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Andre Braugher, Star of ‘Homicide’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ Dies at 61

The Emmy Award-winning actor won acclaim for playing two very different cops on TV


spinner image Actor Andre Braugher with his face placed on his right hand posing for a portrait
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Andre Braugher, the Emmy-winning actor who mastered gritty drama for seven seasons on Homicide: Life on The Street and comedy for eight on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, died Monday at 61 after a brief illness.

He won his first Emmy in the lead role of Det. Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Street, a dark police drama based on a book by David Simon, who would go on to create The Wire. The show, which focused on the homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department, ran from 1993 to 1997 on NBC. “The show began as an ensemble piece,” showrunner Tom Fontana told The New York Times, “and it became the Andre Braugher show. All the writers wanted to write for him because he was great.” Pembleton was the master of interrogation, breaking down characters played by guest stars like Paul Giamatti and Steve Buscemi.

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Braugher 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 Associated Press 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.”

He managed to make the leap to comedy as a very different kind of cop on a very different kind of show, Capt. Ray Holt on the Andy Samberg-starring show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It ran 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 represented a major shift for Braugher, who was known for acting in dark and heavy dramas.

“I’m really a happy guy,” he told AARP. “Life is good! My family’s healthy, we love each other. But that’s not the guy Hollywood wants me to be.”

He would be nominated for four Emmys during the run.

Braugher’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine costar Terry Crews was among those paying tribute to him.

“I’m honored to have known you, laughed with you, worked with you and shared 8 glorious years watching your irreplaceable talent,” Crews said on Instagram. “This hurts. You left us too soon.”

Marc Evan Jackson, who played Braugher’s on-screen husband Kevin, shared a photo with him from the set. “Andre elevated every moment he came anywhere near, and it was an honor to have known and worked with him,” he told People magazine. “My deepest condolences to his family, and all those who like all of us, loved him very much.” 

“I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful actors. I’ll never work with one better,” said journalist Simon on social media.

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.

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Born and raised in Chicago, Braugher landed his breakthrough role in 1989’s Glory, starring alongside Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for the film about the first all-Black Army regiment in the Civil War. Braugher played bookish Union corporal Thomas Searles, a character who may have been based on a son of Frederick Douglass, who served in the regiment. The film raised awareness of the 200,000 Black soldiers who helped turn the tide of the war, and Braugher’s performance propelled his career.

Playing the erudite Searles was no stretch for Braugher, a heavy-equipment operator’s son who won scholarships to get his BA from Stanford and MFA from Juilliard.

“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.”

spinner image Richard Belzer and Andre Braugher in a scene from "Homicide: Life on the Street"
Andre Braugher (right) as Det. Frank Pembleton and Richard Belzer as Det. John Munch in " Homicide: Life on the Street."
NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

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.

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 MeasureTwelfth Night and As You Like It.

Braugher was married for more than 30 years to his Homicide costar Ami Brabson.

He is also survived by sons Michael, Isaiah and John Wesley, his brother Charles Jennings and his mother, Sally Braugher.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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