the series stay light when the characters must investigate seemingly dark cases like murders and burglaries? Producers say the balancing act won't be as difficult as viewers might expect. "This show lives largely in the precinct house where they work," Schur says. "It's not like the world I think is clamoring for more shows that deal with grisly unpleasant crimes. They're real crimes, but we just avoid anything that seems squeamish or gross or horrifying and then it magically turns into a comedy from a drama."
Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres on Tuesday at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.
(Additional reporting by Robyn Ross)