In the Nine-Nine with Stephanie Beatriz

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s third season began this Sunday with it poised to potentially contain the most change that the show has seen in some time, with both professional and romantic shifts mixing up the increasingly comfortable, affable vibe that the series has carefully cultivated. With many characters charted for some sort of transformation, I had the chance to catch up with Stephanie Beatriz, who plays the deadpan, ornery Detective Rosa Diaz, who had much to say for what’s in store for our favorite ice queen in the Nine-Nine, as well as why this could be the comedy’s best season yet.

There have been a number of shake-ups, both within the Nine-Nine and in your cast, this season. Holt and Gina have shifted into Public Relations, Archie Panjabi is joining, Dean Winters is back – did these changes add anything new to the feel of the show this year? Is it nice to mix things up after finding a comfortable groove last season?

Of course! I mean it’s always fun when somebody new comes to the party, you know?

Yeah, no question.

I think mixing those personalities – not only their on-screen personalities – but it’s always really fun to have guest stars on the show because it changes the dynamic of the group which has always been really interesting to me. Plus it’s fun to watch these characters that you’re sort of getting to know deal with these other personalities coming into their world. They themselves are a tight-knit little family, so who they invite into the family, who they want out, is significant. Obviously Dean is one – I love having him on set. He’s so funny and sexy, but like he’s so gross in the character. You want to hate him so much, so that’s really fun to have around. But all of them, really. It’s been really great.

With Parks and Recreation over, it must be nice to be seeing some more of Mike Schur with him having to juggle less.

He’s always involved. He’s at every table read. He always gives feedback, and he directed the premiere – I think it was the premiere, I can’t remember now – it’s been so long. For you guys, you’re just getting them now but we’re already like ten in. So it’s harder to remember at times, but yeah, he was there to direct, which was really great. I’ve been a fan of his for so long, and it was really fun to be on set and thinking, “Mike Schur is here directing me in this scene! This is really happening!” It’s great.

Relationships continue to play a large role on the show. Last season we got to watch the development of your relationship with Nick Cannon’s character, but this year we have Jake and Amy together which is pretty significant. Have you enjoyed where their relationship has gone this season?

Yes. You’re going to get a lot of answers in the first two episodes about what they are going to become, or be, or not be. That’s pretty much all that I can say. I really like watching them work together and I love when the writers give them scenes together because I think they’re so fun and their chemistry is out of control. They’re just made for each other on screen, which is really fun to watch. And you’re going to get some more of Rosa and Marcus too, because that relationship is still going, and it’s got to sort of grow and change, and Rosa’s not good with change. Rosa likes things the way that she likes them, so it’ll be interesting to see how she navigates the world of relationships and actually caring about someone that she’s dating.

Absolutely. We touched on guest stars earlier. If you had your say, who would be your dream guest star to have on the show?

Oh, Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton, hands down.

Yeah? Would she be a criminal that you’re up against, or would she be a part of the team? What do you think?

Who cares! Just bring her on the set! Really it’s just selfish. I just want to meet Dolly Parton, and if I had one in I would get her on the show and guest star. Who knows, maybe she’s a perp? Some sort of Madam with a house full of ladies.

I could see that.

Sort of like Best Little Whorehouse in Texas style.

One of the things that I love most about the show is that it does such a good job at world building and fleshing out this universe. You’ve made your own little traditions in the show – like Peralta and Holt’s Halloween bet, the Pontiac Bandit returning – but other stuff like the Jimmy Jab Games certainly feel like they’ll become embedded in the show, too. Has there been more of that returning to familiar territory this season at all and building traditions?

For sure. We’ve already shot the Halloween episode – I know the writers will kill me if I say anything else – but there will be a Halloween bet this year.

Nice.

The competition is still going.

I would hope so. It needs to!

It needs to! It’s also so great to see Jake and Holt at each other’s throats over something so stupid.

I think one of the strongest things about your show is that you’re able to take these larger-scale crimes and have them act as a season-long through-line that everything’s filtered though, like how “Gigglepig” worked last year. Do you appreciate having that sort of focus to the storytelling?

Yeah, you know I thought that was such a great, smart move by the writing staff to have this sort of background noise that was always happening. There was always a task at hand to bring it back to. That’s a good thing for our show, to be reminding everyone that they’re cops and doing their job. At the same time they’re negotiating this world of ridiculous office antics, but something’s at stake. Their jobs are important to them. This is important to them. That’s why Gigglepig was such a great way to see how important that was – particularly for Rosa, she was deeply focused on that storyline – it meant a lot to her. It meant so much to her to get it under control and figure out where it was coming from in order to get it off the streets. I thought that was really cool.

In a similar sense, it’s kind of crazy that your show is dealing with not just crime, but crime in New York City, as opposed to say, paper goods. Guns get fired, there was that great episode last season with Holt trying to hide from his husband that he’s been stabbed. You get into some serious stuff. Do you like that there is that other extreme to the show and you’re dealing with potentially dangerous situations?

Yeah, I think it’s  real. It feels real. We have a lot of cop and detective advisors on the show. We really use them on set when we’re doing something like running around with guns to look legit. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, and one of the things that they’ve told all of us is that it’s really funny. It’s actually really fun, and funny to be a detective because you have to lighten it up. You can’t let it get you down because it’s such a heavy job. They’re dealing with such heavy shit and a lot of times in the day they say they’re peppered with them having fun with each other. And I think that’s what our show does really well; it strikes the right balance. I mean, we’re a comedy but – I think Mike and Dan said it once in an interview, you don’t want to have like excessive blood on the floor – we’re a comedy!

Right, right. Of course not.

But I think they’re doing a great job balancing the reality of the world that these guys are living in, but also the office-y antics that fill their day-to-day lives.

Right. Rosa’s humor in the series is a relatively stoic, more restrained sort of approach, whereas this is a show full of zany, hyperbolized people. Do you enjoy being on the other end of the spectrum of comedy?

Yes! I think it’s really fun to play deadpan. To me, it’s so fun, and you have to have it.

Oh it’s a necessary evil.

It’s yin and yang, you know? Everything’s got to balance out. I love that Rosa so often gets to be the foil. Scenes with Charles are really fun – I’m thinking specifically last year when Marcus is throwing Rosa’s birthday party and she doesn’t know – but the scenes in the van when Charles was trying to get stuff out of her was a lot of fun. There’s such a nice balance. He’s so out there and she’s so chill. To see them together is always a lot of fun for me. But I also have to say that that episode where I got really hopped up on cough syrup was a lot of fun.

Would you say then that Boyle is your favorite to act against?

I don’t know. Everybody has their bonuses. I love the sort of bromance that Rosa and Jake have. They’re just buds and they’ve been buds for a long time. They went to the academy together. They’re just bros, you know? I love my scenes with Melissa and Chelsea, I think those are a lot of fun. I don’t know. Everybody has their – Terry, Andre – I really couldn’t pick. It’s like Sophie’s Choice.

Even this season you see more of you trying to protect Boyle romantically and it’s just nice where that relationship has headed, too. There’s such a sweet side to it now.

Totally. I mean, they’re friends now. Now that they put aside his weird crush on her and he apologized, they’re friends now, and Rosa sticks up for her friends. With her, it’s really ride or die with her friends. She would never let anyone hurt, push over, or smash her friends – unless it was her. Then it’s funny.

Photo by Gray Hamner, hair/makeup by Kerri Urban.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s third season can be seen Sundays at 8:30pm on FOX, with its first two available on Hulu.